Statement for Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
October 4, 1999
Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 1794. In
addition, I would like to thank my numerous colleagues who
have given their support to this bill, including . . .
Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago Taiwan was struck by a
devastating earthquake. It's not hard for us to empathize
with the thousands of Taiwanese people found themselves
trapped under rubble -- praying that someone would come
to their rescue, that someone would hear their cries for
help -- or for us to imagine how we might react if it was
our family members trapped under those buildings.
Yet in the aftermath of this disaster, unlike the
immediate offers of help to the victims of those awful earthquakes
in Greece and Turkey – international relief efforts were
actually dragged out and postponed while scores of Taiwanese
people were fighting for their lives.
And we know why were they were forced to wait for
help, even though they themselves have provided hundreds
of millions of dollars in assistance to victims of wars
and famines and disaster all over the world. That's
because even in Taiwan's darkest hour the United Nations
had to receive the permission from the People's Republic
of China before helping Taiwan.
That's the reality of the One China policy.
No matter how dire the situation, the human rights of the
Taiwanese people take a back seat to Cold War geopolitics
that frankly no longer serve a useful purpose. And unless
we start doing something about it, unless we start taking
action to stick up for what's right and start helping Taiwan
instead of hindering it, then we'll wind up letting China's
dictators think they can continue deny people their fundamental
Today we are taking a step in the right direction,
because regardless of the One China policy, access to first
rate medical care is a fundamental human right. I've
said it before and I'll say it again – children cry the
same tears, whether they're in Lorain, Ohio, or Taipei,
Denying them access to the latest medical innovations
that can ease those tears is just as criminal as violating
their other basic rights.
H.R. 1794 is a step in the right direction and recognizes
that human suffering transcends politics. For the
first time ever, Congress is requiring the State Department
to find a role for Taiwan in the most beneficial of all
international institutions, the World Health Organization
-- an outfit that is dedicated to eradicating disease and
improving the health of people around the world, regardless
of the conditions imposed on them by their governments.
It's achievements in this regard are nothing short
of remarkable. In this past century, smallpox claimed more
than a half billion lives, killing more people than every
war and epidemic put together. Because of the tireless
efforts of the World Health Organization, this scourge has
been totally eradicated.
In 1980, only 5 percent of the world's children were
vaccinated against preventable diseases. Today, the
WHO has vaccinated more than 80 percent of the kids in the
world, saving the lives of 3 million children each year.
These diseases include Polio, a virus unparalleled in its
cruelty and suffering, but the WHO has eradicated it from
the western hemisphere. Similarly, Measles -- a killer
of a quarter of a million children world-wide each year
-- is targeted for eradication by 2001.
Infectious disease and sickness are not limited to
political borders, and the results of Taiwan's occlusion
from the WHO have been tragic. Young children and
older citizens who are particularly vulnerable to a host
of emerging infectious diseases, such as the Asian Bird
Flu, are without the knowledge and expertise shared among
the member nations of the WHO.
With increased travel and trade among the members
of our global village, these diseases do not stop at national
borders and boundaries. So why should we erect boundaries
to shared information which would help improve the health
of Taiwanese citizens?
Mr. Speaker, the denial of Taiwanese participation
in the WHO is an unjustifiable violation of its people's
fundamental human rights. Good health is a basic right
for every citizen of the world, and Taiwan's admission to
the WHO would greatly help foster that right for its people.
I call on all of my colleagues to support H.R. 1794 and
Taiwan's right to participate in the World Health Organization.
Doing so would send a clear message that the American
people fully support the people of Taiwan's right to determine
their own future, as is laid down in article 1 of the UN
charter, and gives hope to the millions of Taiwanese who
live under the shadow of a hostile, belligerent neighbor.