Blinken Calls for Taiwan’s Participation in WHO’s World Health Assembly

Blinken Calls for Taiwan’s Participation in WHO’s World Health Assembly
A sign of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 24, 2020. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)
Cathy He
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged the World Health Organization (WHO) to allow Taiwan to participate in its upcoming World Health Assembly (WHA), saying that the island’s exclusion jeopardizes international efforts to contain the CCP virus pandemic.

Taiwan used to participate as an observer in the WHA, the WHO’s decision-making body, from 2009 to 2016 until the country was barred in 2017 due to Beijing’s objections. The Chinese regime opposes Taiwan’s participation in international bodies because it views the democratic island as part of its territory, even though it has been governed as a distinct entity for more than seven decades.

“There is no reasonable justification for Taiwan’s continued exclusion from this forum,” Blinken said in a May 7 statement.

“Global health and global health security challenges do not respect borders nor recognize political disputes,” he added. “Taiwan offers valuable contributions and lessons learned from its approach to these issues.”

Taiwan has been lauded for its success in stemming the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. The island, with a population of 24 million, has only recorded 1,173 cases and 12 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Blinken wants the WHO leaders to recognize that excluding Taiwan—and thereby its people—from the WHA “serves only to imperil, not advance” the global health objectives shared by countries around the world. The WHA is scheduled to take place virtually from May 24 to June 1.

Taiwan’s exclusion would also “be detrimental to our collective international efforts to get the pandemic under control and prevent future health,” the U.S. secretary of state added.

Blinken’s statement comes amid growing scrutiny of Beijing’s influence over the WHO. The United States, under former President Donald Trump, withdrew from the body because of these concerns, alleging that the WHO repeated Beijing’s talking points when it downplayed the severity of the initial outbreak in China, which fueled its global spread.

President Joe Biden has reversed this move, arguing that the United States was better placed to reform the WHO from within.

On March 30, the WHO released a report concluding that it was “extremely unlikely” that the CCP virus leaked from a lab, reinforcing Beijing’s longstanding denial that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was linked to the origins of the pandemic. The report was based on the findings of a team of Chinese and foreign experts who visited Wuhan—where the outbreak began in China—earlier this year.

The report has since been heavily criticized. After its release, 14 nations including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement questioning the report, while calling for a “transparent and independent analysis and evaluation.”

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.), also a physician, applauded Blinken’s advocacy, saying Taiwan has been a “strong partner” in the fight to contain the virus.

“There’s no reason they should be blocked from sharing their expertise with the world,” Bera wrote on Twitter on Friday.

Cathy He is the politics editor at the Washington D.C. bureau. She was previously an editor for U.S.-China and a reporter covering U.S.-China relations.
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