Statement by Tom Lantos (D-CA)

Washington, 10 October 1998

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of House Concurrent Resolution 334, advocating the participation of Taiwan in the World Health Organization. I want to pay tribute, first of all, to my distinguished colleague, Mr. Brown of Ohio, who has fought for this necessary legislation with the courage and passion that he brings to so many important policy matters in this body. He is truly a champion for human rights, and I am proud to serve with him. I also want to pay tribute to our colleague Gerald Solomon, who has been a leading supporter of Taiwan for many decades.

House Concurrent Resolution 334 addresses a matter that, in my strongly held opinion, should transcend the political divides that characterize the complex China-Taiwan issue. This bill is about the health of children and adults, and about not letting the political anachronism of Taiwan's exclusion from the international community limit the ability of its children to receive medical treatments, vaccines, and support services that would allow them to fight disease with greater effectiveness and efficiency.

As we debate this issue this afternoon, Taiwan is attempting to cope with a fatal outbreak of a new, virulent strain of enterovirus type 71. This disease is highly contagious, and it strikes children and infants with devastating consequences, causing sever inflammation of muscles surrounding the brain, spinal cord, and heart. In the month of June alone, more than 50 children died from this horrible affliction.

Mr. Speaker, we have a moral responsibility to do everything in our power to ease the suffering of the Taiwanese people, and to achieve this end we must endorse Taiwan's participation in the WHO. The WHO has the capacity to the provide medical research and supplies to assuage the impact of the enterovirus epidemic, and we must not allow diplomatic technicalities to impede this worthy goal.

It is most appropriate that we encourage involvement by Taiwan in the WHO. Taiwan is a country of some 22 million people, with an advanced medical and research infrastructure and a highly trained cadre of medical personnel--many of whom have been educated at the finest universities in the United States.

Taiwan has much to contribute as a member of the WHO -- it should be a member, it should be working with other nations to improve world health. The exclusion of Taiwan from the WHO has everything to do with petty politics and misguided pride in Beijing, but it is a great loss to the world community to exclude Taiwan.

Mr. Speaker, I emphatically urge my colleagues to join me in standing up for the human rights of the children of Taiwan by voting for House Concurrent Resolution 334.

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