Taiwan makes new push for inclusion in World Health Assembly

Taiwan has been praised over its handling of the pandemic; the island nation of 23 million people has recorded just 438 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths

Updated - May 06, 2020 04:11 pm IST

Published - May 06, 2020 02:23 pm IST - Taipei

Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung speaks to the Taipei Foreign Correspondents Club at Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control in Taipei.

Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung speaks to the Taipei Foreign Correspondents Club at Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control in Taipei.

Taiwan’s exclusion from the upcoming World Health Assembly would harm the global response to the coronavirus pandemic and cannot be excused by mere rules of procedure, the island’s health minister said on Wednesday.

At a news conference, Chen Shih-chung said that global health officials “have not been honest and failed in their responsibilities,” in an apparent reference to the U.N. World Health Organization that oversees the assembly.

Also read | Taiwan’s coronavirus protocol shows how it is done

“As I said since the beginning of the epidemic, no one is able to accurately predict how the situation will be,” Chen said. “So the most important thing in the world pandemic is transparency. Each one has to share what they know about it.”

Taiwan is claimed as part of Chinese territory by Beijing, which has excluded it from the United Nations and its subsidiary organisations. China’s growing influence in the U.N. has made officials wary of crossing it, even while the U.S. has withdrawn from or suspended funding for some of its bodies, including WHO, which it accuses of mishandling the outbreak and displaying a pro-China bias.

Also read | Taiwan, WHO clash over ‘early warning’ claim

Chen said he acknowledged that U.N. member states would have to approve Taiwan taking part at the World Health Assembly, to be held in Geneva beginning on May 17.

Beijing’s Communist leadership has increasingly shut Taiwan out of gatherings such as the World Health Assembly as part of a diplomatic and military drive to force Taiwan’s independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen to recognise the self-governing island democracy as a part of China.

Also read | China, U.S. spar over Taiwan

Beijing has threatened military force to bring Taiwan under its control and has been courting its handful of remaining diplomatic allies to isolate it internationally. That has drawn a strong response from Washington, with whom Taiwan has strong but unofficial ties and which is its main guarantor of security.

At the same time, Taiwan has been praised over its handling of the pandemic, despite being just a short flight from China where the virus was first detected late last year.

As of Wednesday, the island of more than 23 million people had recorded just 438 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths.

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