TAIPEI, Taiwan—U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar emphasized the importance of having the island be part of the global health community in the current pandemic, in his second full-day visit to Taiwan’s capital of Taipei.
Calling Taiwan’s success in containing the Chinese Community Party (CCP) virus “a model for the world,” Azar said: “The United States believes that Taiwan’s accomplishments should be recognized on the world stage.”
Since then, Taiwanese health officials have effectively limited the spread of the virus through a combination of vigorous tracing of new cases and raising public awareness—without adopting any draconian measures such as putting cities into lockdown. Local public transportation has continued to operate without interruption, and schools and businesses have stayed open.
“Taiwan should be able to share these lessons and its world-class expertise in international forums,” Azar said, pointing to how Taiwan has been excluded from the World Health Organization (WHO) since 2017.
Beijing sees Taiwan as part of its territory, which must be reunited with the mainland despite the fact that the self-ruled island has its own military, democratically-elected officials, and currency.
As a result, Beijing has sought to diminish Taiwan’s international presence by pressuring countries and international organizations to recognize its claim of sovereignty over the island in exchange for warm relations with the mainland.
“Especially during a pandemic, but at all times, international organizations should not be places to play politics,” Azar said of the CCP’s actions.
Azar concluded: “We will continue advocating for the contributions Taiwan can make to the world on important issues like health.”
Azar’s trip is politically significant. He is the highest-level U.S. cabinet official to visit the island since 1979—the year the United States severed official diplomatic ties with the island in recognition of Beijing. He and his delegation arrived in Taipei on Sunday afternoon.
Currently, the United States maintains a robust, nondiplomatic relationship with Taiwan, and supplies the island with military weapons and equipment for its self-defense against Beijing.
Also speaking at the press conference, Wu pointed out how Taiwan has donated about 51 million surgical masks worldwide since the start of the pandemic, including more than 10 million to the United States, as well as other protective personnel equipment.
Wu pointed out that sometimes Taiwan had chosen to deliver its medical donations quietly in order to keep their recipients “free from trouble—trouble from Beijing.”
He explained: “Our life has become increasingly difficult as China continues to pressure Taiwan into accepting its political conditions, conditions that will turn Taiwan into the next Hong Kong.”
China has offered to rule over Taiwan under a “one country, two systems” model—the same model is being used by Beijing to rule over Hong Kong since the city was handed back from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Beijing’s offer has been soundly rejected by the public, all major political parties in Taiwan, and the current government headed by President Tsai Ing-wen.
“We know this is not just about Taiwan’s status but about sustaining democracy in the face of authoritarian aggression [from China]. Taiwan must win these battles so democracy prevails,” Wu added.