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Taiwan's exclusion from WHO poses risk to Olympics: health official

2019/05/20 16:27:26

Geneva, May 19 (CNA) Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) has warned that Taiwan's exclusion from the World Health Organization's (WHO's) global epidemic prevention system could adversely affect the 2020 Olympics.

In an interview with Japan's Kyodo News in Geneva published Sunday, Chen said Taiwan is a transportation hub in East and Southeast Asia, and excluding it from the WHO's health and safety system could create a loophole for infectious disease control.

Taiwan is not a member of the WHO and it has been blocked by China from attending the World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO's highest policy-making body, for a third straight year.

Chen is in Geneva to make Taiwan's case for participation in the WHA while it is being held from May 20 to 28, and he and his delegation will hold meetings with other countries' representatives on the sidelines of the global gathering.

Excluded from the global system, Taiwan is willing to fully cooperate with Japan in building a disease prevention system ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Chen indicated, saying that it was vital for proper disease prevention measures to be in place before the Games.

Taipei also looks forward to building a bilateral disease prevention mechanism in the future to facilitate exchanges of information, Chen said.

One of Taiwan's standard arguments for meaningful participation in the WHA is that it can make valuable contributions to global health, and Chen said Sunday that Taiwan would be an important partner in strengthening global disease prevention.

That includes the positive role Taiwan could play in dealing with the recent measles outbreak that is affecting some Asian countries, Chen said, citing the island's good vaccination rate.

The minister also reiterated repeated pleas by Taiwanese officials to be allowed back into the WHA, saying it was unjust to exclude Taiwan.

Aside from the health minister's presence in Geneva, a civic group called the Taiwan United Nations Alliance (TAIUNA) is also in the city to push Taiwan's desire to take part in the WHA and WHO.

TAIUNA members on Saturday distributed 5,000 campaign pamphlets and leaflets in four languages and draped five taxi bikes outside the WHA venue near Lake Geneva with the slogans "Health for All," and "Taiwan Can Help."

From 2009 to 2016, Taiwan attended WHA meetings as an observer under the name "Chinese Taipei" during the administration of former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of China-leaning Kuomintang (KMT), now the main opposition party.

Taiwan's exclusion is part of China's strategy to further clamp down on Taiwan's ability to participate in international events, a strategy that has become more aggressive since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took office in May 2016.

In April, WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told Taiwanese media that previous invitations to the WHA have been issued on the basis of a "cross-strait understanding."

"If there is no 'cross-strait understanding' this year, it is not expected that an invitation to the WHA will be issued," he said.

(By Tang Pei-chun, Tai Ya-chen and Chung Yu-chen)
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