Taiwan’s attendance blocked in the WHO Covid-19 meetings

The World Health Organisation declined inviting Taiwan, because of the objections from China. The article from BBC News website from 17th May 2020 has mentioned the virtual meeting that is being held at the World Health Assembly regarding the world response and how it should tackle the virus. Since 2016 China- who considers Taiwan as their part- blocked Taiwan’s attendance. China’s decision has caused other nations backing up Taiwan, as it has been applauded for its effective plan to stop spreading the virus.

Taiwan has been called different names by World Health Organisation. In the situation report from 5th February about the Novel Coronavirus, Taiwan was described in the surveillance section as “Taipei and environs”. Further down in the report, the statistics only focus on cases that were reported by ‘provinces, regions and cities in China’.

The main goal of the report was to develop response plan that will include how all countries can prepare for and respond to the outbreak, as well as how to stop any further transmissions and mitigate the impact. The labelling issue caused Taiwan to not be listed and have no separate statistics from China. Taiwan is not only called Chinese Taipei but also the Republic of China- in the meantime China is called the People’s Republic of China. The article from Quartz website from 6 February 2020 says that: “Taiwan, is classified as a part of China by the UN, and China claims Taiwan as part of its own territory though the Communist Party has never ruled over Taiwan.” It then continues to explain that Taiwan is allowed at the WHO as ‘observer’ and under the name ‘Chinese Taipei’, until “China ratcheted up resistance against Taiwan’s participation following the election of president Tsai Ing-wen in 2016 as Beijing despises her views on Taiwan’s independence”.

First case confirmed in Taiwan was described on the Reuters website article from 21st January 2020, where 50-year-old woman who had been teaching in Wuhan returned to the island. It states that the woman was immediately identified and Taiwan alerted China and The WHO about the case. Moreover Taiwan immediately set up an epidemic response to the virus and prepared more than 1,000 beds, if the virus will continue to spread any further. The efforts were recognised in the Wikipedia source about Covid-19 pandemic in Taiwan saying that their fast response in handling outbreak has received international praise ‘for its effectiveness in quarantining people’. Taiwan has a population of 23 million and considering the number of cases and deaths it has had a massive success battling the coronavirus. The mentioned source says that:

“On 13 March 2020, the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs arranged for the Minister of Health, Chen Shih-chung, to have a meeting with envoys and representatives from various countries, and the epidemic prevention methods were affirmed. Taiwan donated a total of 10 million masks with 7 million masks to Europe (Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, Netherland, Luxembourg, Czech, Poland, United Kingdom, Switzerland) and 2 million masks to United States, and 1 million to diplomatic allies on 1 April 2020.”

The pandemic had small impact in Taiwan, as there were seven deaths as of 11 May 2020, 442 confirmed cases and 420 recovered. The peak was noticed in terms of active cases on 6th of April with 307 cases. The article from 22nd January 2020 on FP website by Natasha Kassam says:

“Taiwan is no longer able to attend the World Health Assembly, WHO’s annual policy meeting. China has prevented Taiwan from attending since 2016, after President Tsai Ing-wen was elected for the first time. Since her election, Beijing has stepped up its existing military and economic pressure on Taiwan, viewing Tsai’s pro-sovereignty status as a veil for Taiwanese independence.”

The article asks question whether exclusion from such important organisation is interfering with the administration of global health and safety. It then continues to say that Union Nations resolution passed on 25th October 1971 is recognising that the only legitimate representative of China to the U.N. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office is People’s Republic of China. 

Wikipedia source says that listing Taiwan as part of China by WHO contributed to other countries taking measures to ban flights to Taiwan even though the disease did not reach epidemic there at that time. It also been listed as “country/region” category when Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Research Centre was hosting interactive map. It also says that: “Although Taiwan is excluded from the World Health Organization due to opposition from China, and thus has limited access to shared scientific information and data, the country’s response has been lauded in international press. Despite its proximity to China and large human flows, Taiwan has recorded the lowest incidence rate per capita – around 1 in every 500,000 people.” It continues to describe that Taiwan effective plan to tackle the outbreak prevented further spread and saved from a serious epidemic- the plan included travel bans, social distancing, quarantines. When the Pulse news channel interviewed assistant director-general of the WHO in March, the person did not want to answer the question about the Taiwan and answered saying he ‘had already talked about the China’. Then it explained situation in April saying that:

“On 9 April, Taiwan demanded an immediate apology from WHO leader Tedros Adhanom for making false accusations about racist remarks, claiming that the Taiwanese government and populace were slandering him based on his Ethiopian ethnicity instead of his response to the virus.”

The BBC news article from 17th May 2020 says that WHO already communicates with the health officials of Taiwan and that ‘the information is being shared’. The article also mentions that the WHO considers Taiwan’s attendance and membership being ‘entirely up to the member states’.

By Julita Waleskiewicz

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