China sends letter barring 'Taiwan Province' from attending WHA

Letter sent by China to WHO states that 'Taiwan Province of China' shall not participate in WHA

(By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- For the first time in eight years, Taiwan has been excluded from attending the World Health Assembly (WHA) due to pressure from China on its governing body the World Health Organization (WHO) including a letter stating "Taiwan Province" should not attend the annual event.

The first paragraph of the letter compliments permanent member nations and then announces Taiwan's exclusion:

"The Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Other International Organizations in Switzerland presents its complements to all Permanent Missions in Geneva and has the honor to inform the latter that the Chinese Government has decided that Taiwan Province of China shall not participate in the 70th World Health Assembly to be held from 22 to 31 May 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland."

The second paragraph goes on to say that since 2009, Taiwan had participated in the WHA under the designation "Chinese Taipei" as an observer with the consent of the Chinese government. It then goes on to say this "special arrangement" had made been possible through the "peaceful development of cross-strait relations," hinting that cross-strait relations have since soured.

The letter closes in saying that the arrangement only applies to the WHA and does not "constitute a precedence for any activities or events of any other international organizations." Thus precluding Taiwan from using its past or future participation in the WHA as precedence for other international organizations.

The outbreak of SARS in 2003 and its spread to Taiwan, forced China's hand in considering its inclusion in the WHA. In a secret memorandum of understanding signed between the WHO and China in 2005, limited participation of Taiwanese technical experts in certain WHO meetings were to be allowed under the name "Taiwan, China," but the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration of Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) rejected the use of the term. In 2009, after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the KMT agreed to use the term "Chinese Taipei" instead of Taiwan, the country was allowed to join the WHA meeting for the first time since it was expelled from the United Nations in 1971.

When President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the DPP took office in May of last year, she refused to directly reaffirm the "1992 Consensus," ​an oral agreement between Taiwan and China that states there is only "one China" but each side is free to interpret what "one China" means. Beijing has since taken measures to exclude Taiwan from the meetings of all major international organizations and strip it of its remaining diplomatic allies as punishment. Taiwan's exclusion this year from the WHA is yet another example of this punitive policy.

DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) told Liberty Times that Taiwan should take this removal from the WHA as a new opening in international negotiations and the government should adjust its strategy, not just with participation in the WHA, but also its participation in the four major international organizations as an entity separate from China.

Kuan pointed out that Taiwan participates in the Asian Development Bank, Olympics, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the World Trade Organization on an equal level with the other members. Kuan asserted Taiwan's participation in the WHA should be the same, "We are not asking for a lot, but we at least want to be considered an independent entity, not affiliated with China."