U.S. lawmakers disappointed with exclusion of Taiwan from WHA

11/21/2020 01:25 PM
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U.S. Capitol Hill. CNA file photo
U.S. Capitol Hill. CNA file photo

Washington, Nov. 20 (CNA) Several U.S. lawmakers across party lines on Friday expressed disappointment with Taiwan's exclusion from the annual World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the World Trade Organization (WHO), and they urged the WHO to allow Taipei meaningful participation in the organization's activities.

"Despite its indisputable accomplishments and contributions to global health, the WHO continues to exclude Taiwan from the WHA due to pressure from Beijing," the U.S. senators uttered their discontent in a joint letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "This places the political agenda of a single member over the health of the global community."

The U.S. senators who signed the joint letter to Tedros were Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

These U.S. lawmakers voiced their disappointment after Taiwan did not receive an invitation to attend the resumption of the annual WHA meeting held Nov. 9-14 after a shortened online version was held earlier this year in May amid COVID-19.

They praised Taiwan's efforts in fighting a COVID-19 outbreak within its borders, "which it was able to do without resorting to strict restrictions on its people."

The senators added that Taiwan's success "should serve as a model to the rest of us, and it is further evidence that Taiwan is extraordinarily qualified to contribute to the WHA."

They also lauded Taiwan for reporting no new locally-transmitted cases of COVID-19 for more than 200 consecutive days, setting a world record.

"Allowing Taiwan's meaningful participation in future events will ensure that their public health experts have the opportunity to share best practices and contribute to an effective global response to the pandemic," the senators said.

According to the U.S. lawmakers, Taiwan has been one of the most generous donors in the world in terms of its COVID-19-related donations, giving personal protective equipment and other medical supplies and technologies to countries in need.

"Taiwan is well positioned to help the international community by sharing its knowledge regarding the advanced production of critical medical supplies, the careful application of contact tracing, and the targeted use of big data and digital technology to stop the spread of the virus," the letter showed.

The U.S. lawmakers urged the WHO not to bow to Beijing's pressure since marshalling all available resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic should be the health organization's top priority.

"The WHO cannot fulfill its stated mission of 'building a better, healthier future for people all over the world' if it continues to deny Taiwan observer status," they said. "It is in the interest of all nations that the world's leading health agency be able to withstand the influence of bad actors who are motivated by interests that have nothing to do with advancing global health security."

Taiwan, officially called the Republic of China, was expelled from the WHO in 1972 after losing its seat in the United Nations after the UN switched recognition to the People's Republic of China.

Taiwan took part in the WHA as an observer from 2009 to 2016, when relations between Taipei and Beijing were good under the previous Taiwanese administration.

But relations have soured since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party came into office in 2016.

Since 2017, China has pressured the WHO not to invite Taiwan, as Beijing adopts a hardline stance on cross-strait relations to show dissatisfaction with Tsai's refusal to accept a compromise agreement accepted by the previous administration and interpreted as there is only one China in the world, with each side free to define what it is.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh and Frances Huang)

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