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Taiwan’s quest to participate in the World Health Assembly ended with the opening of the international forum, despite U.S. support and global outrage over China’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The PRC’s spiteful action to silence Taiwan exposes the emptiness of its claims to want transparency and international cooperation to fight the pandemic, and makes the difference between China and Taiwan ever more stark,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday, using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China.
The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization. It is holding a virtual meeting Monday and Tuesday.
Taiwanese officials decided to drop the bid Monday morning, after a diplomatic tug of war between the United States and China involving entangled political and public health issues. American officials have cited Taiwan as a model of success in containing the new coronavirus and exposing China’s lack of transparency, but WHO officials maintained that the agency has “no mandate” to invite Taipei given Beijing’s opposition.
“It’s an abomination that the World Health Assembly would not allow Taiwan to participate,” Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, told the Washington Examiner last week after WHO officials adopted that position. “Their mandate is to provide some global cohesiveness to moments like this. And to deny millions and millions of people that voice and that important role in the response is simply an abomination.”
Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu echoed that line of attack on the international health agency when announcing that Taipei had “accepted the suggestion from our allies and like-minded nations” to drop its bid until the WHA meets again.
“The people of Taiwan abhor the two-faced behavior of the Chinese government, which claims to care for their health and welfare while actually seeking to deprive them of their right to health at every turn,” the island government’s top diplomat said.
Taiwan’s absence stokes a broader controversy over China’s influence with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, whom President Trump and officials from other U.S. ally governments have lambasted for amplifying false statements from China in the early days of the outbreak.
“WHO’s Director-General Tedros had every legal power and precedent to include Taiwan in WHA’s proceedings,” Pompeo said. “The director-general’s lack of independence deprives the Assembly of Taiwan’s renowned scientific expertise on pandemic disease and further damages the WHO’s credibility and effectiveness at a time when the world needs it the most.”
Gardner hinted that U.S. officials will step up their pressure on Tedros. “China is basically getting the best of both worlds: They don’t have to do anything the WHO expects of its members, and the WHO does everything China wants it to do,” he said. “There’s public shaming that should occur as a result of WHO’s decision.”