Taiwan, First to Warn of Chinese Coronavirus, Says W.H.O. Is Ignoring It Again

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday accused the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) of failing to remain politically neutral by declining to offer Taipei an “observer status” seat at an upcoming W.H.O. assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, implying that the United Nations (U.N.) public health body has expressed anti-Taiwan bias encouraged by Beijing.

“We find it deeply regrettable that the WHO has once again failed to remain professional and politically neutral to extend an invitation to Taiwan,” Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told a news conference in Taipei on May 19.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry expressed “dissatisfaction” with the W.H.O.’s decision not to invite Taiwan to the 75th World Health Assembly (W.H.A.), which is scheduled to take place in Geneva from May 22 to May 28. The summit will mark the first time that the assembly has gathered in person since the start of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

“Apparently, the WHO has no intention of giving a response on the widespread international support for Taiwan,” Ou remarked on Friday.

She referred to a proposal sent on behalf of 13 Taiwanese diplomatic allies, that are also W.H.O. members, to the W.H.O. Secretariat asking the W.H.A. to hold a discussion on Taipei’s possible inclusion in the assembly’s meeting this year.

The W.H.A. is the W.H.O.’s decision-making body. The annual meeting of the W.H.A. is attended by delegations from all W.H.O. member states, which include 194 countries worldwide. Taiwan is neither a member of the U.N. nor the W.H.O. and has tried unsuccessfully for the past six years to gain a limited “observer status” seat at the annual W.H.A. meeting in Geneva. The sovereign island nation, which is located off China’s southeastern coast, has seen these efforts unofficially blocked by Beijing, which is one of the most powerful members of the W.H.O. Taipei often sees its attempts to gain global recognition of its sovereignty blocked by the Chinese Communist Party, which considers Taiwan a province that should be “reunified” with “mainland” China.

“The Republic of China was expelled from the WHO in 1972, one year after losing its seat in the UN. It was able to send delegations to participate in the WHA as an observer under the designation ‘Chinese Taipei’ from 2009 to 2016, when relations between Beijing and Taipei were warmer during the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration,” the Taipei Times recalled on Friday.

“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 and her Democratic Progressive Party,” according to the newspaper.

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