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Japan, Czech Republic, 9 allies back Taiwan's WHA inclusion

2022-05-26
Focus Taiwan
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Japan Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto. Image taken from who.int
Japan Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto. Image taken from who.int
Deputy Health Minister Lee Li-feng (back, standing) speaks at a forum co-hosted by TaiwanICDF, United States Agency for International Development and Norwegian Refugee Council in Geneva Tuesday. CNA photo May 25, 2022
Deputy Health Minister Lee Li-feng (back, standing) speaks at a forum co-hosted by TaiwanICDF, United States Agency for International Development and Norwegian Refugee Council in Geneva Tuesday. CNA photo May 25, 2022

Geneva, May 24 (CNA) Japan, the Czech Republic and nine of Taiwan's diplomatic allies on Tuesday voiced their support for Taiwan's inclusion in the World Health Assembly (WHA) after it was not invited to the annual conference for a sixth straight year.

In a pre-recorded address played during the third day of the WHA's annual meeting in Geneva, Japan Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto said the world needed to learn from successful examples of public health responses in tackling the COVID-19 outbreak, "such as Taiwan."

"We should not make any geographical vacuums created by leaving specific regions behind in addressing global health issues such as infection control. This will serve the purpose of preventing the spread of infection worldwide," he said.

Václav Bálek, the Czech Republic's permanent representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva, meanwhile, said in his in-person address that in the global fight against the coronavirus disease, "no one can be left behind."

"This is the reason why the Czech Republic fully supports Taiwan to be granted observer status to the World Health Assembly," he said.

Speakers representing nine diplomatic allies -- Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, Nauru, Eswatini, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Palau, Tuvalu, and Belize -- all used parts of their respective addresses to make similar appeals in Geneva on Tuesday.

The Taiwan issue was not brought up by speakers representing two other countries that officially recognize the Republic of China (Taiwan's formal name).

The speaker from Honduras did not mention Taiwan in his address, while the representative from the Marshall Islands was about to raise the issue before his pre-recorded address was cut off because he exceeded his time limit, according to a source with Taiwan's foreign ministry.

Taiwan's Deputy Health Minister Lee Li-feng (李麗芬), who is in Geneva heading a delegation despite Taiwan's exclusion from the WHA, told CNA the government was still grateful to Honduras and the Marshall Islands because they joined with other allies in initiating a joint proposal to invite Taiwan to the WHA as an observer.

The WHA assembly decided on Monday, however, to not put that proposal on this year's WHA agenda, which sealed Taiwan's exclusion from the meeting.

The WHA -- the World Health Organization's decision-making body -- is holding its annual gathering from May 22 to May 28, and national representatives are attending in-person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taiwan cannot automatically participate in the activities of United Nations activities because it is not a U.N. member. Under its official name, the Republic of China, it lost its seat at the U.N. in 1971 and then was expelled from the WHO in 1972.

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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