TAIPEI, TAIWAN — The World Health Organization, a specialized United Nations agency, allowed China to block Taiwan’s attendance at the World Health Assembly next week in Geneva, despite a démarche – or diplomatic objection – from the United States and two top allies, according to Taiwan’s foreign minister.
The U.S., Germany, and Japan together démarched the World Health Organization’s secretariat after WHO rejected Taiwan’s attendance at the assembly, but its director-general remained unswayed, according to Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.
“They told him the World Health Organization should think about health coverage — universal health coverage — and therefore Taiwan people should also have the opportunity to be covered by the World Health Organization and no country at all should be excluded from the World Health Organization or any event held by the World Health Organization,” he told a small group of journalists, including Breitbart News, on Friday.
“But I think the secretariat of the World Health Organization was not moved,” he added.
Wu said the responsibility lay with the director-general of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who did not issue a letter of invitation to Taiwan.
Taiwan attended the assembly between 2009 and 2016, but was not allowed to participate last year and again this year. Wu said the reason given was “China.”
“We sent our good friends, especially our American friends to speak with him to see why he doesn’t want to send letter to us, he said it’s because of China. Very clearly, he says, it’s China. China doesn’t allow him to send letter of invitation to us,” Wu said.
“It’s not fair to us. We are very upset, that the World Health Organization has become China’s tool, and that is not very nice to the 23 million people here in Taiwan,” he said.
“The WHO should be the organization of all member states and it should not be controlled by any single state,” he added.
The global health assembly takes place on May 21-26 in Geneva, Switzerland. Taiwan is still planning to send a delegation to Geneva, to meet with member nations’ delegations on the sidelines.
Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare, Chen Shih-chung, said there are ongoing discussions to meet with the U.S. delegation, but no set plans yet.
The U.S. State Department said Tuesday in a statement to Breitbart News that it “strongly supports” Taiwan’s participation as an observer and blamed China for its rejection.
“The United States strongly supports Taiwan’s participation as an observer in the World Health Assembly. We are greatly dismayed that China has once again blocked Taiwan from receiving an invitation to attend,” a State Department spokesperson said.
“We will continue to urge the World Health Organization to extend an invitation to Taiwan to attend this year’s World Health Assembly as an observer,” the spokesperson said. “Taiwan is committed to global health security and has made important contributions to public health and development, and the United States believes that Taiwan should not be excluded from these critical discussions.”
Wu said China’s motivation was to isolate Taiwan diplomatically.
“The Chinese are working further in trying to undermine Taiwan’s international participation, or Taiwan’s status as a country that is ruled by itself,” Wu said.
China asserts that Taiwan is a breakaway province that will one day be reunited with the mainland, including by force if necessary. Taiwan maintains it is a separate country. The U.S. acknowledges China’s position, but does not take a position on the status of Taiwan, while providing it with defense equipment.
Beijing has also begun requesting international firms who do business in China to describe Taiwan as a province of China, not a separate country, on their websites and promotional materials. Last month, it sent a letter to 36 international airlines, requesting them to list Taiwan as a province of China on their websites.
“Their tactics is trying to create an international environment as if Taiwan belongs to China, and if they can win this legal warfare against Taiwan, you know Taiwan is going to be in terrible shape,” Wu said.
Wu emphasized that Taiwan supports the status quo, but said that China’s recent moves have threatened to upset that balance and prompted some anxiety within Taiwan. But he said expressions of support from the international community have helped to calm fears.
“It helps to keep people calm, otherwise they will push Taiwan to act in a stronger way, and if Taiwan acts in a stronger way, the cross-strait situation is going to become worse than before. That is not in Taiwan’s national interest [and] not in the interest of those major countries that have a stake in peace and stability,” Wu said.
Wu thanked the U.S. and the Trump administration for its support. Last week, the White House issued a statement calling China’s requests to the airlines “Orwellian nonsense.”
“The White House spokesperson came out in a very strong way criticizing the Chinese official as Orwellian nonsense,” Wu said. “That was very good. We liked it.”