On Friday, Taiwan’s health minister rejected China's main condition for it to be able to join the World Health Organization (WHO). The condition that the mainland put forth was that Taiwan accepts it is a part of China-- ahead of a key meeting of the body during a pandemic.
Taiwan, who is not a member of the WHO, has lobbied to take part as an observer in next week’s World Health Assembly (WHA), drawing strong objections from Beijing, who considers Taiwan to be one of its provinces.
Taiwan has said that the deadly Covid-19 pandemic has made it more urgent than ever that it be allowed proper access to the WHO.
According to China, Taiwan can only participate under the “one China” principle, in which it accepts it is a part of China.
On Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry said that Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party refused to do this, and hence the political foundation for Taiwan’s WHO participation had “ceased to exist”.
Speaking at a news conference in Taipei to press home Taiwan’s desire to take part, Health Minister Chen Shih-Chung said that under no circumstances Taiwan would do this.
“I have no way to accept something which does not exist,” Chen said, adding that Taiwan will continue to make efforts to attend the health assembly, even though it has not received an invitation.
Taiwan is getting strong support, particularly from the United States and Japan to attend the WHA, much to China's anger.
China feels it has a right to represent Taiwan on the international stage. Taiwan says that only its democratically elected government can speak for the island’s 23 million people.
“We can represent our own people,” Taiwan Deputy Foreign Minister Kelly Hsieh told the same news conference in Taipei. “We hope the WHO can set aside political considerations, and be neutral and professional.”