Taiwan ‘unlikely’ to be invited to WHA this year

By Liu Xin and Fan Lingzhi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/5/10 21:48:50

The World Health Assembly (WHA) confirmed with the Global Times on Friday that it is "unlikely to agree" to invite Taiwan observers as the majority of the World Health Organization (WHO) Members observe a one-China policy.

The Taiwan administration has not got the invitation for the 72nd WHA, which is scheduled to be held in Switzerland on May 20, the third consecutive year for the island being refused by the assembly.

Christian Lindmeier, spokesperson of the WHO, said in an email responding to an interview request from the Global Times that in 1972, the WHA recognized the Government of the People's Republic of China as the "only legitimate representative of China to the WHO" through resolution WHA25.1

The WHA is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States - currently 194 countries.

Taiwan's "Ministry of Foreign Affairs" vowed to continue pushing for an invitation under observer status even though WHA online registration for attendance closed on May 6, Taiwan News reported on May 7. 

Taiwan was turned down by the WHA in 2017 and 2018. 

Lindmeier said that "Given that participation in the WHA is ultimately a Member State decision, the result of this resolution, and the support it continues to have, is that, in the absence of an understanding among those concerned that could form the basis of an invitation," Taiwan observers "would have to be invited by the collective action of the WHA. This was not the case in 2017 and 2018 and there was, therefore, no invitation issued in 2017 and 2018."

Lindmeier also wrote in the email that the vast majority of WHO Member States, 178 Member States, observe a one-China policy, under which they formally recognize the People's Republic of China. 

These numbers suggest that the outcome of the WHA's consideration of Taiwan observership will likely follow the WHA's decisions since 1997, for example, the WHA is unlikely to agree to invite Taiwan observers in the absence of an understanding among those concerned, according to the email.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang told a routine press conference on May 6 that "China's position on the Taiwan region's participation in international organizations, including the WHO is consistent and clear. It must be arranged pursuant to the one-China principle." 

From 2009 to 2016, the Taiwan region participated in the WHA as an observer under the name of "Chinese Taipei" for eight consecutive years.

"However, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), since taking power in 2016, has been putting political calculations above the Taiwan people's welfare and entrenching itself in the secessionist position of 'Taiwan independence,' thus undermining the political foundation for the region's participation in the WHA," Geng said.  

"In a move to uphold the one-China principle and the solemnity and authority of UNGA and WHA resolutions, China has decided not to allow Taiwan region's participation in this year's WHA," Geng said. 

Taiwan's Central News Agency cited an anonymous US official in a report on May 7 that "excluding Taiwan from the network of global public health, security and law enforcement will create dangerous loopholes for malicious transnational crime organizations to exploit."

Lindmeier said in the email to the Global Times that despite the refusing of Taiwan in the WHA, WHO continues to attach great importance to its ongoing technical work with Taiwan health experts and health authorities, in line with the principles of universality and inclusiveness on which WHO relies.

Geng Shuang also said on May that "The central government of China attaches high importance to the health welfare of Taiwan compatriots and has made proper arrangements regarding the region's participation in international health affairs on the precondition of the one-China principle."

Taiwan region has timely access to information on global public health emergencies released by the WHO and information can also flow readily the other way. With these arrangements in place, Taiwan is able to cope promptly and effectively with local or global public health emergencies, Geng said. 

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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