Department of Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) yesterday defended the nation’s World Health Assembly (WHA) observer status, saying that its participation underscored the existence of Taiwan.
Yaung made the remarks as he dismissed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) criticism that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government had belittled the nation by agreeing to observer status equal to “a non-governmental organization affiliated with China.”
“[The WHO] addressed me as ‘minister’ [in the invitation]. Would it still refer to me as ‘minister’ if we were not an independent sovereign state?” Yaung said when he was approached by reporters for comment at the legislature.
“Although we are not satisfied with the title ‘Chinese Taipei,’ Taiwan’s participation [at the WHA] shows that Taiwan exists,” said Yaung, who is set to represent Taiwan at this year’s WHA meeting, scheduled to take place from May 17 to May 22, as a minister from “Chinese Taipei.”
“Our next step is to take part in the WHA using our official title of the Republic of China,” he said.
President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has hailed Taiwan’s participation at last year’s WHA as a sign that cross-strait ties have improved and the country’s international space is increasing.
During a report to the DPP’s Central Standing Committee on Wednesday, however, former vice minister of foreign affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) said that Taiwan was only able to attend the WHA because of an agreement with China, which he said could set a dangerous precedent and seriously undermine the nation’s sovereignty.
Kau also said that a quick search for Taiwan in WHO documents still produced multiple examples of Taiwan being listed as an entity under China, a clear indication that Taiwan’s participation at the health conference is still controlled by Beijing.
At a press conference held by the KMT caucus yesterday, Lily Hsu (徐儷文), the deputy director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ department of international organizations, said the Taiwanese delegation to the WHA was given the same rights and opportunities as other observers to participate in its activities last year.
Although admitting that some parts of the WHO Web site still stick to the UN’s system and refer to Taiwan as an affiliate of China, the government has been negotiating with the WHO on the matter, Hsu said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA
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