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Floor Statement for Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
October 4, 1999


H.R. 1794 Taiwan/WHO

 Mr. 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 human rights.
 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, Taiwan.
 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.

 
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