by N. Peter Kramer
Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaushieh Joseph Wu said in an interview with Martha MacCallum, host of “The Story” on US Fox News, it is not right for Taiwan to be excluded from the World Health Assembly’. The WHA is the annual meeting of the governing body of the World Health Organisation (WHO). It usually takes place in Geneva, Switzerland, but the 73rd edition will be held May 18-19 virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taiwan is effectively locked out of the WHO by China, that ‘rules the waves’ in the global health body and claims the island as its own territory. Significant is an interview with Bruce Aylward, assistant director-general of WHO. Asked by Yvonne Tong, a journalist of Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK, if he WHO would reconsider letting Taiwan joining the organisation, she met a long silence of Aylward, who then said he cannot hear her. He asked for another question. After she said she would like to talk about Taiwan, Aylward appears to hang up on her.
‘Taiwan is a self-ruled democracy and has the same right as any other country to apply for participation in the WHA’, minister WU told Fox News. ‘My country could have helped the world so much more in managing the COVID-19 pandemic if the WHO had detected the situation and shared information earlier’. Globally, Taiwan is seen as one of the few countries which has successfully stemmed the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, with low infection and death numbers, without resorting to draconian measures and despite Taiwan’s geographic proximity to China, the virus’ origin.
‘It is a national inspiration in Taiwan to be able to participate in the WHO and its related activities so that Taiwan’s experience can be shared and the country can receive help when it is necessary’, minister Wu said in the Fox interview. He also set the record straight on disinformation and misinformation relating to Taiwan’s bid to take part in the WHO. ‘Taiwan is not part of China and its health needs are administered by the Ministry of Health and Welfare’, adding that claims to the contrary are a “lie.” The Taiwanese government welcomed the support of the U.S. for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the WHO and related mechanisms. It also appreciates U.S. efforts in trying to encourage the international community to follow suit and ensure Taiwan has a voice in the WHO.
More than 100 members of the European Parliament and EU member states’ national assemblies have called upon EU health ministers to lobby for Taiwan’s participation in next week’s World Health Assembly in Geneva to share its experience in tackling the COID-19 pandemic, according to an open letter. The open letter urged the WHO to ‘return to the pragmatic protocol, practiced from 2009 to 2016, of inviting Taiwan as an observer to this meeting format’. The letter also calls to facilitate ‘appropriate and feasible arrangements for Taiwan to participate in all WHO meetings, mechanisms and activities’.
But why is the EU not officially backing Taiwan, like the US government? It is clear the fear for China is enormous in the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS). Ten days ago an EEAS report about China was watered down under pressure of China. A few days later the EU ambassador in Beijing skipped, on request of China’s foreign ministry, some sentences in an open letter in The China Daily from the 27 Permanent Representatives of the EU member states. Josep Borrell, European High Representative for Foreign Affairs and EU’s top diplomat, pledged that the EU will never again bow to Chinese censorship. And the ambassador who watered down the letter ‘continues to have his confidence’.