Taiwan on May 19 said it was “disappointed and angry” that the World Health Organization (WHO) has not allowed it to participate in the U.N. agency’s annual World Health Assembly (WHA), which began virtually on Monday.
Non-WHO member Taiwan has lobbied to take part as an observer in this week’s virtual meeting of the WHA—the WHO’s decision-making body—to share the methods it used to combat the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
However, this has raised objections from the Chinese regime, which views Taiwan as part of its territory, and it has blocked the island’s participation in the WHA since President Tsai Ing-wen was elected in 2016.
Taiwan has maintained that the ongoing pandemic has made it more urgent than ever for it to have proper access to the WHO.
No #WHA73 invitation for #Taiwan. Overwhelming international support, ignored. Ongoing donations of essential #COVID19-combating items, ignored. Sharing the #TaiwanModel, ignored. But #China‘s political bleating, heard loud & clear. We’ll never give in, never, never, never! JW
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 🇹🇼 (@MOFA_Taiwan) May 18, 2020
“We feel disappointed and angry about WHO’s decision of not inviting Taiwan to join this year’s WHA,” Yi-Chun Lo, deputy director general at Taiwan Centers for Disease Control, said Tuesday. “We feel we have so much to share about our successful experiences in this COVID-19 outbreak response.”
Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung, said earlier that the self-ruled island is dissatisfied that member states unanimously agreed to defer a decision on granting observer status to Taiwan until later this year.
“We put in our efforts [to get invited] up until the last moment, but it seems that we are unlikely to be invited, so we want to express our regret and dissatisfaction for the situation, as well as protest against it,” Chen said during a daily press briefing, adding that Taiwan had sent a letter to the WHO Secretariat in Geneva on Monday.
Chen said that Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHA’s 73rd annual meeting not only prevents it from sharing the methods it used to successfully battle the CCP virus, but it is also detrimental to Taiwan, as it cannot learn from the experiences of WHO member states, Taipei Times reported.
“We hope the WHO can remain professional and politically neutral, refuse political interference, and not neglect the right to health for any area or anyone in the world, as it should be equal to all,” he added.
In a statement Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States condemns Taiwan’s exclusion from the international body’s annual meeting.
“At a time when the world continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, we need multilateral institutions to deliver on their stated missions and to serve the interests of all member states, not to play politics while lives are at stake,” Pompeo said.
“Taiwan is a model world citizen, while the PRC (People’s Republic of China) continues to withhold vital information about the virus and its origins, deny access to their scientists and relevant facilities, censor discussion of the pandemic within China and on Chinese social media properties, and casts blame widely and recklessly,” he added.
“The [WHO] director-general’s lack of independence deprives the Assembly of Taiwan’s renowned scientific expertise on pandemic disease, and further damages the WHO’s credibility and effectiveness at a time when the world needs it the most.”
Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the @WHO is critical especially as we combat #COVID_19. The U.S. stands w/ #Taiwan, a fellow democracy that shares our values and is an important security & economic partner in the Indo-Pacific #TweetforTaiwanhttps://t.co/ia76OHB7pN
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 18, 2020
Responding to Pompeo’s statement, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote on Twitter: “Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the WHO is critical especially as we combat COVID-19. The U.S. stands with Taiwan, a fellow democracy that shares our values and is an important security and economic partner in the Indo-Pacific.”
Separately, on May 13 a group of more than 100 members of the European Parliament and one national parliament submitted an urgent open letter that calls on 27 EU health ministers to demand that the WHO reinstates Taiwan’s participation as an observer in the U.N. agency.
The WHO said it has no mandate to invite Taiwan to the WHA and that only member states can decide.
Reuters contributed to this report.