Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) has expressed dissatisfaction that Taiwan was not invited to attend the virtual World Health Assembly (WHA) that began Monday despite significant support worldwide.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses deep regret and strong dissatisfaction that the World Health Organization (WHO) Secretariat has yielded to pressure from the Chinese government and continues to disregard the right to health of the 23 million people of Taiwan," Wu said at a press conference.
Fourteen of Taiwan's diplomatic allies submitted a proposal for the issue of Taiwan's exclusion to be put on the WHA agenda, but it is unlikely the issue will be discussed because the agenda has been significantly shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wu said.
Taiwan will wait until later in the year when meetings are expected to be conducted normally to promote its bid, following suggestions from its allies and like-minded nations, Wu said.
There has been significant support for Taiwan's WHO participation from world leaders, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, he said.
So far, governments from 29 countries have expressed support for Taiwan's WHO campaign, and politicians from 43 countries, including more than 600 lawmakers from North America, Europe, and Central and South American countries, have given their backing, according to Wu.
Sensing the opportunity presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and the relatively few people in Taiwan who have tested positive (440 as of Monday) for the disease or died from it (seven), Taiwan's government mounted an aggressive publicity campaign focused on getting an invitation to the WHA.
Because it is not a member of the United Nations, Taiwan has to rely on the goodwill of other countries to take part in United Nations affiliated organizations such as the WHO.
China has sought to block Taiwan from any activity that would suggest it is an independent entity, but Taiwan was able to attend the WHA, the WHO's decision-making body, as an observer under the name "Chinese Taipei" from 2009 to 2016 when Taipei's relations with Beijing were better under the then-Kuomintang administration.
Since 2017, however, China has persuaded the WHO not to invite Taiwan, in line with Beijing's hardline stance on cross-Taiwan Strait relations since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office in May 2016.
Taiwan was hoping for a breakthrough this year by touting the help it has provided to other countries to combat COVID-19, to no avail.
Wu repeated Monday the efforts Taiwan has made.
Taiwan is working closely with the United States and many European countries to develop rapid testing kits, vaccines, and medicines for COVID-19, he said.
It has also donated 27.5 million face masks, 131 infrared thermal imaging cameras, 35,000 forehead thermometers, and 250 automatic body temperature detection systems.
More help will soon be on the way, Wu said, with Taiwan now preparing to donate another 23.5 million surgical masks, 1.16 million N95 masks, 170,000 protective gowns, 600,000 isolation gowns, 70 respirators, 34 PCR test devices, and 500,000 quinine tablets.
The minister urged the WHO Secretariat to listen carefully to reasonable appeals from the international community, be professional and neutral, resist interference by the Chinese government, and allow Taiwan to take part in all WHO meetings, mechanisms, and activities.
"The people of Taiwan abhor the two-faced behavior of the Chinese government, which claims to care for their health and welfare while actually seeking to deprive them of their right to health at every turn," he said.
WHO principal legal officer Steven Solomon recently said the WHO director-general could not invite Taiwan to join the WHA meeting this year as an observer because there was not clear support from WHO members.
"To put it crisply, directors-general only extend invitations when it's clear that member states support doing so," Solomon said.
"Today, however, the situation is not the same. Instead of clear support, there are divergent views among member states and no basis there for -- no mandate -- for the DG to extend an invitation (to Taiwan)."
The WHA is scheduled to hold its 73rd session on Monday and Tuesday, but it will be a virtual meeting due to travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the WHO.