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 U.S. Congress Urges WHO Chief on Taiwan's Participation in the WHO

February 15, 2005

His Excellency Lee Jong-wook


World Health Organization

WHO Headquarters

Avenue Appia 20

1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland


Dear Dr. Lee:

We wish to extend to you and your staff greetings for continued health and good fortune in the New Year.  We are writing to convey to you the critical importance that the Members of the Committee on International Relations of the U.S. House of Representatives attach to the health and welfare of the

twenty-three million people of Taiwan.  In this regard, we are all well aware that Taiwan=s participation, through observer status, in the World Health Organization (WHO) will again be a point for consideration at the World Health Assembly to be convened this coming spring.  Matters dealingwith the provision of health to any community should not be allowed to be politicized.  Unfortunately, in the case of Taiwan and the World Health Organization, this has not previously been the case. 

Last year, in a meeting at WHO Headquarters with a visiting staff member of the International Relations Committee, Mr. Thomas Topping, your Legal Counselor, made it clear that the question of participation in the WHO, including those seeking observer status, is an issue that is taken up by the WHO membership at the annual World Health Assembly.  Mr. Topping further noted that the office of the Director-General considers this to be a political question beyond the scope of its mandate and chooses NOT to intervene.  This was a response which our Committee Members, while somewhatdisappointed, could accept, given the apolitical nature, as it was explained, of the Director-General and your staff.

However, we on the Committee on International Relations were deeply concerned to read a news report carried last year by Xinhua, the Chinese wire service.  Xinhua reported that you, Mr. Director-General, during a visit to Beijing on April 19, 2004, publicly stated, AChina is one of our most important member states, and there is no room for Taiwan to get into WHO as an observer or as a member. This statement would appear, given the explanation provided to our staff member by Mr. Topping, to be incompatible with the mandate bestowed on your office by the Member States of the United Nations.  Further, the statement, if reported correctly, conveys a clear advocacy for the position of one side regarding a membership issue which would contradict the nonpartisan nature of your official position.  We have grave concern over the image of the World Health Organization which is conveyed as a result.

We look forward to receiving an official response from your office in the near future on the question of Taiwan’s observer status in the WHO, a matter of great urgency to the Members of the International Relations Committee, and the U.S. House of Representatives.

With best wishes,

Henry Hyde

Sherrod Brown

Steve Chabot

Robert Wexler

Dana Rohrabacher 


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