TAIPEI (CNA) – A group in Taiwan has launched a campaign to call for Taiwan’s participation in the upcoming World Health Assembly (WHA) conference despite the likelihood that it will be shut out from the meeting under China’s pressure.
The WHA, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), will hold its 72nd session May 20-28 in Geneva, Switzerland, and Taiwan wants to attend the meeting as an observer but has yet to receive an invitation to attend.
To support Taiwan’s bid to participate, private group LaiPhauTe (狸長辦公室) launched the “one person, one letter” campaign on April 18 to get Taiwanese to bombard WHO headquarters with paper or electronic letters to push for Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHA.
The group, which provided the WHO’s physical and email addresses with sample letters written both in English and Chinese, urged Taiwanese to let the world know their health care needs and show the world their resolve to defend their basic health care rights.
“Aside from being unfair to the Taiwanese people, the exclusion of Taiwan also puts world health at risk,” said LaiPhauTe, citing the Constitution of the WHO, which says “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.” Meanwhile, Taiwan continued to draw support from international communities and pro-Taiwan overseas Chinese groups.
Government officials and lawmakers from the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Canada recently voiced support for Taiwan’s participation in the WHA general meeting while more than 20 Chinese and Taiwanese groups in the U.S. started a petition last week seeking U.S. President Donald Trump’s backing of Taiwan.
Also last week, the Taiwan Association for Global Health Diplomacy (TAGHD), another activist group consisting of 50 young people from different sectors, initiated a fundraising drive to support its “Global Health Diplomacy” movement aimed at getting Taiwan into the Geneva meeting.
Taiwan has been unable to take part in the WHA general meeting since 2017, even as an observer.
WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier had said in March that Taiwan’s previous invitations to the WHA were issued on the basis of a “cross-strait understanding,” hinting that Taiwan cannot participate in the session without Beijing’s nod.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs admitted early this month that Taiwan is likely to be excluded for a third consecutive year due to China’s obstruction.
Taiwan had participated as an observer at the WHA from 2009 to 2016 during the President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration, which pursued a more conciliatory policy toward Beijing than the incumbent Democratic Progressive Party administration.
By Chang Ming-hsuan and Emerson Lim