Sunday, April 22, 2007


Taipei, April 17 (CAN)

Taiwan's application for full membership at the World Health Organization (WHO) should at least be put on the agenda of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in May for discussion, a non-governmental organization said Tuesday.

The Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan (FMPAT), long committed to advocating for Taiwan's entry to the WHO, held an international press conference to voice support for President Chen Shui-bian's recently announced move to send the application to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan after ten consecutive years of failure in seeking WHA observer status. "For years Taiwan has been pursuing humble goals: becoming a WHA observer, as supported by the United States and Japan, and making 'meaningful participation', as suggested by European countries. But both approaches have proven unsuccessful due to China's politicization of the issue, " said Wu Shuh-min, President of the FMPAT.

Lo Chih-cheng, Chairman of the Department of Political Science of Soochow University cited the case of East Germany during the Cold War era and called on Chan and the WHO secretariat to respect due process.

Under the then zero-sum relations between the two German republics, East Germany's applications to join the WHO were rejected several times in the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, Lo said, what then WHO director-general Marcolino Gomes Candau did was to refer East Germany's applications to the WHA for it to make decisions, in the recognition that it was not his proper duty to determine whether East Germany enjoyed "statehood" as required by WHO Constitution.

According to the WHO Constitution, a member state is not necessarily a United Nations member but can be admitted upon an approval by a simple majority vote of the WHA.

Chan in a recent interview with the American television network CNN said the WHO's "193 member states still hold on very strongly to the One China principle". Denouncing Chan's claim as false, Lo said that "even if we accepted the notion of [two sides of the Taiwan Strait as] a divided nation, Chan should at least follow the East German example in dealing with Taiwan's application."

Political scientist Wu Chi-chung said there is no so-called "One China" principle held by the WHO against Taiwan's entry, "and if there were, the principle would be discriminatory and racist" because Taiwan is not even accommodated as was East Germany.

Winston Dang, lawmaker and Director of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's International Affairs Department, said the time is right to seek full WHO membership because of growing, high rates of support among Taiwan's people and parliament.

David Huang, former vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council and a scholar at Academia Sinica, described Taiwan's exclusion from the WHO as "health apartheid" and called on the WHO to scrap a secret memorandum it signed with China in 2005. "Even just for the sake of good governance of international organizations, a secret memorandum is simply illegitimate, " Huang said.

The memorandum allows China to have a final say on Taiwan's interactions with the WHO. "'Meaningful participation' is meaningless for us because it is another country that defines the scope and character of such participation," Huang said.

Meaningful participation has been suggested by some countries to refer to the opportunity for Taiwan to participate in as many WHO-related meetings as possible, regardless of official title or circumstance.

But Taiwan's experts have always been denied or delayed from attending even the most technical meetings, Huang said.

George Liu, a Taiwan Solidarity Union legislator, said Taiwan's entry to the WHO should not be politicized, as "it is a health, moral and human rights issue, " for diseases know no border and contagious disease outbreaks in Taiwan can easily spread around the globe.

(By Y.C. Jou)

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