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14 allies seek discussion of Taiwan issue at WHA

2019/05/20 14:31:26

Geneva, May 20 (CNA) Fourteen of the 17 countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan have written to the World Health Organization (WHO), requesting that the issue of Taiwan's exclusion from the World Health Assembly (WHA) this year be placed on the agenda for discussion during the 72nd WHA session in Geneva, which is scheduled for May 20-28.

Based on the letters, a proposal, titled "Inviting Taiwan to participate in the WHA as an Observer," has been submitted to the WHO General Committee, which is expected to hold a meeting after the formal opening of the WHA on Monday, according to the WHO.

Among Taiwan's 17 allies, Guatemala, Nicaragua and the Vatican, which will attend the WHA as an observer, did not join the petition.

Those that sent letters to the WHO seeking to put the issue of Taiwan's exclusion on the agenda were Belize, Tuvalu, Nauru, Eswatini, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Palau, St. Kitts and Nevis, Honduras, Paraguay, the Solomon Islands, Haiti, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, according to the WHO.

Taiwan had hoped to attend this year's WHA session as an observer, as it had done from 2009 to 2016, but failed to obtain an invitation for the third consecutive year due to obstruction by China.

China has been taking a harder line on Taiwan's participation in international organizations since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took office in May 2016.

Taiwan, however, has been sending representatives to speak with participants on the sidelines of the WHA meetings even though it has been excluded from the formal sessions.

During the two-on-two debates at this year's WHA General Committee and plenary session in Geneva, four of Taiwan's diplomatic allies are expected to advocate for its inclusion in the WHO decision-making body.

While the theme of the 72nd session of the WHA is "universal health coverage, leaving no one behind," the WHO is leaving Taiwan behind, St. Kitts Minister of Health Eugene Hamilton said Sunday at a function hosted by Taiwan's representative office in Geneva.

"My nation is proud to stand with Taiwan and call Taiwan a friend and encourage Taiwan's participation in the World Health Assembly," said Hamilton, one of the health officials from 10 of Taiwan's allies and other friendly countries who attended the function.

Also addressing the gathering, Luke Browne, Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said Taiwan could contribute more to global health efforts if it was allowed to attend the WHA.

"Taiwan not only could help, Taiwan is already helping many countries around the world," Browne said, pointing to a banner at the venue that read, "Taiwan Can Help."

In response, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday expressed gratitude to the diplomatic allies that have been advocating for Taiwan's participation in the WHA.

Other allies are expected to express support in various ways for Taiwan's inclusion in the WHA, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, Erwin Rüddel, chairman of the German Bundestag's Committee on Health, expressed strong support for Taiwan's participation in the WHA, during an interview on TV Berlin on Saturday.

Disease knows no borders, and Taiwan, with its excellent health system, should be invited to the WHA to share its experience, he said.

(By Tang Pei-chun, Tai Ya-chen, Lin Yu-li and Evelyn Kao)
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