U.S. lawmakers urge WHO to admit Taiwan

03/10/2020 02:53 PM
U.S. President Donald Trump (left) and House Representative Brian Babin (image taken from Babin
U.S. President Donald Trump (left) and House Representative Brian Babin (image taken from Babin's Twitter pages)

Washington, March 9 (CNA) Several members of the United States House of Representatives with backgrounds in medicine have written to World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urging him to invite Taiwan to attend WHO activities and meetings.

"I joined 15 other Congressional doctors in writing to @WHO urging the inclusion of Taiwan in international efforts to contain & combat COVID-19," tweeted House Representative Brian Babin Monday.

He elaborated in the Twitter post that public health should not be political, and that the exclusion of Taiwan "threatens the health security of all."

The 16 congressmen are affiliated with the Republican Doctors Caucus in the House of Representatives. They jointly wrote Tedros March 6 to express their "deep concern" at the WHO's continued marginalization of Taiwan during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.

In the letter they contended that the exclusion of Taiwan from the WHO during this epidemic "has put people in Taiwan and around the world at greater risk while harming both the integrity of the WHO and the security of member states."

Saying the virus has taken a heavy toll on human life around the world, the House representatives argue: "While much of the loss of life has been contained to the Chinese mainland, one of the few lives lost abroad was that of a Taiwanese man, and we wonder whether this could have been prevented had Taiwan not been excluded from the WHO."

"Leaving any one region out of the global health network creates a gap that undermines global public health and safety, and we believe Taiwan's exclusion thus far has been an egregious handicap to the WHO and its member states' health security.

"Furthermore, considering Taiwan's proximity to the virus's origin, both its inclusion in the WHO and attendance at World Health Assembly (WHA) meetings are vital to the promotion of multilateral cooperation in the region," the letter said.

The congressmen asked Tedros to invite Taiwan to attend all WHO meetings, mechanisms and activities, including the upcoming 73rd World Health Assembly in Geneva May 17-21.

"Pandemics such as COVID-19 know no borders, and only by working alongside all our global partners may we eliminate this threat and ensure the integrity of global public health," the letter said.

Between 2009 and 2016, Taiwan participated in the WHA as an observer under the name Chinese Taipei, at a time of improved relations with China during the then-Kuomintang administration.

However, since 2017 China has persuaded the WHO not to invite Taiwan, in line with Beijing's hardline stance on cross-strait relations since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office in May 2016.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh and Elizabeth Hsu)

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