No word on Taiwan invite to UN health forum as deadline nears

Taipei may send delegation to event in Geneva without invite, amid strained ties with mainland China

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 May, 2017, 2:47pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 May, 2017, 11:09pm

Taiwan said late on Monday it would still send a delegation to attend an annual UN health gathering in Geneva as observers later this month even if the island did not receive an invitation from the World Health Organisation.

“We have yet to receive the invitation for the occasion, but we also have not been told we will be barred from attending the World Health Assembly,” Health Ministry counsellor Hsu Min-huei said in Taipei.

With Monday’s final deadline to register approaching, the island was still waiting for an invitation to take part in the assembly to be held from May 22-31.

Hsu said the registration was a technicality to help participants attending the event, and the WHO’s secretariat could always invite the island up to the day of the event.

Hsu said the Taiwanese authorities would continue to push for the island to take part in the global health event. He said the gathering would allow Taiwan to share its experiences and obtain information to help safeguard the health of its 23 million people.

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Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has used various channels, including Twitter, to try to drum up international support for Taiwan’s participation.

She also said Taipei’s presence at international gatherings, especially those under the United ­Nations, reflected the state of ties between the mainland and ­Taiwan.

Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway Chinese province and usually tries to block Taipei’s ­attendence at such meetings if relations are strained.

Zhang Zhijun, director of the Taiwan Affairs Office under the mainland’s State Council, said Taiwan had been left out of the WHA this year because Tsai had refused to accept the “1992 ­consensus” since taking office.

Taiwan has been an observer at the WHA since 2009 when former president Ma Ying-jeou’s mainland friendly administration was in power in Taiwan.

Hsu said the WHO was not a political organisation and politics should not affect a group safeguarding global health.

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Taiwan and the mainland have been rivals since the end of the civil war in 1949 when Kuomintang forces fled to the island after losing to the communists.

Relations improved after Ma took office in 2008, resulting in Beijing’s tacit approval for Taipei to attend some non-political global events, including the WHA.

But since Tsai of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office in May last year, cross-strait relations have soured.

Last year, the Tsai administration received an invitation to attend the assembly a day before the deadline. The invitation specifically stated it was issued under the “one-China principle”, despite protests by Taiwan.