Tensions arose on the first day of the 74thWorld Health Assembly as Taiwan’s exclusion to participate as an observer for the fifth consecutive year went undiscussed in the Assembly.
Emerging as one of the countries with the world’s best pandemic response, Taiwan did not hold back and blamed China over its continued exclusion from a crucial annual gathering of the World Health Organization.
Taiwan continued to plead for access to the assembly, with foreign minister Joseph Wu urging WHO to ‘reject China’s political interference and maintain a professional and neutral stance.’
China’s political stance has been made crystal clear, with the communist nation repeatedly asserting Taiwan, a part of its own territory and waging an increasingly elaborated campaign to keep Taipei isolated on the world’s stage.
Taiwan and its supporters campaigned hard to seek its return as an observer at the World Health Assembly. US legislators have called for the return of Taiwan as an observer in the past years and the successful handling of the pandemic also garnered Taiwan support by the G7 while a coordinated social media campaign with the Hashtag of #LetTaiwanHelp expanded, including legislators from Europe, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Representatives from Nauru warned that ‘Taiwan’s exclusion contradicts the fundamental principles and objectives of the WHO and the political pressure from one country should not legitimize the continued exclusion of Taiwan.’
However, the WHO’s main decision-making body decided against the matter.
China’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva slammed and called upon the countries “to stop politicizing health issues and using Taiwan’s issue to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”
With the insightful handling of the pandemic in the face of the outbreak at its earliest stage and subsequently, Taiwan’s extended hand in supplying the protective equipment solidified its support at an international level. However, with the surfacing of new cases in the recent weeks, Health Minister of Taiwan reiterated the need for the inclusion of Taiwan in the World Health assembly citing that ‘there should not be a gap in global disease prevention.’
In the wake of the rising cases in the self-governed democracy, China, on Monday, May 24th, 2021 offered to help Taiwan secure COVID-19, rebuking Taipei’s accusation against Beijing on its failure to provide vaccine and obstructing the island’s acquisition of new shots, over which Taiwan criticized China for obstructing the import of mainland vaccines, every time Taiwan’s internal epidemic heats up.
Taiwan Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC), without making any direct allegations, blamed ‘external forces’ for dissipating misinformation during the latest outbreak of COVID -19 about disposal and dumping of bodies in rivers and mass cremation by hospitals.
Beijing’s block on Taipei attending the World Health Assembly as an observer began after the 2016 election of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party who vehemently opposed accepting China’s proposal for ‘one country, two systems' calling for both sides to find a way to coexist.
The tension between China and Taiwan is not new and traces itself back to the Taiwan Strait Issue, which was the result of the Chinese Civil War and the subsequent split of China into two present-day self-governing entities.