Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) blamed a WHO report on the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) for the decisions made by Italy and Vietnam to ban flights to and from Taiwan as part of their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, accusing it of providing “inaccurate information.” Wu (吳釗燮) blasted the WHO for treating Taiwan as part of China in the fight against the new coronavirus, adding that some WHO officials live in a “parallel universe.”
Thank you very much for coming to MOFA on a Sunday morning when it is supposed to be a time to rest or to perform your religious duties. I have a brief statement to make before I open for Q&A.
As all of you are aware, on January 31 the WHO declared that the outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus originating from China's Wuhan is a public health emergency of international concern. As a result, countries around the world are making adjustments with regard to their entry and exit policies as well as their civil aviation policies. It is understandable that all countries need to take necessary precautions to keep their countries safe as a result of the new WHO announcement.
However, as most of you are also aware, flights from Taiwan were banned by the Italian government on January 31. And it happened again yesterday when the Vietnamese government made its original announcement banning flights from Taiwan. I am glad to let you know that we went through diplomatic channels to have the Vietnam issue resolved and flights are now resumed.
However, the problem with Italy has yet to be corrected. We truly regret the decision made by the Italian government. We think it is a mistake based on incorrect information instead of on a true assessment of the danger of the coronavirus. The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Taiwan is not higher than in most countries that are affected. Other than China, no other country has had its flights banned, by Italy or by any other country—with the exception of Italy's ban on flights from Taiwan.
While we are still working through all diplomatic channels to resolve the issue with Italy, I would like to point out that the source of the inaccurate information that led to the inappropriate measures by Italy is the WHO report on the 2019 novel coronavirus, which indicates that confirmed cases in China include those in the Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taipei.
The WHO treatment of Taiwan as part of China has created real problems for Taiwan. Not only is our democratically elected government barred from taking part in the World Health Assembly, but Taiwanese experts are also arbitrarily prevented from taking part in technical meetings. If the motto of the WHO is "health for all" and "leaving no one behind", well, the Taiwanese people are certainly not treated that way. It is not fair to the 23 million people of Taiwan, and it is not fair to other people who might otherwise obtain support from Taiwan if we were not excluded.
At this point, I would like to express our appreciation to the governments of the United States, Japan, the EU, Canada, and our diplomatic allies for speaking out for Taiwan's inclusion. Their strong voice should not be ignored.
Nevertheless, cases like what's happening with Italy also show that the interests of the Taiwanese people are negatively affected by the WHO's decision to list Taiwan as part of China. Hundreds, if not thousands, of passengers who got caught up at the airports will not be able to get compensation from airlines, and certainly not from the WHO.
While we are still going through our own channels and through like-minded friends to reason with the WHO to right its wrong, I would like to publicly call upon the WHO to recognize the simple fact that Taiwan is Taiwan and it is not part of the PRC; Taiwan is not under China's jurisdiction; Taiwan's and China's health are administered by separate and independent health authorities; and Taiwan's and China's flight information regions are administered by separate and independent civil aviation administrations. This is such a simple reality that the WHO should never have missed it. Again, I call upon the WHO to correct its gross mistake.
Thank you very much.
Data Source: Public Diplomacy Coordination Council