Australia’s Foreign Affairs Department Supports Taiwan’s Involvement in WHO

May 3, 2020 Updated: May 6, 2020

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) supports Taiwan’s involvement in the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an “observer” in line with Australia’s “one-China policy.”

DFAT’s support comes after Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung sent an email to media outlets globally calling on the WHO to include the nation as part of a global effort to contain the virus.

Chen pointed to the success of Taiwan’s containment measures saying that, “Despite its proximity to China, Taiwan ranked 123rd among 183 countries in terms of confirmed cases per million people.”

“In the 17 years since it was hit hard by the SARS outbreak, Taiwan has been in a state of constant readiness to the threat of emerging infectious disease,” said Chen.

Despite Taiwan’s population (23.8 million) being similar in number to Australia’s, the Asian island nation has just 432 confirmed cases of the virus and 6 deaths.

Australia has over 6,801 confirmed infections and has recorded 95 deaths.

In an email to The Epoch Times, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the WHO needs to ensure “inclusive, practical cooperation and robust information exchange” between nations, and the WHO must maintain a “close working relationship with all health authorities.”

Liberal senator James Paterson and Labor senator Kimberley Kitching have supported the call.

One-China Policy Dispute

Beijing has repeatedly tried to discourage attempts at recognising Taiwan as a formal country. This is because the Chinese regime claims Taiwan as part of its territory. The dispute has its roots in the 1945 establishment of the government of the Republic of China on the island.

China has pressured governments and international companies to support its one-China policy. In 2019, fashion label Christian Dior apologised publicly after a photo of a presentation slide used during an internal conference was circulated online. Dior said, The slide showed a map of China, sans Taiwan.

“Dior has always respected and upheld the ‘One China’ principle, and strictly safeguards China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a statement from the company read, adding that such incidents will never happen again. “Dior is a friend of China.”

From 2009 to 2016, Taiwan’s health ministers took part in the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO, as observers.

However, in 2017, China barred Taiwan from taking part in the World Health Assembly and its meetings.

The WHO has also been accused of bowing to Beijing by ignoring advice from Taiwan and responding too slowly to the virus’ initial spread.

Taiwan Vice President Chen Chien-jen said they had warned the WHO about the risk of human-to-human transmission of a pneumonia-like disease in China on Dec. 31, 2019.

Taiwan is currently not a WHO member state.