Beijing panned by U.S. for harm done in keeping Taiwan out of WHO

People wear masks while walking on the streets of New York City

WASHINGTON (CNA) — China’s influence and pressure on the World Health Organization (WHO) to exclude Taiwan has “undermined global health” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a U.S. report released Tuesday has argued.

Though Taiwan appears to have successfully contained COVID-19, “WHO officials consistently ignored Taiwan’s attempts to exchange information about the virus and share best practices for containing it,” said the report published by a U.S. Congress commission that explores economic and security ties between the U.S. and China.

Beijing’s sway within the WHO, which has long refused to grant Taiwan membership, has led the specialized United Nations agency to disregard Taiwan, said the report titled “Beijing’s Deadly Game: Consequences of Excluding Taiwan from the World Health Organization during the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

At the meantime, China continues to ramp up military pressure on Taiwan through a series of coercive exercises over the past months as the COVID-19 disease continues to sweep around the world.

“With the world distracted by COVID-19, China also intensified its multi-faceted pressure campaign against Taiwan. Chinese military aircraft crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait three times in the early months of 2020, after only one such incursion in 2019,” it noted.

The report, which relied in part on Taiwanese media reports, pointed the finger at the WHO’s current and former directors-general for deciding to follow “Beijing’s diplomatic priorities by affirming its ‘one-China’ principle.”

The WHO has argued in recent months that Taiwan has plenty of opportunities to participate in the world health body and access its information, but the report contended that participation is not as extensive as the WHO suggested.

Though the WHO permitted Taiwan experts to participate in a WHO video chat to discuss responses to COVID-19 in February, “they could not interact directly with WHO member states’ representatives or share information about Taiwan’s public health response,” the report said.

The WHO also said in a March 29 statement that Taiwan’s health authorities can share information through the IHR’s electronic platforms, but Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has argued that in reality the information flow was one-way, the report said.

The report also argued that Taiwan’s absence from the WHO contributed to “critical delays in WHO member states’ receipt of timely and accurate guidance in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic,” hurting Taiwan and the international community.

“Had the WHO allowed Taiwan’s health experts to share information and best practices in early January, governments around the world could have had more complete information on which to base their public health policies,” the report contends.

“The spread of the virus to 185 countries with more than 4 million confirmed cases and 286,000 deaths worldwide as of May 12 demonstrates the deadly ramifications of China’s influence over the WHO for the international community’s pandemic preparedness.”

The report was issued by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which was created by the U.S. Congress in October 2000.

The commission’s members are appointed by the leaders of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and it is required to submit an annual report to Congress on the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the U.S. and China.