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U.S. lawmakers urge world leaders to back Taiwan's participation in WHO

ROC Central News Agency

05/09/2020 08:41 PM

Washington, May 8 (CNA) Leaders of the United States congressional foreign affairs committees sent a letter to 55 countries Thursday, urging them to support Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization (WHO).

As the world seeks to combat the spread of COVID-19, "it has never been more important to ensure all countries prioritize global health and safety over politics," the letter read.

It also highlighted Taiwan's strengths in the field of public health, noting that Taiwan had successfully contained the COVID-19 coronavirus, recording only 440 cases as of May 7, and had donated more than 10 million surgical face masks to its international partners.

While Taiwan was invited 2009-2016 to participate in the annual meetings of World Health Assembly (WHA), the governing body of the WHO, it has since been excluded from the meetings, because of Beijing's displeasure at Taiwan's 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and her political party, the letter said.

By prioritizing China's political interests, the WHO has undermined Taiwan's ability to contribute to the international COVID-19 response and also endangered the health and safety of the island's 23 million people, the letter said.

"Diseases know no borders. We urge your government to join us in addressing the pressing issue of Taiwan's inclusion in global health and safety organizations," the letter read.

Pushing for Taiwan's invitation to the WHA's May 18-19 virtual session is "the right place to start," it said.

The letter to the 55 countries was signed by Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Jim Risch and Ranking Member Robert Menendez, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and Ranking Member Michael McCaul.

On Sunday, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) issued a statement thanking the members of Congress for their "concrete actions in support of Taiwan's international participation."

Taiwan, under its formal name the Republic of China (ROC), was expelled from the WHO in 1972, a few months after the People's Republic of China replaced the ROC as the "only legitimate representative of China" to the United Nations.

From 2009-2016, Taiwan participated in the WHA as an observer under the name Chinese Taipei amid better relations with China during the then-Kuomintang administration.

Since 2017, however, China has persuaded the WHO not to invite Taiwan to WHA events, in line with its hardline stance against Tsai and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party.

(By Stacy Hsu and Matthew Mazzetta)


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