Taiwan’s health minister dismissed as “fake news” on Tuesday a coronavirus status report from the World Health Organization (WHO) that exaggerated the number of coronavirus cases in the country and mislabeled it as “Taiwan, China.”
Taiwan is a sovereign, democratic state that has never in its history been part of the People’s Republic of China. The WHO, a United Nations body, refuses to accept Taiwan as a member due to longstanding bullying from the Chinese Communist Party. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly denounced the organization’s decision to exclude one of the most prosperous nations in Asia, particularly in light of a situation the WHO itself has branded a public health emergency of international concern.
The Chinese communist regime announced it had identified a newly discovered coronavirus in central Wuhan, China, on January 20, despite evidence that officials were aware for nearly a month that a potentially deadly outbreak had begun in Wuhan’s Hubei province. As of Tuesday, officials have documented 20,702 cases of the new coronavirus worldwide. Of those, 427 people have died, the overwhelming majority in China.
The novel coronavirus initially produced flu-like symptoms, particularly fever, and in many patients appears to escalate into pneumonia and risk of death. Medical experts have estimates, but no confirmation, regarding how long the virus’s incubation period is and how contagious a person is at that time.
As the WHO claims to be in communication with Taiwan through the adversarial Beijing regime, it also claims to have accurate tallies of the number of coronavirus cases in the country. It placed that number at 13 on Tuesday, misidentifying the country as part of China.
“This is fake news,” Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung said of the total. At the time, Taiwan had listed ten individuals as confirmed coronavirus patients; at press time, doctors have confirmed an eleventh case. Chen said his government had issued an official complaint to the WHO for both the wrong number and for falsely identifying Taiwan as part of China.
The remarks followed an emergency WHO executive board meeting to address the outbreak in which Chinese communist officials claimed they were keeping Taiwan informed and prepared for any growing number of cases. China’s official at the meeting claimed that Beijing had been regularly keeping in contact with its officials in all its provinces and regions, including Taiwan among them, according to Focus Taiwan. The Taiwanese government vocally denied this claim.
“Although the virus is really serious, they are still using the ‘one China’ principle to impede Taiwan from taking part in the WHO’s technical meetings,” Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said on Wednesday, calling China “vile” for its campaign to pressure the world into failing to property identify Taiwan. “Disease has no national boundaries. Putting political considerations over people’s health and safety, this, basically, is extremely vile.”
President Tsai on Monday made another public plea for international organizations to take into consideration that insufficient cooperation with Taipei to contain the viral outbreak could prove fatal for many potentially exposed and that Taiwan can help end the outbreak faster. As with the WHO, Taiwan is excluded entirely from any United Nations agency, including large groups such as the General Assembly and agencies particularly important to curbing an outbreak such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The ICAO, run by a former Chinese communist official, proceeded to block individuals on Twitter last week who challenged their exclusion of Taiwan in light of the ongoing health crisis, referring to such concerns as “spam.”
“Disease prevention is a global affair and Taiwan should not be left out of disease prevention efforts, especially at this crucial moment when it is on the front line of a dangerous epidemic,” the Taipei Times relayed Tsai as saying.
Tsai posted a similar statement online last week quoting from public remarks on the coronavirus outbreak, and noting that Taiwan is in a critical geographical position to monitor travel that could turn the regional outbreak into a global pandemic. Tsai referred to Taiwan’s exclusion as a “serious gap in the global health network” and insisted that Taiwanese people “deserve an equal right to health”:
As a major transportation hub in the #AsiaPacific region, #Taiwan must be included in efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Our medical & public health personnel have both expertise & experience, & our people deserve an equal right to health. pic.twitter.com/2cONsqWfav
— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) January 31, 2020
Taiwan is largely relying on the United States and its allied states – America does not recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty officially to be able to maintain diplomatic ties with China – to share information on the coronavirus outbreak, including new scientific information to identify the virus and contain its spread. In addition to help from the United States, Japan, which also officially does not recognize Taiwan, urged the WHO to include Taiwan in coronavirus response.
“It will be difficult to maintain health and prevent further infections in this region if [Taiwan] is excluded for political reasons,” Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo said last week.
The Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, one of 15 countries to recognize Taiwan, issued a statement from its embassy in Taipei calling the WHO’s concern in not upsetting the Chinese Communist Party “myopic” in light of the health threat.