Beijing Must Not Be Allowed to Pervert WHO Principles

The World Health Organization claims to “protect the health of all peoples.” The establishment of an international system for communicable disease control is a task for humanity as a whole. China’s political exclusion of Taiwan is contrary to this spirit.

The annual meeting of the WHO is being held in Switzerland. The main agenda is how to prepare for pandemics involving new infectious diseases based on the lessons learned from COVID-19.

Non-WHO member Taiwan had sought to participate in the meeting as an observer, but was blocked due to opposition from China. It is a loss that countries could not share Taiwan’s knowledge on measures against COVID-19, among other things.

This is the seventh consecutive year that Taiwan has been shut out of the WHO General Assembly. China has blocked Taiwan’s involvement in international organizations on the basis of the “one-China” principle, which states that China and Taiwan belong to one country.

It is true that Taiwan withdrew from the United Nations when China joined the organization in 1971, and it also withdrew from the WHO and other U.N. bodies.

However, Taiwan was allowed to take part in the WHO General Assembly from 2009 to 2016. This was because the Kuomintang administration at the time adopted a conciliatory policy toward China and Beijing did not oppose its participation.

The fact that China turned against Taiwan after the inauguration of the administration of Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party, which does not recognize the “one-China” principle, is a clear indication that Beijing’s move was politically motivated.

Countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan supported its participation in the General Assembly this time, and the Group of Seven industrialized nations also backed it. Recognition that borders and regional barriers do not exist in the fight against infectious diseases goes beyond political conflicts.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson expressed the view that Japan, the United States, Europe and other countries are “politicizing” the issue of Taiwan’s participation in the General Assembly and using Taiwan to put pressure on Beijing. It is China itself that is politicizing the issue.

The WHO Constitution stipulates that everyone has the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination of race, religion, political belief, and the like. It is clear that Taiwan’s exclusion does not conform to this fundamental principle.

Developing and emerging countries that are aligned with China should be aware that if the activities of the WHO are distorted, their own public health systems will be adversely affected.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, which is involved in air safety, has also stopped inviting Taiwan to its general meetings since a Chinese national assumed the top post at the organization. Pressure to narrow Taiwan’s sphere of activities in the international community has further intensified under the Xi Jinping administration, even in the area of civil affairs.

Japan, the United States and Europe must strengthen their unity to counter China and prevent international organizations from becoming forums for China’s political assertiveness.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 28, 2023)