Two WHO members propose to discuss Taiwan WHA participation: WHO

05/05/2020 11:43 AM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Geneva, May 4 (CNA) Two World Health Organization (WHO) members have proposed to discuss Taiwan's participation in this year's World Health Assembly (WHA), a WHO officer said Monday, though he did not specify which two members they were.

In response to a question on Taiwan at a press briefing in Geneva, Steven Solomon, the WHO's principal legal officer, addressed Taiwan's participation in the WHA, the WHO's decision-making body, and reiterated the WHO's stance that its policies and guidelines are in line with those of the United Nations.

"Some 49 years ago the U.N. and WHO had decided that there is only one legitimate representative of China within the U.N. system and that is the People's Republic of China. That decision still stands," he said.

On Taiwan's possible participation in this year's WHA that begins in two weeks, Solomon said the WHO secretariat has no authority to make the decision as it is to be made by all 194 member states.

"The involvement, if any, of Taiwanese observers in that assembly, is a question for the 194 governments of WHO. This is not something that WHO secretariat has authority to decide," he stressed.

He said that two countries have already formally proposed that member states consider this matter at the WHA, without naming the two.

A number of world powers, including the United States, Japan, and the European Union, as well as Taiwan's diplomatic allies, have openly expressed their support for Taiwan's participation in the WHA.

Solomon said the WHO understands that a lot of attention has been focused on the issue, "but it is not the role of WHO's staff to be involved in geopolitical issues. In fact our principles of neutrality and impartiality exist to keep us out of those issues."

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry has repeatedly criticized the WHO for ignoring the country's pleas for wider participation in WHO meetings and the annual WHA, which has been limited for years under Chinese pressure.

The WHA is scheduled to hold its 73rd session from May 18 to 19, and it will be conducted virtually due to travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a WHO provisional agenda shows. 

From 2009 to 2016, Taiwan participated in the WHA as an observer under the name Chinese Taipei amid better relations with China during the then-Kuomintang administration.

Since 2017, however, 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 Tang Pei-chun and Joseph Yeh)

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