‘We urge you to restore Taiwan’s participation at the upcoming WHA and in the work of WHO, which was created to serve all of humanity.’
On May 16, 172 members of U.S. Congress, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), sent a letter to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), urging him to allow Taiwan to participate in this year’s World Health Assembly, which will be held in Geneva later this month.
The bipartisan letter comes after the WHO yet again this year failed to invite Taiwan due to obstruction from China. Beijing insists the Tsai Ing-wen administration must recognize the so-called “1992 consensus” and “one China” framework as a precondition for it “allowing” Taiwan to participate.
Earlier this week, Reporters Without Borders condemned the United Nations for refusing to accredit Taiwanese reporters — two of them from Central News Agency — to attend this year’s meeting of the WHA. U.S.-based Freedom House has issued its own criticism of the decision, writing, “The WHO’s action is the latest in a series of capitulations by international agencies and private businesses to China’s censorship requirements.” For its part, the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) said the denial of accreditation was in “direct violation of Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” adding, “We protest in the strongest term against UN’s transgression on the basic rights of Taiwanese journalists and demand full accreditation right to be granted without discrimination. It is absurd that the political agenda of one should be put before the well being of 7 billion people.”
In the past, Taiwanese reporters seeking access to cover meetings of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal have also been denied accreditation by the U.N.-affiliated agency.
This situation, and the blind spot in global health that results from Beijing’s interference, is untenable. It can only be remedied if the international community as a whole, and for its own interests and those of its citizens, counters Beijing’s politicization of global security issues. The full text of the Congressional letter below:
May 16, 2018
His Excellency Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
c/o Regional Office for the Americas
World Health Organization
525 23rd Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20037
Dear Mr. Director General:
We write to you in your first year as Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) to strongly urge you to allow Taiwan’s unconditional inclusion in participating as an observer in this year’s 71st World Health Assembly (WHA), and in future annual and technical meetings.
Last year, the WHO – under pressure from the People’s Republic of China – withheld its invitation for Taiwan to participate in the 70th WHA. With this action, the WHO became complicit in Beijing’s campaign to keep Taiwan out of meaningful participation in assemblies like these. The decision to withhold the invitation, after eight consecutive years of Taiwan’s participation, violated the spirit of a key principle set forth in the preamble of the WHO Constitution, which states that “the health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent on the fullest co-operation of individuals and states.” Global health and safety should not be held hostage to China’s political objectives. We are all safer when Taiwan has meaningful and unobstructed participation in international health cooperation fora.
Taiwan has a long history of generous contributions to international efforts to prevent epidemics and provide critical humanitarian aid following natural disasters. It has been an important participant in global efforts to prevent, monitor, contain, and treat infectious diseases, and has demonstrated its good global citizenship through humanitarian efforts both within the Asia-Pacific region and around the world.
We urge you to restore Taiwan’s participation at the upcoming WHA and in the work of WHO, which was created to serve all of humanity. The known and emerging health challenges we face are far too important to exclude valuable partners like Taiwan. Thank you for your leadership and attention to this matter.
CC: The Honorable Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State
The Honorable Alex M. Azar II, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Top photo: WHO/Pierre Virot.