Official's remarks on Taipei's WHO bid misrepresented, says Beijing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 June, 2008, 12:00am

Beijing has moved to hose down any controversy arising from a comment by the official in charge of Taiwan affairs over the island's desire for membership in the World Health Organisation.

Fan Liqing , spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office under the State Council, said yesterday a Japanese report had misrepresented the remarks of office director Wang Yi .

'[Mr Wang] was merely reflecting the mainland's usual stance on Taiwan's participation in the WHO during his meeting with Japanese visitors,' she was quoted as saying by Taiwan's semi-official Central News Agency. 'The Japanese media report was inaccurate.'

Kyodo news agency quoted Mr Wang as telling his Japanese guests on June 23 that 'the mainland would not accept Taiwan formally joining the WHO, but would try to establish a framework to allow Taiwan to share information with other countries through some sort of international network outside the WHO in the event of a bird flu outbreak'.

Taiwanese and mainland officials resumed cross-strait talks in a landmark meeting this month to improve ties and shelve political differences.

The Taiwanese Presidential Office, Mainland Affairs Council and Foreign Ministry found the comment surprising as it apparently differed from what President Hu Jintao promised in late May during a meeting with Kuomintang chairman Wu Poh-hsiung - that Beijing would make the island's participation in WHO a priority for discussion. But they said they would check the story before commenting.

The pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party was not so circumspect. 'The so-called promise by Hu Jintao was nothing but a lie. What China does in reality is seek to block Taiwan's health rights and bar it from entering the WHO,' DPP legislator Kuan Bi-ling said.