Statement by Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Washington, 10 October 1998

Mr. BROWN of Ohio. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from American Samoa (Mr. Faleomavaega) for yielding me this time.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of House Concurrent Resolution 334, a bill to support Taiwan's efforts to participate in the World Health Organization. I especially want to thank the gentleman from New York (Mr. Solomon) for his leadership and perseverance on this issue. Also the good work of the gentleman from American Samoa (Mr. Faleomavaega), as well as the gentleman from California (Mr. Cox) for his work on this, and the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Bereuter) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. Gilman) as chairs of the subcommittee and committee, respectively, for their assistance and good work on this issue.

Mr. Speaker, every individual, regardless of political or economic background, should have access to first-rate medical care. I am pleased that this Congress is finally considering this important legislation before we adjourn this year. Since 1972, the 21 million people of Taiwan have been blocked from participating in the World Health Organization. As a consequence, especially the children of Taiwan have needlessly suffered because their doctors are denied access to the latest WHO protocols.

Unfortunately, with each passing year, administration after administration in this country have contributed to Taiwan's plight by supporting China's assertion that its neighbor is not a nation and, therefore, should not be represented in the international community. The fact of the matter is that participation for Taiwan in the World Health Organization poses no threat to Beijing's security but will actually enhance the quality of life for China 1.2 billion inhabitants in addition to Taiwan's 21 million citizens.

The WHO is not a political organization, as the gentleman from New York (Mr. Solomon) pointed out. Disregarding political parties, political philosophies, or political boundaries, the WHO works to eradicate and control disease and improve the health of people around the world. It has instituted highly effective immunization programs allowing hundreds of millions of children to live longer and better lives. The WHO has already helped protect eight out of ten children worldwide from major childhood diseases, including tuberculosis and measles and has worked to reduce the infant mortality rate 40 percent since 1970.

Mr. Speaker, we should all be deeply upset by our country's refusal to help Taiwan conquer diseases which we ourselves have already exterminated. Taiwan's exclusion from the WHO has been tragic. While the President was visiting China this past July, scores of Taiwanese children were fighting for their lives against a new deadly flu-like virus which attacks the muscle sacs around the surrounding heart, brain, and upper spine. Over 70 infants died, and possibly 100,000 other children have become infected and face an uncertain future.

This tragedy further illustrates the importance of Taiwan's membership in the WHO and the need to access the valuable expertise of this respected body. Young children and older citizens are particularly vulnerable to a host of emerging infectious diseases are without the knowledge and expertise shared among the member nations of the World Health Organization. With increased travel and trade among the members of our global village, disease obviously does not stop at national borders and national boundaries.

When we learn of outbreaks of an enterovirus in Taiwan, Ebola in Central Africa, or the Asian Bird Flu in Hong Kong, it is vital that the WHO be allowed to combat our nation's vulnerability to spreading infectious diseases before it reaches our shores. Erecting boundaries to shared information which would help improve the health of every American is a foolish and a deadly policy.

Twenty years ago, a mysterious and fatal virus from Africa first appeared in New York and San Francisco. Our national health care system, which is the finest in the world, was ill-prepared for the spread of what we now know to be the AIDS virus. Two decades later, AIDS has spread to all 50 States and killed over 100,000 Americans. It is not in our interest to limit membership in an organization which is dedicated to combating infectious disease.

Denying Taiwan the knowledge and the expertise of the WHO is a fundamental violation of human rights. With just under 22 million people, Taiwan's population is larger than 70 percent of the 191 members of the WHO, whose charter clearly states that membership shall be open to all states. Good health is a basic right for every citizen of the world, and Taiwan's participation in the WHO would greatly help foster that right for its people.

The people of Taiwan and their democratically elected government face many serious threats to their sovereignty. Chinese aggression and their continuing threat of force to settle their claim to Taiwan is a serious problem. Equally threatening is their efforts to continue to thwart Taiwan's efforts to help improve the health of its citizens.

Mr. Speaker, we are the only country in the world which can stand up to China and the international community. We have an obligation, Mr. Speaker, to support the Taiwanese people in their efforts to determine their own future. I call on all my colleagues to support House Concurrent Resolution 334, and to help Taiwan participate in the World Health Organization.

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