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WHA rejects proposal to put Taiwan's observer status on agenda

2022-05-24
Focus Taiwan
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WHA rejects proposal to put Taiwan's observer status on agenda
WHA rejects proposal to put Taiwan's observer status on agenda

Geneva, May 23 (CNA) A proposal initiated by Taiwan's diplomatic allies to invite Taiwan to participate in the World Health Assembly (WHA) was not put on the WHA's agenda on Monday, meaning Taiwan will be excluded from the conference for the sixth straight year.

The decision came after the Executive Board of the WHA advised the member states after meeting Sunday night to keep the issue off the agenda.

The assembly as a whole agreed to that advice Monday after two countries representing each side of the issue had a chance to speak briefly on the issue, with China and Pakistan backing China's opposition of the measure and Eswatini and Tuvalu speaking for Taiwan.

The WHA is the World Health Organization's decision-making body, and key policies and global health initiatives for the next year will be decided at its annual conference, which began Sunday and ends May 28.

Taiwan has not participated in the WHA since 2017, and both sides of the debate made similar arguments for and against Taiwan's participation seen in years past.

In his remarks, the Chinese representative described the proposal as "political manipulation," and alleged that its "true aim is to seek independence through the pandemic."

He said there was no legal basis for Taiwan to participate in the WHA, citing the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758 and WHA Resolution 25.1.

He contended that the two resolutions provided the legal basis for the WHO to abide by the one-China principle, which recognizes Taiwan as part of China.

The representative from Eswatini countered that Resolution 2758 and WHA Resolution 25.1 only addressed the right of China to be represented in the United Nations and the WHO, and did not refer to Taiwan as part of China.

These resolutions also did not authorize the People's Republic of China to represent Taiwan in the U.N. system, she said.

"Taiwan's participation in the WHA is a health issue, not a political one," she argued.

She praised Taiwan as a "critical partner in the global fight against the pandemic," while calling on the WHA to benefit from Taiwan's expertise.

"Reverting to past practice [of inviting Taiwan to the WHA] does not mean the WHA is taking a position on Taiwan's sovereignty, but rather it is only taking logical step of including a global health leader in the WHA," she said.

A representative from Tuvalu, a diplomatic ally of Taiwan in the Pacific, said Tuvalu's government believes Taiwan's 23.5 million people have the right to participate in the global health security system through participation in WHO related meetings and mechanisms.

Taiwan's Deputy Health Minister Lee Li-feng (李麗芬), who is heading a delegation in Geneva to meet with delegations of other countries outside the WHA, protested the result.

"The decision is extremely regrettable and against the vision of leaving no one behind enshrined in the WHO's agenda," she said at a press event.

She blamed China for politicizing Taiwan's inclusion in the WHA but said Taiwan will not give up its efforts to join WHO-related meetings and mechanisms.

Taiwan, officially named the Republic of China, was expelled from the WHO in 1972 after losing its seat in the U.N. a year earlier.

It was able to send delegations to participate in the WHA as an observer from 2009 to 2016 under the designation "Chinese Taipei" when relations between Beijing and Taipei were warmer during the then Kuomintang administration.

Since 2017, Taiwan has been excluded from the WHA due to opposition from China, which has taken a hard line against President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and her Democratic Progressive Party for their stance that Taiwan is an independent state.

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