Taiwan to send health officials to Geneva despite exclusion from WHA

05/07/2022 07:19 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, May 7 (CNA) Deputy Health Minister Lee Li-feng (李麗芬) and other government officials will travel to Geneva later this month during the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA), even though Taiwan has not been invited to attend, her ministry said Saturday.

Lee and the other officials will seek to meet on the sidelines with representatives from World Health Organization (WHO) member countries, in a bid to hold discussions and garner support for Taiwan's participation in the decision-making WHA, the health ministry said, without giving any details of the Taiwanese group's agenda.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said Saturday at his daily news briefing that he had planned to lead the Taiwan group to Geneva but could not do so because he has to continue to manage Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) during the current outbreak of domestic COVID-19 cases.

Chen said he has delegated the Geneva role to his deputy Lee, who will share Taiwan's healthcare experience, on the sidelines of the annual WHA, as has been done in the past.

The WHA, the decision-making body of the WHO, will be held this year in a hybrid format, featuring in-person and virtual meetings, after two years of online meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

Taiwan participated in WHA events as an observer from 2009 to 2016 under the designation "Chinese Taipei" when relations between Beijing and Taipei were warmer during the then Kuomintang administration in Taiwan.

Since 2017, however, Taiwan has been excluded from the WHA due to opposition from China, which has taken a hard line against President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and her Democratic Progressive Party for their advocacy of Taiwan's sovereignty as an independent state.

Nonetheless, Taiwan's diplomatic allies and other friendly countries have continued to voice support for its participation in international organizations, including the WHA.

In late April, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to ask Washington to help Taiwan regain its observer status in the WHA. The bill, which cleared the U.S. Senate last August, will now be sent to U.S. President Joe Biden to be signed into law.

Lawmakers in other countries such as Denmark, Latvia, Slovakia, as well as in the European Parliament, have passed resolutions in support of Taiwan's participation in the WHA.

On Saturday, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOEA) said it was still working with the health ministry to find a way for Taiwan to attend this year's WHA as an observer.

The foreign ministry said it will continue to articulate the wishes of Taiwan's 23.50 million people, through various international channels such as social media and short videos, to inform the world about the country's global contribution in the health field.

(By Chang Ming-hsuan, Yu Hsiao-han and Frances Huang)

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