Taiwan confirmed its first case of the pneumonia on Jan. 21, a potentially fatal illness similar to the deadly SARS outbreak of 2002-2003. The United States confirmed its first case the same day.
But Taiwan is no longer able to attend the World Health Assembly, WHO’s annual policy meeting. China has prevented Taiwan from attending since 2016, after President Tsai Ing-wen was elected for the first time. Since her election, Beijing has stepped up its existing military and economic pressure on Taiwan, viewing Tsai’s pro-sovereignty status as a veil for Taiwanese independence.
Under what other circumstances would 24 million people be excluded from representation in such an important organization? Beijing—and the WHO authorities that bend to its will—is allowing political and diplomatic sensitivities to interfere with the administration of global health and safety.
Beijing relies on a United Nations resolution passed on Oct. 25, 1971, recognizing the People’s Republic of China as the only legitimate representative of China to the U.N. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office has openly thanked WHO for excluding Taiwan, blaming an inaccurate representation of Tsai’s views on Taiwan’s independence.
These efforts border on petty, with Beijing at times refusing Taiwan’s right to host sporting events. While Taiwan is able to participate in the Olympic Games under the name “Chinese Taipei,” there are questions as to whether Beijing will even tolerate this when China hosts the Winter Olympics in 2022. The East Asian Olympic Committee bowed to Beijing’s pressure and canceled Taiwan’s planned hosting of the East Asian Youth Games in 2018.
Taiwan has similarly been excluded from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), despite Taiwan’s largest airport receiving 46.5 million passengers in 2018. While Taiwan was able to attend the 38th ICAO Assembly in 2013 as a special guest, it was refused entry for the triennial assemblies in 2016 and 2019.
Beijing’s successful attempts to exclude Taiwan from international organizations have serious consequences. While Taiwanese officials receive information on unfolding health crises such as coronavirus from counterparts in China or elsewhere, no formal mechanism exists to ensure that it is received in a timely manner.
Full article by Natasha Kassam: