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76TH WHA/WHA press passes for Taiwan reporters abruptly canceled

05/22/2023 07:21 PM
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The entrance to the UN complex in Geneva, where the WHO is holding its annual assembly this week, is seen in this photo taken on Monday. CNA photo May 22, 2023
The entrance to the UN complex in Geneva, where the WHO is holding its annual assembly this week, is seen in this photo taken on Monday. CNA photo May 22, 2023

Geneva, May 22 (CNA) Two Taiwanese CNA reporters who had been accredited to cover this week's World Health Assembly (WHA) were told on Monday they would not be allowed to claim their press passes, in a move a United Nations staff member blamed on pressure from China.

The CNA reporters, both Republic of China (Taiwan) passport holders, tried to claim their press credentials for the WHA meeting, which is being held May 21-30, at a U.N. office in Geneva on Monday morning.

The WHA is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), which as a U.N.-affiliated agency does not recognize Taiwan as a member.

The two CNA reporters submitted documents for media accreditation on the United Nations website weeks before the WHA meeting. Since there is no option for "Taiwan" or "The Republic of China" in the dropdown list for country, the reporters selected "Thailand" but specified in the notes section that they are journalists from "Taiwan (Republic of China)" and uploaded copies of their Taiwan passports.

Upon arriving to claim their credentials, the two reporters -- Judy Tseng (曾婷瑄) and Tien Hsi-ju (田習如) -- were told by a U.N. staff member at the office that they would not be allowed to cover the event.

The U.N. worker pulled the two reporters aside outside the office and told them: "You have a Taiwan passport, and the WHO doesn't recognize it anymore."

The reporters protested that they had already submitted applications for press passes -- which made clear that they were ROC passport holders from Taiwan -- and had them approved.

"I know, [however] there is a little pressure from China," the U.N. worker replied, adding that based on demands from Beijing, the only way they could enter with Taiwan passports was if they also had China-issued Mainland Travel Permits for Taiwan Residents.

Emails received by the two CNA reporters last week informing them that their media accreditation for the WHA had been approved. CNA photo May 22, 2023
Emails received by the two CNA reporters last week informing them that their media accreditation for the WHA had been approved. CNA photo May 22, 2023

As neither of the reporters had the permits, they again appealed to the U.N. staff member, asking if China had intervened in the matter since their press passes were approved last week, and if so, how it knew about their applications.

"They know everything," the staff member replied, half-jokingly, adding a moment later, "I am sorry."

When the reporters pressed the man on whether the U.N. has to "report everything to China," he nodded his head in the affirmative.

Tseng and Tien then explained that they were not part of any official delegation from Taiwan, but were instead journalists, and should therefore be allowed inside to cover the event.

"What can we do? I want to help you, but my hands are tied," the staff member said, adding that if he allowed them to enter, he would be fired.

Speaking quietly, the staff member added, "There are Chinese, Chinese press inside too. It's a shame, but what can I do?"

The staff member then suggested that they appeal the decision to the WHO, making clear that they were seeking approval for Taiwanese reporters to attend the assembly.

● Taiwan health minister vows to continue pushing for WHO inclusion

The Republic of China was expelled from the WHO in 1972, after losing its U.N. seat to the People's Republic of China due to the issue of "China's representation."

Taiwan was allowed to attend the WHA as an observer under the designation "Chinese Taipei" from 2009 to 2016, when cross-Taiwan Strait relations were warmer under the then Kuomintang government.

Since the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took power in Taiwan, however, Taiwan has been blocked from attending the body for the last seven years.

On Monday, the WHA decided not to extend Taiwan an invitation to attend the event at the urging of China and Pakistan, while two of Taiwan's formal diplomatic allies, eSwatini and the Marshall Islands, spoke in favor of its participation, Reuters reported.

(By Judy Tseng, Tien Hsi-ju and Matthew Mazzetta)

Enditem/ls

> Chinese Version

Update

May 24: Estonia speaks in support of Taiwan's inclusion at WHA for 1st time

May 23: 7 countries use WHA addresses to speak up for Taiwan

May 23: Taiwan foreign media club backs CNA reporters barred from covering WHA

CNA reporter Judy Tseng explains what happened when she went to claim her press pass in Geneva, Switzerland to cover the World Health Assembly on Monday. (In Chinese)
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