China accused of blocking Taiwan's WHA participation - Focus Taiwan

China accused of blocking Taiwan's WHA participation

Taipei, May 10 (CNA) Taiwan's government and citizens at home and abroad on Wednesday accused Beijing of obstructing Taiwan's efforts to attend this year's meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.

Taiwan had been hoping to attend the WHA meeting as an observer, as it had been doing since 2009, but did not receive an invitation this year.

The WHA, the decision making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), closed its online registration for the May 22-31 meeting at 6 a.m. Tuesday, Taiwan time.

Taiwan's exclusion this year is widely seen as the latest move by China to clamp down on Taiwan's international participation.

Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said Wednesday that it is unwise for China to block Taiwan's WHA participation, politicize health issues and put the world's health safety-net at risk.

It requires joint efforts to combat diseases, Chen said, adding that viruses know no boundaries..

If given the opportunity, Taiwan can contribute greatly to global disease prevention, he said.

Taiwan first attended the WHA meeting as an observer in 2009, a year after the government of former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) came to power and began pursuing a more conciliatory policy toward Beijing.

Since then, Taiwan had been participating under the name Chinese Taipei as an observer in the annual WHA, in keeping with an agreement between the WHO and the governments of Taiwan and China.

The agreement included a political condition that both sides of the Taiwan Strait adhere to the 1992 consensus -- a tacit agreement that there is only one China but each side is free to interpret what that means.

However, since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party took office in May 2016, cross-strait relations have cooled considerably, mainly because of her refusal to recognize Beijing's "one-China" policy. Taiwan received a last-minute invitation to the WHA in 2016 and has not been invited this year.

Chen said Taiwan government agencies have exhausted all means to let the WHO know that its participation in the WHA is vital to the global efforts to combat epidemics. Taiwan needs to continue seeking the support of diplomatic allies so that its voice can be heard at the WHA meeting, he said.

Meanwhile, several overseas Taiwanese groups issued a statement Tuesday in New York in protest against Taiwan's exclusion from the WHA meeting, saying it was due to political obstruction by China.

They accused China of political interference in matters of health care and of blocking Taiwan participation's in the international community.

The UN for Taiwan Keep Taiwan Free Committee, an organization of young Taiwanese Americans, said it will hold a rally May 20 in front of the U.N. headquarters in New York to protest against Taiwan's exclusion from the WHA meeting.

Also on Tuesday, overseas Taiwanese groups in France called on the WHO to extend an invitation to Taiwan to attend the WHA meeting and not to let political issues obstruct the development of the global health network.

(By Sophia Yeh, Timothy Hwang, Emmanuelle Tzeng and Evelyn Kao)


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