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An Fengshan, spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, pictured at a press briefing in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua

Beijing denies Taiwan put at risk by UN health forum snub


Beijing has said the health of people in Taiwan was not put at risk by the island’s inability to attend a UN health meeting this year as there was no barrier to technical or medical exchanges and aid.

Self-ruled Taiwan has accused Beijing of obstructing its efforts to attend the May 22 to May 31 annual meeting in Geneva of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation.

Ties between mainland China and Taiwan have worsened since the election last year of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party who - unlike the island’s previous mainland-friendly administration - has not acknowledged the “one China” principle. Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway Chinese province that has split from the rest of the country.

Taiwan has said health should not be politicised and that leaving Taiwan out of dialogue puts the world’s health safety-net and health of people on the island at risk.

The health of people in Taiwan and the island’s lack of attendance at the meeting were two different matters, An Fengshan, spokesman for mainland’s State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, told a regular news briefing.

Taiwan’s information exchange channels with the UN health body are smooth, Taiwan can attend technical WHO meetings and if needed its experts can visit the island, An said.

“These arrangements ensure that Taiwan can effectively and in a timely way deal with sudden public health issues whether on the island or internationally,” he added.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen pictured talking to the press in Taipei last month. Photo: AFP

Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, which recognises the “one-China” policy centred on Beijing and it never formally takes part in UN meetings. But it has in the past been given observer status at some conferences with Beijing’s acquiescence.

Taiwan is still sending a delegation to the meeting even though it does not have an invitation, warning Beijing’s that attempts to exclude it could irreversibly damage ties.

The mainland official newspaper the China Daily ran an editorial on Wednesday saying Taiwan’s delegation would probably try to “make a scene” to garner sympathy, but the real goal of Tsai’s government was clear.

“She is seeking to hijack public health in Taiwan to serve her political goal of winning de facto statehood recognition for the island,” it said.