On May 18, a group of local Taiwanese organisations in California held a press conference to urge the World Health Organization (WHO) to allow Taiwan to attend the upcoming World Health Assembly (WHA). They argued that the WHO should not give in to Beijing’s pressure to stop discriminating against Taiwan.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 74th World Health Assembly will be held from May 24 to June 1. The World Health Assembly is the WHO’s decision-making body.
The press conference was held on Tuesday at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) Culture Center in Milpitas. The Taiwanese American Center Northern California, Hong’s Foundation, Cupertino-YiLan Friendship City Association, Cupertino-Taichung Friendship City Association, Chung Hsing University Alumni Association Northern California, San Jose Taiwanese Community Care Network, and Taiwan’s Overseas Community Affairs Council were among those who attended the event.
“This year is critical [for Taiwan to attend the WHA] to demonstrate that Taiwan does not belong to China,” said John Tsieh, the press conference’s host and a member of the local Love of Taiwan Association.
Tsieh urged the WHO to admit Taiwan as a full member, emphasising that Taipei’s observer status was only granted due to political pressure from the Chinese regime.
“[Taiwanese] have earned the right to basic health care. The WHO is a global organisation that should look after the health and well-being of all people, including those in Taiwan, according to Pingping Lee, an adviser to the Cupertino-Taichung Friendship City Association.
“There will be no discrimination against Taiwan,” Lee stated.
The organisation is based in Cupertino, a city in northern California with a sizable Taiwanese population. Cupertino and Taiwan’s Taichung city signed a sister city agreement in October 2016, which includes a cultural exchange programme that strengthens ties between the two cities.
Taiwan is regarded as a successful model for containing the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus. As of the end of April, the small island, which has a population of about 23.5 million people, had recorded fewer than 1,200 infection cases. However, the number of infections nearly doubled during a recent outbreak this month.
Lee expressed grave concern about the current situation and urged the WHO to allow Taiwan to participate in the upcoming World Health Assembly. She stated that access to WHO’s information system is critical for the island.
Taiwan was previously able to attend the World Health Assembly as an observer from 2009 to 2016, under the name “Chinese Taipei.” At the time, Taiwan had a closer trade relationship with China under former President Ma Ying-Jeou.
However, Beijing barred Taiwan from participating in the WHA in 2017. The Chinese regime opposes Taiwan’s membership in international organisations because it considers the democratic island to be part of its territory, despite the fact that it has been governed as a separate entity for more than seven decades. Beijing continues to put pressure on the World Health Organization and the international community to uphold the “one-China” policy.
Taiwan has distanced itself from mainland China since President Tsai Ing-Wen took office in 2016, as Tsai continues to stand up to Beijing’s threats.
“I strongly urge the WHO to invite Taiwan to participate as an observer in the World Health Assembly,” Teresa Keng said at the press conference. Keng is a council member in Fremont, another northern California city with a sizable Taiwanese population. Keng also advises the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce of the San Francisco Bay Area.
At the conference, Roy Yen, director of TECO’s Milpitas culture centre, stated, “The virus has no borders… the 23 million people in Taiwan should not be excluded from the WHO due to political reasons.” He praised the efforts of the local Taiwanese community in lobbying for support for Taiwan.
“Please allow Taiwan to compete in the World Hockey Association this year. Catharina Gill, president of the San Jose Taiwanese Community Care Network, stated that Taiwan can assist. Gill also serves on Taiwan’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission.
Gill believes Taiwan’s success in dealing with the pandemic over the last 17 months could benefit WHO’s global operations. She also criticised Beijing’s recent move to prevent Taiwan from obtaining vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech.
BioNTech, a German company, collaborated with Pfizer, an American pharmaceutical company, to develop the first vaccine approved by the WHO in December. It was widely reported that BioNTech abruptly backed out of a $5 million vaccine deal with Taiwan. In a radio interview in February, Taiwanese Health Minister Chen Shih-chung stated that the failure of the deal was due to “political pressure” from China. Beijing’s involvement in the incident has been denied by a spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office.
The G7 (Group of Seven) countries—the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, and Italy—called for Taiwan to attend the World Health Assembly earlier this month. “… the international community should be able to benefit from the experience of all partners, including Taiwan’s successful contribution to combating the COVID-19 pandemic,” the G7 stated.