U.S. House introduces bill to back Taiwan's WHO observer status bid

02/19/2021 05:44 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Washington, Feb. 18 (CNA) Nearly 40 members of the United States House of Representatives on Thursday led a bipartisan effort to back Taiwan's bid for observer status in the World Health Organization (WHO).

After the U.S. rejoined the WHO following President Joe Biden assuming office last month, Democrat and incumbent Rep. Brad Sherman and Republican Rep. Young Kim on Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill that would direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the WHO.

"Taiwan remains a model contributor to world health, having provided financial and technical assistance to respond to numerous global health challenges," the bill said.

"Since 1996, Taiwan has invested more than US$6 billion in international medical and humanitarian aid efforts in more than 80 countries," according to the bill.

"In 2014, Taiwan responded to the Ebola crisis by donating US$1 million and providing 100,000 sets of personal protective equipment," it states.

"In 2020, after successfully containing the spread of the novel coronavirus within its borders while upholding democratic principles, Taiwan generously donated millions of pieces of personal protective equipment and COVID-19 tests to countries in need," according to the bill.

"Diseases know no borders, and Taiwan's needless exclusion from global health cooperation increases the dangers presented by global pandemics," it states.

The bill would also require an account of the changes and improvements the Secretary of State has made to the U.S. plan to endorse and obtain observer status for Taiwan at the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO, following any annual meetings of the WHA at which Taiwan does not obtain observer status.

The co-sponsors of the bill include Ami Bera, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation; Steve Chabot, co-chair of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus; and Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Republicans' China Task Force.

Taiwan began seeking to participate in the WHA as an observer in 1997 and had observer status from 2009 until 2017 when its status was revoked after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party took office in May 2016, due to pressure from China.

Similar bills were proposed in January 2019 in the House of Representatives and in May 2020 in the Senate, only to be shelved.

(By Stacy Hsu and Evelyn Kao)

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