Coronavirus News Asia

Taiwan makes fresh bid for WHO access

Taiwan is making a fresh bid to be seen and heard when the world’s top health officials and medical professionals congregate for an annual meeting of the World Health Organization.

Health and foreign affairs officials of the self-ruled island said on Tuesday that Taiwan’s status and participation would be on the agenda at the WHO’s World Health Assembly, to be convened on May 18 via video.

A WHO readout issued earlier this week also noted that Taiwan’s role in the WHA would need to be decided by its 194 member states. Previously, the WHO maintained its long-standing position that shutting the island out of the international public health body was underscored by a United Nations resolution almost half a century ago when Beijing’s seat in the UN was reinstated in 1971, the year Chiang Kai-shek’s government in Taipei was stripped of its legitimacy to represent China.

Beijing, having returned to the UN as one of the five permanent members of the high-powered Security Council, swiftly moved to remove Taiwan from the entire UN system under the pretext that the island is a wayward province pending reunification and has no sovereignty of its own, a moot point that Taipei has always taken issue with.

On Tuesday, Taiwan’s Central News Agency quoted Steven Solomon, principal legal officer for international, constitutional and global health law at the WHO, as saying that the organization’s secretariat had no authority over Taiwan’s representation and that two member states had already moved motions for the issue to be deliberated on at the upcoming WHA.

Solomon said some WHO members had had telephone conferences with officials from Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control in the past and that they would do so again, acknowledging the island’s feat in curbing the viral spread.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed that the motions were filed by two of the island’s diplomatic allies and it expects more WHO member states that still maintain diplomatic ties with the island to follow suit.

Yet Solomon, the chief consul of the WHO, also said the onus would be on Director-General Tedros Adhanom to work out a policy regarding Taiwan. The embattled WHO chief, who hails from Ethiopia, has been receiving jabs from the West for being at Beijing’s beck and call and remiss in his duties when the disease first emerged in China at the end of last year.

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