Parties Unite Over Taiwan’s Exclusion From WHO Anti-Virus Planning

January 24, 2020 Updated: January 27, 2020

TAIPEI—Taiwan’s exclusion from World Health Organization meetings on the coronavirus outbreak has united the island’s political parties, who normally agree on little, especially to do with China.

Taiwan is not a member of the WHO due to the objection of China, which considers it a Chinese territory with no right to participate in international organizations as a separate entity.

Taiwan was not allowed to participate in an emergency WHO meeting on Jan. 22 about the new virus, which has claimed patients’ lives since breaking out in the Chinese city of Wuhan last month. Taiwan has only reported one case.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, re-elected by a landslide this month on a platform of standing up to China, this week called on the WHO to set aside political considerations and grant it full access to virus updates.

“Taiwan is at the forefront of global epidemic prevention. There needs to be room at the WHO for Taiwan’s participation,” she told reporters.

Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, which favors close ties with China, expressed its anger saying that epidemic prevention should know no boundaries.

“Please could the WHO cast aside political considerations. If Taiwan is alone in being left out of epidemic prevention work it will leave a gap, and is not beneficial to promoting epidemic prevention work around the world,” it said in a statement.

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, a doctor by training who is no friend of either Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party nor the Kuomintang, added his voice of disapproval.

“In recent years, Taiwan has been placed outside the world’s epidemic prevention system, and has no way of getting first hand information. This is a problem,” said Ko, whose Taiwan People’s Party won its first parliamentary seats this month.

Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control also complained about its inability to get first hand information from the WHO.

Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO emergencies program, told a news conference in Geneva on Thursday they work closely with technical partners in what he termed “China, Taiwan.”

By Ben Blanchard