200605231132Taiwan blocked from WHA for 10th year in row

Taiwan blocked from WHA for 10th year in row

Beijing claims it takes care of Taiwan's people; allies say China's ords 'disappointingly false'

Taiwan News, Staff Reporter
2006-05-23
By Jenny W. Hsu
Published: 2006-05-23 08:34:29

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Taiwan officials are seen at the 59th World Health Assembly in Geneva. Starting from second left are Vice Foreign Minister Michael Kau, TSU Legisaltor George K. Liu, National Policy Adviser Wu Yun-tung, and Department of Health Director-Genearl Hou Sheng-mao.
Central News Agency
Taiwan yesterday failed for the 10th consecutive year to gaining observer status at the World Health Assembly when the General Committee of the World Health Organization decided not to place the Taiwan issue as a supplementary item on this year's provisional agenda.
During the two-on-two debate of the General Committee, China and Cuba voiced their objection to Taiwan's bid while Gambia and Belize spoke in favor of Taiwan. The decision to keep the issue off the agenda was made in a 40-minute closed door meeting.

Taiwan's Department of Health Director Hou Sheng-mao (侯勝茂) said he regretted the decision, while Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Kau (高英茂) asserted that the decision may have marked a turning point in Taiwan's approach to gaining WHA membership.

"Taiwan is a sovereign, democratic country, and now China has forced us into a corner," Kau said. "We will no longer exclude any possibility in the future," he added, suggesting that a bid for full membership rather than observer status might be the strategy adopted next year.

Alicia Hunt, a representative from the Belize Mission to the United Nations in Geneva reported that Cuba said Taiwan's bid is a "political tactic" and the topic of Taiwan's admission should merit no further discussion.

China, she said, made the same speech as they did in recent years by claiming the Beijing government has been taking care of the 23 million people in Taiwan and the island country is using the WHO bid as a political maneuver.

In response, Gambia Minister of Health Dr. Tamsil Mbowe called Cuba and China's statements "disappointingly false," and argued that Taiwan is one of the main health contributors in the global community and "everyone in the world benefits from the medical advancement of Taiwan."

He said it was the "inalienable rights" of the people in Taiwan to be included in the WHO. Another ally nation representative who refused to be named said the failed bid was a "great shame."

"My country is a good friend of Taiwan. Even though it is not fair and we know Taiwan's bid is not politically motivated, it is a great shame that the majority of the WHO member-states are against Taiwan," he added.

When a Taiwanese reporter confronted Sha Zhukang, the Chinese ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations, Su claimed the committee "unanimously agreed" to thwart Taiwan's bid.

While the General Committee's decision ended any sliver of hope Taiwan might have had to gaining observer status in the assembly, but the debate was picked on the assembly floor.

In another two-on-two debate, Palau and Malawi spoke on Taiwan's behalf while China and Pakistan argued to dismiss the issue. The Malawi spokesperson said it was "moral absurdity" to continue to bar Taiwan and that China has never taken care or looked after the health of the 23 million people of Taiwan.

He said the exclusion of Taiwan was not in conformity with normal WHO conduct and accused the member-states who agreed to the exclusion as being "naive and dishonest."

He also blasted the "memorandum of understanding" signed between China and the WHO, describing it as a "secret document" and urged the office of the WHO secretariat to make the document public for the review of WHO members and Taiwan. In contrast, Pakistan said the inclusion of Taiwan is "deficient in law and a direct legal violation of WHO and international law."

He argued that the MOU is an indication that China has been taking care of people in Taiwan because many Taiwanese medical experts have been allowed to attend many technical meetings since the signing of the MOU. Facing a group of Taiwanese reporters minutes before the WHA, Chinese Health Minister Gao Qiang and Sha both refused to explain China's continued efforts to block Taiwan from the world health body, but said anything was open for discussion under the framework of the "one-China policy."

"We definitely care about the health of our Taiwanese compatriots," Sha said. "Under the principle of one-China policy, we allowed for the maximum flexibility to help facilitate Taiwan's participation in any WHO-related technical meetings," said Sha in a surprisingly calm manner, compared to his hostile attitude in 2003 when he barked, "Who cares about you Taiwan!" during a short confrontation with some Taiwanese doctors at that year's WHA.



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