Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu on Thursday called the World Health Organization (WHO) “irresponsible” to limit the Taiwanese government’s participation in the agency.
“Given that pandemics recognize no borders, and make no distinction between nationalities, we think it is irresponsible for the WHO to continue to limit Taiwan’s participation,” Wu said from Taiwan in live-streamed remarks at the Hudson Institute.
“We have noted that while we have made some progress, signifiant hurdles remain,” he said. He added:
One area that is very important for us is information exchange. Without timely access to critical information about the coronavirus, Taiwan risks becoming a gap in the global health system, undermining the very purpose of the WHO’s existence.
And this also puts at risk everything we have worked so hard to accomplish, both in Taiwan and together with like-minded countries.
WHO has barred Taiwan from participating in the annual World Health Assembly, even as an observer, since pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016.
Wu touted Taiwan’s successful efforts to contain coronavirus — with only five deaths and less than 400 confirmed cases, and said Taiwan wanted to share its mitigation practices with the rest of the world.
“We will continue to seek participation in the WHO. We believe that having taken successful actions to mitigate the coronavirus, we have a lot to share with the international community,” he said.
Taiwan has said it alerted WHO in December with evidence of human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus.
Taiwan’s Vice-President, Chen Chien-jen, told the Financial Times that its doctors had heard from colleagues in China about medical staff getting ill — a sign of human-to-human transmission, and that Taiwanese officials reported this on December 31 to both China and the WHO. That information was not shared with WHO’s members.
Instead, WHO amplified China’s assertions that there was no evidence supporting human-to-human transmission as late as January 14. On that date, WHO tweeted that “preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.”
The tweet that will go down in infamy. https://t.co/FxLoViaesE
— Kristina Wong 🇺🇸 (@kristina_wong) April 8, 2020
China confirmed human-to-human transmission six days later.
The WHO has also come under fire for praising China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, despite China hiding and destroying evidence of the outbreak originating within its own borders, and slowing down the global response.
The agency has also asked for people not to call the coronavirus a “Chinese virus.” On Wednesday, its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called on countries not to politicize the coronavirus in response to President Trump’s decision to suspend U.S. funding for WHO.