Taiwan minister honored as ‘health diplomat’ in Geneva

Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) (Photo courtesy of NOWnews)

Geneva, May 19 (CNA) Taiwan’s health minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) was honored as global health diplomat in Geneva on Saturday ahead of the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA), from which Taiwan has been excluded because of Chinese obstruction.

Chen was awarded the title of “Diplomat of the Global Charter” by the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA) on the same day he arrived in Geneva to hold a series of events promoting Taiwan on the sidelines of the annual WHA meeting from May 21 to 26.

Though Taiwan was not invited to the WHA this year, WFPHA President Michael Moore presented the global charter to Chen in recognition of his achievements in health governance, promoting fairness in health care and facilitating the sustainable development of health care systems.

In accepting the award, Chen made the case he will be advocating this week — that while Taiwan is not a member of the World Health Organization (WHO), it has made every effort to contribute to the international community and be allowed to participate in its institutions.

“It is regrettable that Taiwan is unable to attend the WHA,” Chen said to an audience of 100 public health professionals from around the world at the award ceremony.

Chen told Taiwanese reporters covering his trip that although the award was in his name, he accepted it on behalf of Taiwan, saying it represented recognition of Taiwan’s strength in public health from professional groups in the field.

He said he was “very proud and honored” to receive the award at a time when China has been stepping up efforts to suppress Taiwan’s presence in the international community.

Established in 1967 in Geneva, the WFPHA is accredited as a non-governmental organization (NGO) in official relations with the WHO and is committed to the promotion of the global public health system.

The Diplomat of the Global Charter is a title awarded to public health professionals engaged in improving global health and willing to sustain the health revolution under the Global Charter for the Public’s Health, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Touching on Taiwan’s failure to obtain an invitation to the WHA this year, Chen said Taiwan should work even harder to make its voice heard in Geneva.

“We have no other option than firmly making our voice heard,” Chen said.

Meanwhile, members of an NGO devoted to raising awareness of China’s exclusion of Taiwan from the WHA distributed leaflets in Chinese, English, German and French near the WHA meeting venue Saturday to express Taiwan’s desire to participate in the WHO.

Taiwan started seeking an invitation to the WHA — the decision-making body of the WHO — in 1997, and was finally invited as an observer in 2009, under a Kuomintang administration that was friendly to Beijing.

From 2009 to 2016, the country was able to attend the WHA. But after a Democratic Progressive Party administration, which is less friendly to China, took power in 2016, Beijing has blocked WHA invitations to Taiwan in 2017 and 2018.

(By Tang Pei-chun, Tai Ya-chen and Evelyn Kao)