Taiwan Communiqué No. 97, June 2001

Taiwan into the WHO

WHO caves in to Chinese pressure, again

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WHO gatekeeper to Chen government:"Sorry, I'm afraid I have to ask China if it is okay to give you a humantarian visa."

During the past few months, the Taiwan government and various Taiwanese organizations, such as the North American Taiwanese Medical Association (NATMA) and Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) put a major effort in the campaign to gain Taiwan's entry into the Geneva-based World Health Organization.

The campaign resulted in the passage by the US Congress of a Taiwan-into-the-WHO Resolution, which was passed unanimously by the House and Senate, and signed by President Bush in early May 2001. The bill would have the United States initiate a plan to "endorse and obtain" observer status for Taiwan at the annual week-long summit of the World Health Assembly.

The bill's authors note that WHO has allowed observers to participate in its activities. Among such observers of WHO activities have been the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1974, as well as the Order of Malta and the Holy See in the early 1950s. Taiwan, with a population of more than 23 million, has more people than 75 percent of the member states in the WHO.

However, on 15 May 2001, the World Health Assembly caved in to Chinese pressure, and prevented the issue of Taiwan's membership from being put on the agenda. The matter prompted the following editorial in the Taipei Times.

Hippocrates would be ashamed

This editorial appeared in the Taipei Times on 16 May 2001. Reprinted with permission.

Once again, the World Health Organization (WHO) has voted to reject a proposal to allow Taiwan into the organization. The WHO's Constitution says in its preamble, "The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition."

How could an organization whose main objective is supposed to be "health for all" find any justification in excluding Taiwan for five years in a row despite annual requests for entry? How could the WHO completely ignore the rights of Taiwan's 23 million people to basic health? How could the WHO's lofty objectives be seen as anything but hollow rhetoric in the light of such an act?

The vectors of disease know no boundaries, neither should the prevention of diseases. For the international community, to shut Taiwan out of the WHO is to leave a major loophole in the global monitoring of contagious diseases. Such a loophole leaves the people of Taiwan vulnerable to the threat of serious diseases — such as the Ebola virus and the emergence of drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis. During the enterovirus outbreak in 1998, disease control work was hindered by the inadequacy of virus testing resources — due to the lack of contact with the WHO. The deaths of several children during the outbreak, perhaps, could have been prevented. Similarly, the damage from foot-and-mouth epidemics that have ravaged Taiwan's pig farms could have been mitigated.

An act that causes such extensive harm — in total contravention of human welfare — is simply an affront to basic standards of human decency. And the harm works both ways. With Taiwan excluded from the WHO, the international health community is unable to share the country's recent achievements in health work — such as its experience in the promotion of family planning, the prevention of hepatitis B, the elimination of malaria and polio, and the implementation of its National Health Insurance program. These resources will have to remain in the freezer, due to political interference.

Taiwan is not asking for much from the WHO. Over the past five years, the country has only hoped to enter the organization as an observer — joining the ranks of the Holy See, the Palestine Authority, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (better known as the Hospitallers of St John of St John's ambulance fame) and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Obviously, the observer status was created to avoid unnecessary disputes over sovereignty issues. That would seem to make Taiwan a prime candidate for such status. In terms of population and land mass, Taiwan far exceeds Vatican City's 44 hectares.

Of course, the Beijing regime, which masterminded this puerile act, is not known for its humanity, sense of fairness or respect for human rights. Beijing's fictitious claim that "the PRC already represents Taiwan within the WHO," is anything but the truth.

Since its inception in 1949, the PRC has never ruled Taiwan for a single day. Much less has the Beijing government provided any meaningful help to Taiwan during epidemic outbreaks and disasters. This makes Beijing's claims of "brotherhood" with the people of Taiwan even more ludicrous.

But the biggest outrage so far has got to be the fact that none of Taiwan's numerous Quisling politicians, who have gone on numerous pilgrimages to Beijing, have come out to speak up on Taiwan's behalf.

Despite being shot down for the fifth time, Taiwan has to continue to fight for its rights. Not to do so would be a sad admission that justice really is unattainable in the international community.

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