US President Joe Biden on Friday signed a bill into law to help Taiwan regain observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA), demonstrating Washington’s support for Taiwan’s international participation.
Friday was the deadline for Biden to sign the bill (S.812), which directs “the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization (WHO), and for other purposes.”
The 75th WHA, the decisionmaking body of the WHO, is scheduled to meet in Geneva, Switzerland, from Sunday next week to May 28.
The bill, introduced by US Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was passed with “unanimous consent” in the Senate on Aug. 6 last year and was approved 425-0 by the US House of Representatives on April 27.
Menendez wrote on Twitter that he was “thrilled” to see Biden sign the bill into law to support Taiwan in its efforts to regain its observer seat at the WHA.
“In the face of Beijing’s hostility, our efforts powerfully demonstrate the United States’ commitment to Taiwan’s appropriate presence on the world stage,” the US senator said.
The bill says that Taiwan remains a model contributor to world health, having provided financial and technical assistance to respond to numerous global health challenges, as the country has invested more than US$6 billion in international medical and humanitarian aid efforts, leading to positive outcomes in more than 80 countries since 1996.
Taiwan took part in the WHA as an observer from 2009 to 2016.
Since 2017, the WHO has refused to invite Taiwan to attend the assembly due to opposition from China
Menedez and Senator Jim Inhofe, who cochair the Senate Taiwan Caucus, said in a statement that Taiwan’s observer status must be restored, starting with Biden’s signature on the bipartisan legislation.
They introduced the bill in March last year.
“China continues to block Taiwan from obtaining observer status at the World Health Assembly, despite Taiwan being a strong, reliable and dedicated partner to the United States and the international community,” Inhofe said. “Given China’s continued malicious behavior, we cannot allow them to refuse Taiwan a seat at the table any longer.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said that it was grateful for Biden’s latest show of support, and is determined to work with the US and other like-minded countries to contribute to global health affairs.
The US president since taking office has been taking concrete actions to show US support for Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, the ministry said, adding that signing the bill is further demonstration of the US executive and legislative branches’ support for Taiwan’s observer status at the WHA.
“The Presidential Office sincerely thanks President Biden for his continued support of Taiwan’s international participation through practical actions since he took office,” Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang (張惇涵) said yesterday.
The office also thanks Taiwan’s allies and global democratic partners for their voices of support, he said.
“As expressed in the WHO charter, health is a basic human right and a universal value. Through its experience and medical technology, Taiwan will continue to make contributions to global health and the well-being of people worldwide,” he said.
Taiwan plans to send a delegation to Geneva during the 75th WHA.
The delegation, to be led by Deputy Minister of Health Lee Li-feng (李麗芬), plans to meet representatives from WHO member countries on the sidelines, to hold discussions and gain support for Taiwan’s participation in the WHA.
WHEELING AND DEALING? Hou You-yi, Ko Wen-je, Eric Chu and Ma Ying-jeou are under investigation for allegedly offering bribes for the other side to drop out of the race Taipei prosecutors have started an investigation into allegations that four top politicians involved in attempts to form a “blue-white” presidential ticket have contravened election regulations. Listed as defendants are Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫), former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the KMT and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲). The case stemmed from judicial complaints filed last month with the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office alleging that the KMT (blue) and the TPP (white) had engaged in bribery by offering money or other enticements
EXPOSED: Some Taipei wardens reported joining the trips out of peer pressure, while others said they were relieved it was made public so they could refuse, a city councilor said Nearly 30 percent of Taipei borough wardens have joined group tours to China that were partially funded by the Chinese government, leading prosecutors probing potential Chinese interference in January’s elections to question local officials, an investigation showed. Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City councilors Chien Shu-pei (簡舒培) and Chen E-jun (陳怡君) have reported cases of Taipei borough wardens inviting residents to join inexpensive privately organized group tours to China that were partially funded by the Chinese government. The six-day trips reportedly cost NT$10,000 to NT$15,000, the councilors said. An investigation by the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) showed that nearly 30 percent
ELIGIBLE FOR JANUARY: All presidential candidates and their running mates meet the requirements to run for office, and none hold dual citizenship, the CEC said Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Legislator and vice presidential candidate Cynthia Wu (吳欣盈) is working with the Central Election Commission (CEC) to resolve issues with her financial disclosure statement, a spokesman for the candidate said yesterday, after the commission published the statements of all three presidential candidates and their running mates, while confirming their eligibility to run in the Jan. 13 election. Wu’s office spokesman, Chen Yu-cheng (陳宥丞), said the candidate encountered unforeseen difficulties disclosing her husband’s finances due to being suddenly thrust into the campaign. She is also the first vice presidential nominee to have a foreign spouse, complicating the reporting of
GOOD NEWS: Although open civic spaces are shrinking in Asia-Pacific countries and territories, Taiwan’s openness is a positive sign, an expert said Taiwan remains the only country in Asia with an “open” civic space for the fifth consecutive year, the Civicus Monitor said in a report released yesterday. The People Power Under Attack 2023 report named Taiwan as one of only 37 open countries or territories out of 198 globally, and the only one in Asia. Compiled by Civicus — a global alliance of civil society organizations dedicated to bolstering civil action — the ranking compiled annually since 2017 measures the state of freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression around the world. Researchers assign each country or territory one of five rankings describing the