This week, one of Taiwan’s top public health officials addressed the issue of China blocking Taiwan from attending the World Health Assembly—the decision-making body for the World Health Organization—stating, “If you block Taiwan, you are not blocking Taiwanese health rights, you are blocking the health rights of the whole world.
Dr. Shiing Jer Twu, the Chairman of Taiwan’s Development Center for Biotechnology and former Health Minister of Taiwan, sat down with The Epoch Times at the iconic Grand Hotel in Taipei for an exclusive, in-depth interview.
Taiwan has been blocked by China from attending the WHA since 2016, after Taiwan’s democratically elected President Tsai Ing-wen took office. This year’s WHA begins on May 24 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Citing Taiwan’s successful management of the COVID-19 pandemic, with fewer than 15 deaths from COVID-19 in Taiwan to date, Dr. Twu—who holds a Ph.D. in public health from the University of California, Los Angeles, and degrees in medicine and public health from National Taiwan University—said that Taiwan “can help a lot,” with respect to the world’s management of the pandemic.
“Before, we tried to mention that if Taiwan cannot go into the WHO or the WHA, the meeting, it’s not good for Taiwanese people. Our right to health was broken. It’s not equal, not good,” Dr. Twu said. “But this year, we changed … Now, Taiwan is not going in asking for help. Now, Taiwan is going to help other countries. This is what I told our Department of Foreign Affairs. We are not for us only, we are for the whole world.”
Earlier this month, the Group of Seven (G7)—which includes the United States, Canada, Japan, the UK, France, Germany, and Italy—issued a joint communique in support of Taiwan’s bid to participate in the World Health Assembly, stating that “the international community should be able to benefit from the experience of all partners, including Taiwan’s successful contribution to the tackling of the COVID-19 pandemic.” U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also issued a statement: “Given Taiwan’s remarkable success in handling the COVID-19 pandemic and active role in helping other countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) … should allow Taiwan the opportunity to participate in the upcoming World Health Assembly from May 24 to June 1 … Let Taiwan help, and we will all be better for it.”
Taiwan has not yet received an invitation from the World Health Assembly to attend its annual meeting, but Dr. Twu pointed out that the WHA “can change their mind … they can still change before May 24.”
Dr. Twu stated that it is important that the democratic nation of Taiwan be represented as “Taiwan,” to which authoritarian China—which has continuously threatened to invade and subjugate Taiwan—vehemently objects. “We must go into the WHA with the name of ‘Taiwan.’ Only ‘Taiwan,’” Dr. Twu said. “If we want to go in as ‘Taiwan, China,’ many, many years ago we could’ve gone in already. This is the problem. Because we don’t want to be a part of China.”
Elaborating on China’s opposition to Taiwan’s participation in the WHA, Dr. Twu said, “They are not happy because Tsai Ing-wen, our president, does not want to become a part of China, and they are so angry. I think they are so unconfident.”
Addressing authoritarian China’s aspirational claim of democratic Taiwan as its territory, Dr. Twu stated, “China says ‘you belong to us.’ How come Taiwan belongs to you? You were only set up in 1949, and you have never ruled Taiwan or set up anything in Taiwan. We have never paid any tax to you. In Taiwan, we have our army, we have our military, we have our parliament, we have our president, we have everything.” Dr. Twu added, “Taiwan is an independent country. That’s the truth.”
In addition to its lack of representation in the World Health Assembly, Dr. Twu noted that democratic Taiwan, with 24 million citizens, has also been continuously blocked by authoritarian China from becoming a member of the World Health Organization and the United Nations.
“We want to go into the United Nations. We want to go into the WHO,” Dr. Twu said. “We just want to go into [the U.N. and the WHO] just like other countries. More than 130 countries became members of the United Nations after World War II. So, we want to be one of them. We want to go in too.”
From The Epoch Times