Taiwan Gains International Support for Participation in Key WHO Meeting

May 4, 2020 Updated: May 4, 2020

TAIPEI, Taiwan—A little more than two weeks before the World Health Organization (WHO) holds its next key meeting, countries from around the world are voicing their support for Taiwan’s inclusion, including the United States.

“Taiwan should be a member of the World Health Organization,” U.S. Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) wrote on Twitter on May 3. “Taiwan’s public health response to COVID was excellent and to isolate a nation of 24 million only weakens a coordinated response to future epidemics.”

Taiwan has earned international accolades for its success in containing the spread of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. The island has successfully stemmed the spread of the virus without resorting to lockdown measures, while schools and businesses remain open as usual.

Taiwan’s professional baseball league, CPBL, was also the first such league in the world to start this year’s season, on April 12.

As of May 4, Taiwan had 438 confirmed infections and six deaths in connection with the virus.

The Chinese regime claims Taiwan as its territory, even as the self-ruled island has its own democratically elected government, currency, and military. As a result, Beijing sees itself as a representative of Taiwan and bars international organizations, including the WHO, from allowing the island’s participation.

Aside from Taiwan’s diplomatic allies and the United States, officials from Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, and Lithuania have also recently spoken out in favor of Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHO.

While Taiwan isn’t a WHO member state, from 2009 to 2016, its health ministers took part in the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the WHO, as observers. However, since 2017, the year after Taiwan elected President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)—which Beijing condemns—Taiwan has been barred by Beijing from taking part in the assembly and its meetings.

The 73rd WHA assembly, to be held virtually this year due to the pandemic, will begin on May 18, as Taiwan’s participation remains uncertain. Taiwan hasn’t “yet received an invitation from WHO,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said on May 4, according to Reuters.

“Although the current situation we are facing is still very difficult, the government will never give up, and will join with allies and countries with similar ideals to continue to strive until the last moment,” Ou said, about Taiwan’s efforts to take part in the WHA meeting.

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto U.S. embassy on the island, said on May 1 that it will publish new posts in support of “Taiwan’s participation in the upcoming #WHA and broader role in global health” on its Facebook page daily until the WHA meeting’s opening session.

On May 3, AIT shared a tweet by Giampaolo Rizzo, Honduras’ permanent representative to the United Nations, who wrote: “I led a coalition of countries that asked the WHO DG (director-general) to invite Taiwan to the WHA, as well as all technical meetings on COVID-19.”

Rizzo added: “It’s the right thing to do so no one is left behind and also to learn from their experience.”

Rizzo also posted three photos on Twitter of a recent video conference session with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on April 29. During that meeting, a group of U.N. representatives from Taiwan’s diplomatic ally nations urged that Taiwan be invited to attend the WHA and all WHO meetings and activities, according to Taiwan’s government-run Central News Agency.

The U.S. State Department’s division for dealing with U.N. policies, the Bureau for International Organization, launched a “Tweet for Taiwan” (#TweetforTaiwan) campaign, which aims to see the inclusion of Taiwan in the WHA gathering.

“The U.S. believes firmly that #Taiwan belongs at the table when the world discusses #COVID19 and other threats to global health,” the bureau wrote on Twitter on May 1.

In another tweet, the bureau pointed out the stark differences between China and Taiwan’s pandemic response.

“China’s response to the outbreak of #COVID19 has been to hide the facts, muzzle its scientists, and censor discussion  #Taiwan’s response has been and continues to be a model for the world,” the bureau wrote.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the bureau’s tweet “is absolutely right,” adding that Taiwan “should be able to participate in global health discussions that impact the Taiwanese people.”

On May 2, China’s Permanent Mission to the U.N. lashed out at U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, for his support of Taiwan’s participation in the WHO. China said Azar’s comment “violated the one-China principle.”

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer