China cries foul after Sweden's NA refers to Taiwan as 'country' that should attend WHA

China tries to bully Sweden's NA into removing its reference to Taiwan as 'country' and call to enter WHA

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(Screenshot from Nerikes Allehanda article)

(Screenshot from Nerikes Allehanda article)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- After Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda (NA) recognized Taiwan as a country that deserved to attend the World Health Assembly (WHA), China demanded it make a correction, but the paper stood firm and refused to back down.

In the article, published on May 15, NA pointed out that Taiwan has much to offer the WHA when it comes to healthcare since it was ranked 9th in the world out of "56 countries" in terms of healthcare efficiency. The article also mentioned that Taiwan was actually well ahead of Sweden, a WHO member and WHA attendee, which trailed far behind at 22nd place.

In addition, the article mentioned that Taiwan could also contribute its knowledge and resources in many other areas, such as infectious disease, and had in fact attended the WHA as an observer for a few years. However, it wrote that Taiwan was "thrown out" after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in 2016 and "did not accept China's claim to Taiwan."

The NA piece then made the case that Taiwan arguably in many ways is more qualified to attend than China:

"Taiwan is a democracy, with freedom of the press, freedom of association, and an elected president. China is a dictatorship that deliberately tries to spread its authoritarian tentacles to the outside world. So Taiwan has the advantage with any comparison of legitimacy."

The article closed by saying that "A walk for Taiwan is also a walk for democracy. And between democracy and dictatorship, no one should be neutral."

On May 17, the Chinese Embassy in Sweden wrote the NA's article "constitutes a serious violation of the basic principles of Swedish diplomacy as well as the basic norms in international relations, and a severe infringement on China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and judicial sovereignty, which we firmly oppose." It then claimed that "Taiwan was never a country, nor can it ever be a country" and called on NA to "immediately correct the mistake."

In response, Anders Nilsson, the editor-in-chief for the newspaper, stressed that he would "absolutely not" change the article's content regarding Taiwan and pointed out that he was "not really surprised" by China's behavior, because "China is a dictatorship and dictatorships behave like this." Nilsson said bluntly, "It is amazing that a state's long arm can reach a media outlet in a free democratic country."