Officials to attend WHA without invitation

Deputy Minister of Health Lee Li-feng (李麗芬) and other government officials are to travel to Geneva, Switzerland, later this month during the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA), even though Taiwan has not been invited to attend, her ministry said yesterday.

Lee and the other officials are hoping to meet on the sidelines with representatives from WHO member countries in a bid to hold discussions and garner support for Taiwan’s participation in the forum, the Ministry of Health said, without providing details of the officials’ agenda.

Minister of Health Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said at his daily news briefing that he had planned to lead the group to Geneva, but could not, as he must manage Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) during an outbreak of domestic COVID-19 cases.

Photo: CNA

Chen said he has delegated the role to his deputy Lee, who is to share Taiwan’s healthcare experiences on the sidelines of the annual WHA, as has been done in the past.

The WHA, the decisionmaking body of the WHO, is this year to meet in a hybrid format, featuring in-person and virtual meetings after two years of videoconferencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taiwan was removed from the WHO in 1972 after losing its US seat when the organization switched official recognition to Beijing.

Taiwan participated in WHA events as an observer from 2009 to 2016 under the designation “Chinese Taipei,” when relations between the countries were warmer during the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration in Taiwan.

However, Taiwan has since 2017 been excluded from the WHA due to opposition from Beijing, which has taken a hard line against President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and the Democratic Progressive Party for asserting Taiwan’s sovereignty more strongly than the previous government.

Nonetheless, Taiwan’s diplomatic allies and other friendly nations have voiced support for its participation in international organizations, including the WHA.

The US House of Representatives late last month unanimously passed a bill to ask Washington to help Taiwan regain its WHA observer status.

The bill, which cleared the US Senate in August last year, is to be sent to US President Joe Biden to be signed into law.

Lawmakers in nations such as Denmark, Latvia and Slovakia, as well as the European Parliament, have passed resolutions in support of Taiwan’s WHA participation.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday said it was working with the health ministry to find a way for Taiwan to attend this year as an observer.

The ministry said that it would continue to express the wishes of Taiwan’s 23.9 million people through international channels, such as social media and online videos, to inform the world about the country’s contributions to global health and what it learned from its hadling of the pandemic.

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