Despite its relative proximity to the epicentre of the global pandemic, Taiwan managed to quickly contain the spread of the disease. Its actions in tracking outbreaks and implementing testing won it international praise.
But because of objections from China, Taiwan isn’t participating in the WHO’s annual World Health Assembly, which kicked off on Monday.
This absence is potentially harmful to the fight against COVID-19, Taiwan’s foreign minister told Euronews.
“We want to share our expertise with the rest of the world – it’s not fair to the international community that Taiwan has been excluded,” Joseph Wu said in a live interview.
He noted that Taiwan had gained experience from fighting the 2003 SARS outbreak and had fared well in detecting COVID-19 cases early.
Taiwan’s United Nations seat was handed to China in 1971 and Beijing insists the self-governing island republic it claims as its own territory has no right to diplomatic relations or membership in U.N. bodies.
Taiwan has wanted to join the WHO club for years. And it argues that a pandemic might be a good time for that.
“We need to have updated information from the WHO in order for us to be able to fight against any transmittable diseases. And we have not been able to get any updated information regularly from the WHO,” Wu explained.
“It’s a problem for Taiwan and it’s not fair for the Taiwan people,” he added.
Previously, Taiwan had observer status at the World Health Assembly. But the Chinese leadership’s position has hardened since 2016 after the island’s election of an independence-leaning president.
Wu thanked the United States for “leading the charge” for Taiwan to be allowed to participate in the World Health Assembly, and noted that the UK, France, Germany and Japan were also being very supportive.
Taiwan’s continued exclusion from the WHO reflects the realities of the balance of power at the UN. But Taiwan insists the world health body has room to manoeuvre.
“In order for Taiwan to be in the National Assembly, it only requires the General Secretary of the WHO to issue us an invitation. We did that between 2009 and 2016 so it’s not hard. And if they want to push for a vote I think the vote can take place,” Wu said.
“But we don’t think it is necessary to go down that path. And I just want to say it again, if Taiwan is able to successfully deal with the pandemic we want to share our experience with the rest of the international community.”