Two US senators were critical of the WHO after a senior WHO official appeared to hang up on a Hong Kong reporter who asked about Taiwan’s membership status in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
During a video interview with Radio Television Hong Kong’s Yvonne Tong (唐若韞) on Saturday, WHO Assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward first claimed not to have heard her question on whether the WHO would consider giving Taiwan membership.
When Tong repeated the question, he asked her to “move on to another one.”
The video then showed the line disconnecting after Tong said she would like to hear more about Taiwan. After the call was reconnected, Tong asked Aylward to comment on Taiwan’s progress in containing the virus.
Aylward replied that all areas of China have done well and wished Hong Kong luck in its efforts.
US Senator Rick Scott on Sunday in a tweet slammed the WHO for rejecting Taiwan’s participation in the global body.
“This is shameful. @WHO refuses to answer a basic question about #Taiwan, who they’ve refused to allow into the organization. More and more, the WHO seems to be a pawn of the Chinese Communist Party, which is very dangerous for world health,” Scott wrote.
“No surprise,” US Senator Marco Rubio tweeted. “The front line workers at @WHO do amazing and heroic work. But some of the organizations leaders have covered for #China’s Communist Party from day one of #coronavirus.”
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday reiterated Taiwan’s stance that “it has a strong will as well as the capability to safeguard public health and share its experience with every country.”
The WHO on Sunday reiterated that membership in the global body is decided by member states and not by staff.
“The question of Taiwanese membership in WHO is up to WHO member states, not WHO staff,” spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told the Central News Agency in an e-mail.
“Membership in WHO and status issues are decided by Member States and the rules they set at WHO’s governing body, the World Health Assembly,” he wrote.
In his e-mail, Jasarevic referred to Taiwan as “Taiwan” and “Taiwanese” several times, somewhat of a departure from the terms “Taipei and environs” or “Taipei Municipality” that the WHO has used in several reports this year.
He also acknowledged the low number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in Taiwan so far.
“The Taiwanese caseload is low relative to population. We continue to follow developments closely. WHO is taking lessons learned from all areas, including Taiwanese health authorities, to share best practices globally,” Jasarevic wrote.
From 2009 to 2016, Taiwan participated in the WHA as an observer under the name Chinese Taipei, at a time of improved relations with China during the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration.
Since 2017, the WHO has not invited Taiwan to the WHA, under pressure from China.
Additional reporting by Lee Jung-ping and bloomberg
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