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TAIPEI TIMES May 16, 2000

Taiwan's bid for WHO membership snubbed again


The issue of Taiwan's entry into the WHO was again forced off the agenda at the organization's 53rd World Health Assembly in Geneva yesterday, due to opposition from seven member nations, including China.

This was the fourth time Taiwan's WHO entry had been blocked by China.

The proposal to admit Taiwan was filed by five nations, namely Burkina Faso, Honduras, Nicaragua, Palau and Haiti.

China was joined by Cuba, Pakistan, Uruguay, Russia, Bangladesh and Cape Verde in opposing the move, citing UN resolution No. 2758, passed in 1972, which had approved China's membership of the WHO and resolved the issue of China's representation. Simultaneously, the Assembly's move revoked the membership of the Republic of China.

The Assembly's steering committee spent 20 minutes yesterday discussing the issue before deciding not to list the Taiwan issue on the agenda.

A delegation from Taiwan, led by outgoing Department of Health director Chan Chi-shean (ҽ) had earlier expressed hopes that Taiwan could be admitted with observer status, similar to that of the Palestinian Authority and the Vatican.

Observer status under the World Health Assembly does not require UN-recognized statehood, and even NGOs use this category to attend the body's annual assemblies.

Chan justified Taiwan's entry to the organization by detailing circumstances surrounding the devastating earthquake that struck the island last Sept. 21, leaving in its wake more than 2,300 dead.

Reacting to the decision of the steering committee, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement released last night that its determination to join the world health body remained unchanged, and that further attempts would be made in the future.

The statement also thanked the efforts of its allies in attempting to put the Taiwan issue on the agenda, while recognizing the sensitive nature of the issue.

In a January report to the US Congress, the State Department reiterated its policy that the US would not support Taiwan's entry into international organizations in which statehood is a prerequisite, such as the WHO, but would assist the country in gaining "meaningful participation."

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