Taiwan’s quest for global health summit participation

The annual World Health Assembly meeting is scheduled for May 22-31 in Geneva, Switzerland. Taiwan has been lobbying the international health governing body as well as friendly countries for an invitation to attend the meeting, but still has not received an invitation by the registration deadline. Taiwan participated in the WHA as an observer under the name Chinese Taipei in 2009-2016, when the then Ma Ying-jeou government publicly recognized the so-called 1992 Consensus. Since President Tsai Ing-wen was elected into office last January, China has been pressuring her government to accept the consensus.

The Presidential Office released a statement on May 9:

Due to China’s importance and status in the United Nations system, it has a very large sway over whether Taiwan receives an invitation to attend UN agency meetings. The current WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan of Hong Kong, has been taking directions from China on Taiwan’s participation for the past decade.

This year’s effort to participate in the WHA is not new. During the SARS outbreak in 2003, Taiwan sought crucial information from the WHO on how to prevent and control the highly infectious disease, but was unable to do so due to Chinese opposition. Taiwan then unsuccessfully applied to join the WHO. When asked about the needs of Taiwanese people, then-Chinese official Sha Zukang famously responded: “[Taiwan] should have been rejected a long time ago. Who cares about you?

Taiwan’s foreign ministry has said that health and welfare minister  Chen Shih-chung would lead a delegation to Geneva with or without an invitation. Mainland Affairs Council cautioned further deteriorating ties between the two sides.

Further reading:
Time: Taiwan’s Vice President Talks to TIME About the Global Health Risks Arising From the Island’s Isolation
Nature: Clock is ticking for WHO decision over Taiwan
Tribune de Genève: Pékin ne veut pas voir de Taïwanais à Genève

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