U.S. launches online campaign urging Taiwan's inclusion in WHA

05/02/2020 01:55 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Washington D.C., May 1 (CNA) The United States State Department on Friday launched a "Tweet for Taiwan" campaign calling for Taiwan's inclusion in the World Health Assembly (WHA), drawing supportive responses from figures across the U.S. government.

In a series of six tweets, the department's International Organizations Bureau argued that Taiwan "deserved a seat at the table" when the world gathers at the next WHA meeting on May 18 to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic.

A number of U.S. officials later responded with their own tweets supporting Taiwan, while also directing criticism at the World Health Organization (WHO) -- for which the WHA serves as a policy-setting body -- and the group's parent organization, the United Nations.

The U.N. "was founded to serve as a venue for all voices, a forum that welcomes a diversity of views & perspectives & promotes human freedom. Barring Taiwan from setting foot on UN grounds is an affront not just to the proud Taiwanese people, but to UN principles," the U.S. Mission to the U.N. tweeted.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, meanwhile, wrote that Taiwan "should be praised for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic [and] should be able to participate in global health discussions that impact the Taiwanese people."

In addition to the U.S. effort, the European External Action Service (EEAS), which serves as the European Union's diplomatic arm, reiterated its support Friday for Taiwan's participation in the public health body.

"The EU promotes practical solutions regarding Taiwan's participation in international frameworks wherever this is consistent with the EU's 'One China' policy and the EU's policy objectives. This applies to the WHO," EEAS Spokesperson Virginie Battu-Henriksson told CNA via email.

Taiwan, under its formal name, the Republic of China (ROC), was kicked out of the United Nations in 1971, when the body voted to recognize the People's Republic of China as the legitimate representative of China. The following year, the ROC was expelled from the WHA when the assembly passed a similar resolution.

Taiwan as an observer at the 2010 WHA under the title of Chinese Taipei / CNA file photo
Taiwan as an observer at the 2010 WHA under the title of Chinese Taipei / CNA file photo

Taiwan participated in WHA events as an observer from 2009-2016 under the designation "Chinese Taipei" when relations between Beijing and Taipei were good under the previous ruling party, the Kuomintang, which had accepted the concept that the two sides are part of one China, with each side free to interpret what that means.

Since 2017, however, Taiwan has been excluded from the body due to opposition from China, which has objected to Taiwan's new ruling Democratic Progressive Party rejecting that concept.

The dispute has risen in prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing attention from countries such as the U.S., which have accused the WHO of having a pro-China bias.

On Friday, White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany criticized the WHO for not heeding a Dec. 31 "warning" it received from Taiwan regarding the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China.

In the email in question, Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cited "news resources" reporting about "seven atypical pneumonia cases" in Wuhan and patients being isolated for treatment, and asked for more information.

CDC and other Taiwanese government officials have argued that by citing media reports as saying the cases had been isolated, it was a warning the virus may be transmittable among humans.

The WHO, however, has insisted the email did not mention human to human transmissions and did not amount to a warning, but was instead a request for more information.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh and Matthew Mazzetta)

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