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172 U.S. House members call for Taiwan's inclusion in WHA

2018/05/17 14:26:31

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Washington, May 16 (CNA) A bipartisan group of 172 members of the U.S. House of Representatives called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to allow Taiwan to participate in its annual global health summit in a letter sent Wednesday to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The group strongly urged Ghebreyesus to allow Taiwan's unconditional inclusion as an observer in this year's 71st World Health Assembly (WHA), and in future annual and technical meetings.

The 71st WHA, the decision-making body of the WHO, is set to kick off May 21 in Geneva, but Taiwan failed to secure an invitation for the five-day summit ahead of a May 7 deadline.

Taiwan started its efforts to join the WHO in 1997 but did not get invited to attend the WHA as an observer until 2009.

Last year, the WHO, under pressure from China, withheld its invitation for Taiwan to participate in the 70th WHA. This year, Taiwan was kept out of the WHA for the second year in a row due to China's obstruction.

"With this action, the WHO became complicit in Beijing's campaign to keep Taiwan out of meaningful participation in assemblies like these," the letter states.

The decision to withhold the invitation, after eight consecutive years of Taiwan's participation, violated the spirit of a key principle set forth in the preamble of the WHO Constitution, which states that "the health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent on the fullest co-operation of individuals and states."

"Global health and safety should not be held hostage to China's political objectives," the letter says. "We are all safer when Taiwan has meaningful and unobstructed participation in international health cooperation fora."

The letter, which was also signed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R., Calif.) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), was also sent to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

In response, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed gratitude for the House members' support, saying that U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and several other senators will also send a letter to the WHO director-general to support Taiwan's inclusion in the WHA.

These actions demonstrate the bicameral U.S. Congress' unanimous support for Taiwan's participation in the WHA, the ministry said in a statement.

(By Rita Cheng, Elaine Hou and Evelyn Kao)
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