By Joseph Yeh
TAIPEI, Taiwan, (CNA) – Twelve of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies have written to the World Health Organization (WHO), calling for Taiwan to be included in its decision-making body, which has excluded Taiwan for the seventh consecutive year, as it prepares to hold its annual meeting next week.
In letters to WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the 12 countries have requested a motion to place the issue of Taiwan’s inclusion on the agenda of the upcoming World Health Assembly (WHA) in Switzerland, according to Taiwan’s foreign ministry.
At a press event in Taipei on Thursday, foreign minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said all except one of Taiwan’s 13 diplomatic allies have written to Tedros, urging the WHO to discuss Taiwan’s participation as a WHA observer.
The one exception was the Holy See, Taiwan’s sole diplomatic ally in Europe, which is not a WHO member but rather is an observer and rarely speaks on political issues at the WHA, Wu said.
Over the past seven years, Taiwan’s allies have been appealing to the WHA for its inclusion, but each time the proposal has been rejected, amid China’s objections, and has not made it onto the official agenda.
This year, support for Taiwan’s WHA participation has been “stronger than ever,” as senior officials from all of the G7 countries have openly expressed support for such a move, Wu said, referring to the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, and Italy.
It is highly unlikely, however, that Taiwan will receive an invitation to join this year’s WHA, given China’s objections, he said, calling on the WHO to maintain a professional and neutral stance, reject China’s political interference, and allow Taiwan to join WHA meetings.
Meanwhile, at the same press event, Minister of Health and Welfare Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元) said that while Taiwan has not been invited to the May 21-20 assembly in Geneva, he will go there later this week for private meetings with the delegations from Taiwan’s diplomatic allies and like-minded countries, to highlight the disadvantages of Taiwan’s exclusion.
For example, Hsueh said, Taiwan’s absence from the WHA means that the country has no direct access to information pertaining to the latest international health emergencies, which can create a loophole in the global pandemic prevention network.
The flaws in China’s promise that it would pass on such information to Taiwan, which it claims as part of its territory, became evident to the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, as that type of communication did not happen, Hsueh said.
Also on Thursday, the representative offices of eight countries in Taiwan – the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Japan and Lithuania – issued a joint statement reaffirming support for Taiwan’s participation in the WHA.
“Inviting Taiwan as an observer would best exemplify the WHO’s commitment to an inclusive, “health for all” approach to international health cooperation,” according to the statement. “Taiwan’s isolation from the WHA, the preeminent global health forum, is unjustified and undermines inclusive global public health cooperation and security, which the world demands.”
This year, the WHA’s annual meeting is scheduled to discuss global public health priorities.
Taiwan, formally called the Republic of China, was expelled from the WHO in 1972, after losing its United Nations seat to the People’s Republic of China due to the issue of “China’s representation.”
Since then, Taiwan has not been able to attend the WHA amid objections by China, except from 2009 to 2016, when cross-Taiwan Strait relations were warmer under the then-Kuomintang government.
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