The World Health Organization (WHO) excluded Taiwan from an important meeting this month due to “interference” from mainland China.
On Nov. 8, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that it did not receive an invitation from the WHO to attend the virtual meeting of the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) from Nov. 9 to Nov. 14. This was the second instance of Taipei being excluded from WHA meetings: It also did not receive an invitation to the WHA’s earlier meeting in May 2020.
The ministry expressed its “regret and dissatisfaction” over the “obstruction” by Beijing and the WHO’s “continued negligence of the health and human rights” of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people. It added that the WHO’s refusal to allow Taiwan to participate in the meeting was a mockery of the global health body’s goal of “health for all.”
The WHO consists of 194 member states, but Taiwan is not included. Its health ministers were allowed to take part as observers in past WHA meetings from 2009 to 2016.
Taiwan’s WHO membership has become more urgent as of late due to the island’s success in addressing the spread of the coronavirus. Data collated by Johns Hopkins University as of Nov. 10 shows that Taiwan has just 578 COVID-19 cases, with only seven deaths and 526 recoveries. The last time Taiwan reported a locally transmitted case was back in April – more than 200 days ago.
Beijing has vehemently opposed Taipei’s participation in the WHO and other international organizations, as it considers Taiwan a part of its territory. However, the island has its own functioning democratic government with its own military and constitution.
The Taiwanese foreign ministry pointed out that many government officials from other countries have voiced support for its inclusion in the WHO. A number of health organizations and politicians around the globe have exhorted WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to consider inviting Taiwan in the WHA meeting.
The U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Switzerland issued a statement Nov. 6, calling on Tedros to “allow Taiwan to share its best practices” and commending the island for its “commitment to advancing global health through its expert analysis, research capability and model pandemic response.”
Florida Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio also voiced out their support for Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHO.
In a Nov. 7 tweet, Scott said: “While the WHO and Communist China were lying about the coronavirus, Taiwan was one of the few nations that had great success in responding to the virus. Inviting Taiwan in would be the right step.”
Meanwhile, Rubio’s office wrote on the same day: “As many nations face a second wave of COVID-19, Taiwan set a record for 200 days without infections. Beijing’s agenda to block Taiwan deprives us all of expertise and threatens global health.”
World Medical Association Council Chair Dr. Frank Montgomery earlier reminded Tedros in a Nov. 4 open letter that Taipei should be allowed to join technical meetings “without further obstruction”, as it was “cynical and counterproductive to continue excluding” Taiwanese representatives.
Despite the petitions by various health experts and lawmakers, it might be impossible for Tedros to permit Taiwan to join the WHO – given Beijing’s stance towards Taiwan. Before the WHO director-general assumed the position, he was a ranking member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in Ethiopia. The TPLF followed Maoist ideology, so Tedros’ inclination towards mainland China is not surprising.
Furthermore, Tedros has repeatedly praised Beijing for its measures to contain the coronavirus – unaware of its propensity to cover up the truth, if not whitewash it. He even slammed other countries for creating “fear and stigma” against mainland China during the initial months of the pandemic.
On the other hand, Taiwan has served as a shining example for other countries due to its commendable COVID-19 response. Taipei recently celebrated more than 200 days without a local coronavirus infection, which earned the jealousy of Beijing. The island nation showed that proper public health responses are better solutions to COVID-19 than cover-up campaigns – lessons that WHO member countries will find valuable.
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