Taiwan involvement in WHO meeting unrelated to China: MOFA

02/12/2020 07:13 PM
CNA File Photo
CNA File Photo

Taipei, Feb. 12 (CNA) Taiwan's online participation in a World Health Organization (WHO) forum to fight the novel coronavirus outbreak was made possible through "direct conversation" between Taiwan's government and the international organization and did not involve the consent of the Chinese government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Wednesday.

MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said the involvement of Taiwanese experts in the forum, titled "Global Research and Innovation Forum to Mobilize International Action in Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)," was the result of negotiations between Taiwan and the WHO.

Those talks led to a number of Taiwanese experts being invited to take part in the Geneva forum online from Feb. 11-12, in their professional capacity as experts in relevant fields and not an official capacity, to avoid causing "unnecessary disturbance politically," Ou said.

Citing information released by Taiwan's health ministry, Ou said participants were only asked to fill in their English names and email addresses, with no need to identify their nationality when registering for the online forum.

Participants were also identified by their names without showing their nationalities, she added.

Ou's comments were made in response to remarks made by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) a day earlier that Taiwan's participation in the WHO forum was made possible only after China agreed.

When asked to comment during a ministry press event Tuesday, Geng insisted "Taiwan region's participation in WHO technical activities" must be arranged by the Chinese side "through consultations under the one China-principle," which considers Taiwan to be part of China.

"According to the arrangement reached by China and the WHO, China has replied to the WHO that we agree to the participation of the Taiwan region's medical experts in this forum," Geng added.

In response, Ou condemned Geng's statement while reiterating the government's stance that the People's Republic of China (PRC) has never ruled Taiwan and the PRC government has no right to decide whether Taiwan can participate in the international arena.

According to information available on the WHO website, the forum brings together "leading scientists as well as public health agencies, ministries of health and research funders" to discuss several areas of research, including identifying the source of the virus as well as sharing of biological samples and genetic sequences.

Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) previously said that a list of Taiwanese experts and their resumes has been submitted to the WHO for review as required, but the number of experts and other details cannot be revealed due to a non-disclosure agreement with the WHO.

The WHO selects the experts based on their resumes and their expertise in the research and development of coronavirus drugs and vaccines, the CDC said.

They will participate online in the forum, which will not be broadcast due to the non-disclosure agreement, according to Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), deputy director-general of the CDC.

Since 2017, China has persuaded the WHO not to invite Taiwan to attend the World Health Assembly, the WHO's top decision-making body, in line with Beijing's hardline stance on cross-Taiwan Strait relations since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party took office in May 2016 and refused to accept the "1992 Consensus" as a precondition for talks.

The "1992 consensus" refers to an agreement reached in 1992 between the then Kuomintang (KMT) government of Taiwan and China. The agreement has been consistently interpreted by the KMT to mean that both sides acknowledge there is only "one China," with each side free to interpret what "China" means. However, Beijing has never publicly voiced support for the second part of the KMT interpretation.

Taiwan was the only country with confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus to be excluded from the WHO Emergency Committee discussions held previously in Geneva.

(By Chen Yun-yu and Joseph Yeh)

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