2003 May 19 Monday
Taiwan Rejected For WHO Observer Status

Enough countries in the world want to curry favor with China that the World Health Organization assembly has voted once again against Taiwanese observer status in the WHO.

Taiwan's bid to secure observer status at the World Health Organisation, given increased impetus this year by the island's devastating Sars outbreak, was again rejected by the WHO's annual assembly on Monday, as China maintained its unbending stance against Taipei's participation in the United Nations system.

CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam reports on continued Chinese opposition to Taiwanese membership in the World Health Organization.

"Taiwan, a Chinese province, does not have qualifications to join WHO under any terms," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said Tuesday.

Let's think about this. The Chinese government resisted for months telling the WHO about the existence of a new disease in China's population that we now calls SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). The rest of the world only found out about it when SARS spread outside of China's borders. Then the Chinese government resisted allowing WHO inspectors come to work in China to fight SARS. Once the WHO inspectors arrived in China the Chinese government delayed allowing the inspectors access to many relevant files and parts of the country. The Chinese government even went so far as to hide SARS patients by taking them out of hospitals in advance of the arrival of WHO inspectors. This all speaks volumes about what the Chinese leaders think of the WHO.

The Chinese government wants to be a member of the WHO because it wants to be a major country that is a member of all the big international organizations. But it does not want the WHO actually interfering with anything that happens in China. This is especially problematic because China is a source of a lot of new disease strains owing agricultural practices in southern China. Also, China's government has been unwilling to do what the WHO would attempt to do for it. By contrast, the Taiwanese government would not oppose the WHO working inside of Taiwan doing what the WHO does to control a disease outbreak. But the Chinese government does not want the Taiwanese government granted any legitimacy and therefore China opposes membership for Taiwan in the WHO.

There is something deeply unfair in all this. The Chinese government is opposed to the purpose of the WHO. Also, Chinese government actions have made SARS a much bigger problem for the rest of the world than it would have been had China informed the rest of the world about SARS when it first showed up in Chinese people. The Chinese government will probably manage to continue to keep Taiwan out of the WHO and yet Taiwan deserves membership far more than China does at this point.

What is even more disgusting than the position of the Beijing regime are all the countries that line up to support the Beijing position toward Taiwan. Seasoned China watchers have good reason to believe that one really should not get one's hopes up about China politically developing in ways favorable to the rest of the world. But one might expect better from some parts of the rest of the world. The only substantial motive for most European, East Asian, and Latin American countries to vote against Taiwanese membership in the WHO is money. They want to be able to invest in and sell to China. Remember that the next time they demand that the United States show more respect for international institutions.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 May 19 12:56 PM  UN, International Institutions


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