‘Pooh’ post spotlights Taiwan’s exclusion from WHA

POOH THE BRUISER::The representative office in Munich used a cartoon to show the world how China bullies Taiwan, as political cartoons are popular in the West

Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, May 12, 2019 - Page 3

A cartoon posted on Facebook by Taiwan’s representative office in Munich, Germany, was meant to elicit reactions to Taiwan’s lack of an invitation to the annual World Health Assembly (WHA), but has also drawn attention on social media.

The cartoon, posted by the office on May 4, bears the caption: “A picture is worth a thousand words” and shows a man in a Winnie the Pooh costume bullying a Formosan black bear in a T-shirt that reads: “Health For All, Taiwan Can Help.”

While not stated in the post, the Formosan black bear is an endemic species and a cherished symbol of Taiwan, and the Winnie the Pooh character has been used to mock Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

References to Xi as “Pooh” began after a 2013 photograph showing the Chinese leader walking with then-US president Barack Obama was turned into an online meme featuring a portly Winnie the Pooh walking with the lanky Tigger.

In the posted cartoon, the two figures stand outside a door with a sign that reads: “World Health Organization,” suggesting that China blocked Taiwan’s bid to attend the WHA, which is to be held from May 20 to 28 in Geneva, Switzerland.

“One country is blocking Taiwan’s participation as an observer at the World Health Assembly, thereby ignoring Taiwan’s 23 million people, who have a right to health like everyone else,” the representative office said in a message posted in Mandarin, German and English.

“But disease knows no borders,” it added. “In particular, emerging infectious diseases pose a major threat to human health that must be solved together.”

“Unfortunately, without Taiwan’s participation, there is a gap in the global health network that must be closed,” the post read.

“Please support Taiwan’s bid to participate as an observer in the World Health Assembly,” it said.

While the office’s Facebook page only has about 3,500 likes, the post had by yesterday afternoon gained more than 1,300 likes and 530 shares.

As political cartoons are quite popular in Western society, the office wanted to use a cartoon to inform the world of Taiwan’s plight in the face of pressure from Beijing, the office’s social media manager said.

The cartoon, designed by a Taiwanese student enrolled in Germany, attempted to “break the language barrier” and give more people an understanding of Taiwan’s situation.

Taiwan had hoped to attend this year’s WHA as an observer, as it did from 2009 to 2016, but China has blocked the WHO from inviting Taiwan to the WHA since 2017, following President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) election.

China has openly admitted to the obstruction, with Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) saying on Monday that Beijing opposed Taiwan’s participation in this year’s WHA because of Taiwan’s refusal to accept Beijing’s “one China” principle.

In the eight years in which Taiwan participated in the WHA, it did so as an observer under the name “Chinese Taipei” with the help of the US and amid better relations with China during the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration.