The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) opened its annual World Health Assembly on Sunday, once again excluding the nation of Taiwan — which attempted to warn the W.H.O. of an infectious disease spreading in Wuhan, China, during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic — as a result of Chinese pressure.
The Singapore-based Channel News Asia (CNA) reported on Sunday that, in addition to the formal exclusion of the Taiwanese government this year, the W.H.O. banned two of its journalists from covering the event after having approved their accreditation as a result of their possession of Taiwanese passports.
Taiwan, formally the Republic of China, is a sovereign nation off the coast of communist China. Beijing falsely claims Taiwan for itself as a rogue province and refuses diplomatic relations with any country that recognizes the reality of Taiwanese sovereignty. It also browbeats international institutions such as the W.H.O. into banning Taiwan’s presence at its venues. In addition to preventing it from participating in the annual Assembly, Taiwan’s government has no state actor access to the W.H.O.’s services or communications mechanisms, a point of particular controversy when Taiwan, whose government logged one of the smallest numbers of Wuhan coronavirus cases in the world, could not share critical data with other countries through the W.H.O.
The W.H.O. counted Taiwan as a member until 1972, when it formally recognized communist China and, as a result, had to abandon Taiwan. Between 2009 and 2016, Taiwan participated in W.H.O. activities under the name “Chinese Taipei” as a non-state actor, but it lost that access following the election of current President Tsai Ing-wen.
The World Health Assembly is the W.H.O.’s annual members summit to discuss funding and strategies for its international programs for the next year. The Assembly also decides the United Nations agency’s international regulations on public health. This year, observers expect the unresolved debate on a potential “pandemic treaty” to control government responses to disease outbreaks to continue; Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to continue negotiating a draft regulation during his opening remarks on Monday.
The Assembly is scheduled to end on May 30.
Taiwanese Health Minister Hsueh Jui-yuan held a press conference on Sunday condemning the W.H.O. for disinviting the country and holding Tedros personally responsible, as the highest-ranking official in the organization.
“Taiwan’s membership at the WHO is a public health issue instead of a political one,” Hsueh said, “health is a basic human right that must leave no one behind.”
On Monday, the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) issued a statement condemning the W.H.O. for its “deeply regrettable” exclusion of Taipei from the event.
“Excluding Taiwan because of political pressure from China is not only unjust, but also constitutes a grave risk to global health,” the MOFA asserted, noting Taiwan has “actively contributed to global health and safety for the past several decades, including by providing medical expertise and personal protective equipment during the [Wuhan] pandemic.”
The ministry condemned China for its “outrageous and unreasonable” pressure on international institutions to exclude Taiwan from global platforms.
Tedros chose not to invite Taiwan to the World Health Assembly despite tremendous international pressure to include the country. Taiwan noted on Thursday that the governments of America, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and four other governments issued a joint press release last week “reaffirming their support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Taiwan’s participation as an observer in the World Health Assembly (WHA).”
Separately, the European and Canadian group known as the Formosa Club published a letter featuring 926 lawmakers from 29 countries on Monday similarly expressing a willingness to see Taiwan in the W.H.O.
“Our collective efforts and solidarity remain essential if we are to uphold the universal values of freedom and democracy, and the rules-based international order,” the letter read, noting Taiwan’s contributions to the coronavirus pandemic fight and its humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
CNA alleged on Monday that the W.H.O.’s exclusion of Taiwanese extended this year to citizens of the country who happened to be journalists, not just to a formal delegation from the country. The news organization said that two of its reporters, Judy Tseng and Tien Hsi-ju, had received permission to attend the event and had their formal accreditation abruptly rescinded on Monday, a day after the information beginning of the Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
“The CNA reporters, both Republic of China (Taiwan) passport holders, tried to claim their press credentials … Upon arriving to claim their credentials, the two reporters … were told by a U.N. staff member at the office that they would not be allowed to cover the event,” the outlet said. “The U.N. worker pulled the two reporters aside outside the office and told them: ‘You have a Taiwan passport, and the WHO doesn’t recognize it anymore.’”
The outlet noted that the two reporters had already been approved to cover the event, and they told officials at the Assembly so, but an unnamed U.N. worker simply replied, “there is a little pressure from China.”
Tedros nonetheless opened the Assembly on Sunday with a call to “work towards health for all, everywhere!” – presumably excluding Taiwan.
The #WHA76 has begun! I am honoured to welcome Health Ministers from around the world to this historic World Health Assembly as we mark the 75th anniversary of @WHO. Together, we continue to work towards #HealthForAll, everywhere! pic.twitter.com/VwFGgXN8Rg
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) May 21, 2023
The Chinese Foreign Ministry applauded Taiwan’s exclusion on Friday, claiming that the Communist Party will adequately represent Taiwan at the Assembly.
“The Taiwan authorities claim that its absence from the WHA will cause a ‘gap’ in global anti-epidemic efforts. That’s not true,” spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters. “The Chinese Central Government attaches great importance to the health and well-being of our compatriots in the Taiwan region, and has made proper arrangement for Taiwan’s participation in global health affairs on the condition that the one-China principle is upheld.”
The Taiwanese government has for years condemned China’s intrusions into its relationship with the W.H.O. on the grounds that it presents public health risks to the world. Taipei cites as a prime example of this the fact that the Taiwanese government attempted to warn the W.H.O. on December 31, 2019, that it had intelligence suggesting the spread of an infectious respiratory disease in Wuhan, China.
“Taiwan did report our concern on the severity of coronavirus last December to the WHO,” Taiwan’s U.S. office confirmed to Breitbart News in March 2020. “But as a rule, our reporting is always a one-way street. WHO mostly ignored our messages and never shared information as they do to other countries.”
W.H.O. claimed publicly as late as mid-January that it had “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus.”
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