by Coen Blaauw, Formosan Association for Public Affairs
Taiwan is a nation state whose population of 21.5 million people is greater than that of three-quarters of the member states in the World Health Organization (WHO). Still, due to China's political pressure, Taiwan has been excluded from the WHO since 1972.
According to Chapter III of the WHO charter "Membership in the Organization shall be open to all States." In the charter's first chapter, the WHO set forth the objective of attaining the highest possible level of health for all peoples. The "Health For All" renewal process, as initiated in 1995, emphasized that "Health For All" remains the central WHO vision in the 21st century.
The high frequency and rapidity of international travel and trade linked to growing interdependence for economic growth and resources increases the risk of the transmission of various infectious diseases to Taiwan such as AIDS and the Hong Kong bird flu. Taiwan's direct and unobstructed participation in international health cooperation forums and programs is a therefore a necessity.
Good health is a basic right for every citizen of the world and access to the highest standards of health information and services is the first step in protecting that right. The denial of WHO membership to Taiwan is an unjustifiable violation of its people's fundamental rights.
At the annual summit of the WHO - the "World Health Assembly"- in May 1997, Nicaragua put the issue of Taiwan's WHO membership on the table. It was put on the agenda and after a brief debate brought up for a vote. While it was blocked at that time, the historic vote opened up a window of opportunity for Taiwan's participation in international organizations.
Until now, the Clinton Administration has been reluctant to support Taiwan's participation in international organizations, in spite of the State Department's 1994 Taiwan Policy Review in which the Administration indicated that it would lend its support to Taiwan's participation in international organizations.
During February and March 1998, the Congressional resolution in support of Taiwan's WHO- membership, which was introduced in Mid-February by Representatives Sherrod Brown and Steve Chabot, moved forward (see Taiwan Communiqué, no. 79, pp. 19-20).
When introducing the bill, Congressman Brown stated:
"Sick children feel the same pain and shed the same tears, whether they live in Taipei, Los Angeles, Milan, or Nairobi. The stated and noble aim of the WHO is to help achieve the highest possible level of health for all peoples, but the 21 million people of Taiwan are currently barred from accessing the latest medical knowledge and techniques which the WHO could provide.
Moreover, Taiwan cannot contribute its own substantial health resources and expertise to furthering the goals of the WHO, as it did prior to 1972." And "Taiwan and its children have much to gain from the WHO, as does the WHO from Taiwan. This issue is principally a matter of the basic human right to good health, and I encourage all my colleagues to support this resolution."
It is expected that the Bill will be brought to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote within the next few weeks, making it possible for the US delegation to vote "Yes" in Geneva in May.
In a letter dated 3 April 1998, a number of prominent members of the U.S. Senate expressed their concern to President Clinton about hesitation on the part of the U.S. Administration to deploy theater missile defense systems in East Asia. Below follows the full text of the letter:
In addition to dropping the "ROC" for the PRC, in December 1997, South Africa was in the news in another matter relating to China: the sale of a plant producing zirconium tubing for nuclear reactors without the knowledge of top government or foreign affairs officials.
The caper came to light when South African immigration officials raided the Pelindaba nuclear complex near Pretoria, and found some 40 Chinese technicians without the proper permits dismantling the plant.
According to the US publication Nuclear Fuel, the affair raises serious questions of controls of nuclear technology both in South Africa and in China (Nuclear Fuel, 12 January 1998). The matter also raises questions, because it virtually coincides with the delivery by China of a similar zirconium tube factory to Iran. According to one State Department official questioned by Nuclear Fuel, the two projects are "not related", but the publication quotes officials from other US agencies as being unconvinced.
At the end of March 1998, the Grand Justices in Taipei, Taiwan's equivalent of the Supreme Court decided that a 40-year-old law requiring universities on the island to employ armed forces officers to lecture on military studies was unconstitutional. The Court gave the universities one year to phase out the program.
The military officers' primary role was to monitor and quash political activities that deviated from the Kuomintang's doctrines of "Three Peoples' principles", "Chinese identity" and "recovery of the mainland."
For many years, students have demanded that the military officers be removed from campuses, saying they are an anachronism in the new democratic era. At this point, some 4,000 military lecturers still remain at universities on the island.
In the beginning of April 1998, Taiwan's Defense Minister Chiang Chung-ling narrowly survived a vote of no-confidence in the legislature over a scandal involving Taiwan's underworld and bid rigging for military construction projects. Kuomintang legislators were barely able to block a motion calling for Chiang's resignation by a vote of 65-63. The vote was not binding because the legislature is only constitutionally entitled to pass a vote of no confidence against the prime minister.
But it would have been a major blow to Chiang's credibility, and the attempt indicates growing disgust in the legislature over dirty dealings in the military. The opposition has already blocked the budget of the president's office to force President Lee Teng-hui and Premier Vincent Siew to drop Chiang, a former commander-in-chief of the army who has been defense minister since 1994. A public opinion poll by Taiwan's China Times last month gave Chiang a 34% approval rating, the lowest in the Cabinet.
Two officers, one a major general, were arrested last month on suspicion of taking kickbacks and leaking information concerning bids for a 420 million New Taiwan dollar (US$1=NT$31.992) contract to build steel-reinforced ammunition storage bunkers.
After losing the bid on 13 January 1998, two managers from the Sheng Pai Co. allegedly abducted the officers for several days and manhandled them for reneging on a promise to let the company win. On Thursday police arrested a 30-year-old man described as a gang member on suspicion of intimidation and beating the two officers.
The incident triggered reports that Kuo Teng Co. won the bid by bribing officers more powerful than the two arrested.
Many students and scholars already know the Taiwan, Ilha Formosa website at http://www.taiwandc.org, the website for Taiwan's history, present and future, which provides information on the island's history, dating back to the 1600s, news and current events, culture and folklore.
We have recently spruced up both the News and Current Events and the History pages, making them more easily accessible and readable. We hope our readers enjoy discovering new information about the island, its people and history.
We have recently also added a search engine to the site, making it easier for the readers to find the information they need. This search engine covers both the general Taiwan, Ilha Formosa section as well as the Taiwan Communiqué section, where we are gradually adding back issues.
These back issues are provided in downloadable Acrobat pdf-format, making them easy to read and store for future reference. They are an ideal source of information about Taiwan's recent history and its transition from a repressive and dictatorial regime under the Kuomintang to the present open and democratic system.
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