China's Xi Jinping to give opening speech at WHA

WHO head Tedros personally invites China's chairman to give opening speech at WHA

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Xi Jinping (left), Tedros Adhanom (right). (Allan Rios illustration)

Xi Jinping (left), Tedros Adhanom (right). (Allan Rios illustration)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Despite heavy criticism of China's handling of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and his unwillingness to allow an independent investigation into the outbreak, Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping (習近平) will be delivering the opening remarks at Monday's (May 18) curtain raiser for the World Health Assembly (WHA).

The 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) will begin at 6 p.m. on Monday and Xi will be the first speaker at the event. Due to the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the WHA is going to be held via teleconference for the first time ever from May 18 to 19.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying (華春瑩) on Monday announced that Xi will be delivering a speech during the opening ceremony at the invitation of World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, according to China's state-run media mouthpiece Xinhua News. However, Tedros has refused to invite Taiwan to attend the meeting because he claims that he does not have the authority to do so, despite the fact that his predecessor Margaret Chan had previously invited the island country.

Instead, Taiwan's participation will be put to a vote by all WHO member nations on Monday, with fourteen of Taiwan's 15 diplomatic allies — the exception being the Vatican — having written to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom backing Taiwan's admission. In addition, the U.S. is leading a group of eight major countries that are also voicing support, including Canada, Germany, France, Japan, the UK, New Zealand, and Australia.

From 2009 to 2016, Taiwan participated in the WHA as an observer. However, when President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) first took office in 2016, she refused to recognize the "1992 Consensus," instead stating only that the 1992 Taiwan-China talks were a "historical fact."

In response, China has been seeking to punish Taiwan by excluding it from international organizations, by intimidating government bodies and corporations into de-listing Taiwan as a country, and by stealing the island's diplomatic allies. In 2017, China pressured member countries to exclude Taiwan from the WHA summit, and the country has been blocked from attending both WHO and WHA events ever since.

With Tedros at the helm, the WHO has been criticized for not heeding Taiwan's warning about human-to-human transmission on Dec. 31, deciding instead to push off confirmation of transmission from "one individual to another" until Jan. 24. On May 6, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alleged that China's government covered up the outbreak in Wuhan by destroying samples of COVID-19 on Jan. 3 and suppressed those who were warning of its danger.