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US condems Taiwan’s exclusion from World Health Assembly

The US statement accused WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of choosing not to invite Taiwan under pressure from the People’s Republic of China.

May 19, 2020 15:23 IST
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The United States has condemned Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Assembly. The US Secretary of State, Michael R Pompeo condemned Taiwan’s exclusion from the multilateral forum in a press statement issued on May 18, 2020.

The statement read that at a time when the world continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, the world requires multilateral institutions to deliver on their stated missions and serve the interests of all member states and not play politics while lives are at stake.

Pompeo’s statement highlighted how Taiwan, despite its proximity to the original outbreak in Wuhan, China, has managed to contain the coronavirus pandemic to date thus, becoming one of the world’s most successful nations in dealing with the outbreak. He reiterated that transparent and vibrant democracies like Taiwan always respond faster and more effectively to pandemics than authoritarian regimes.

US Statement: Key Highlights 

•  Pompeo’s statement highlighted that WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had every legal power to include Taiwan in the 73rd World Health Assembly proceedings. Taiwan was, however, still left out. 

•  The statement accuses WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of choosing not to invite Taiwan under pressure from the People’s Republic of China.

•  The statement read that the WHO Director-General’s lack of independence deprives the Assembly of Taiwan’s renowned scientific expertise on the pandemic disease.

•  The US stated that this further damages the WHO’s credibility and effectiveness at a time when the world needs the organisation the most.

•  The strongly-worded US statement also lashed out at China, accusing that the nation’s action to silence Taiwan exposes the emptiness of its claims that it wants transparency and international cooperation to fight the pandemic, which makes the difference between China and Taiwan ever starker.

•  The statement also criticised China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak saying that while Taiwan is a model world citizen, China continues to withhold vital information about the virus and its origins and denies access to its scientists and relevant facilities. It also accused China of censoring discussion of the pandemic within China and on Chinese social media properties.

Taiwan’s Statement

The deputy director-general at Taiwan Centers for Disease Control, Yi-Chun Lo said that the nation is disappointed and angry about WHO's decision of not inviting it for this year's World Health Assembly. He said that Taiwan has so much to share about its successful experiences in the Covid-19 outbreak response.

Politics Around Taiwan

Taiwan has been a sovereign, self-ruled democracy since the end of the civil war in 1949. However, China still considers it as a part of its territory and has been attempting to force Taiwan to accept its arrangement of ‘one country two systems,’ which it shares with Hong Kong.

China feels that Taiwan should not have any diplomatic relations with countries that recognise it as an independent state. Most counties including even the United States and the European countries switched their recognition to China in the past few decades, leaving Taiwan with just a few South Pacific and Latin American allies.

Background 

Taiwan had been requesting to join this year's World Health Assembly as an observer after its successful containment of the deadly coronavirus despite its close proximity with Wuhan, the original epicentre of the outbreak. 

However, Taiwan faced strong opposition from China, which claims Taiwan as its province with no right to its diplomatic representation. Due to its exclusion from the WHO, Taiwan has been relying on its own efforts to develop a vaccine while working along with the health authorities, academia and other industry partners.

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