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Minister He Yafei: Taiwan Has No Qualification to Participate in WHO (04/19/02)


March 18, 2002


  Reading Mr. James Hackett’s March 7 article “A Place in WHOville for Taiwan” , I find it misleading and legally groundless. I am writing to share with the readers some facts concerning this issue.
 
 It is common knowledge that the United Nations is an inter-governmental international organization whose membership is confined to sovereign states. The World Health Organization (WHO) is a UN specialized agency. According to the UN Charter, only sovereign states are eligible for its membership. As part of China, Taiwan has no qualification whatsoever to participate in WHO activities.
 
 As early as 1971, the UN General Assembly passed resolution 2758 recognizing the representation of the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations and  expelling forthwith the representatives of Taiwan from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all the organizations related. Accordingly, in 1972, WHA(World Health Assembly, the supreme authority of WHO) through Resolution WHA25.1, decides to recognize the representatives of the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legitimate representatives of China to the World Health Organization, and to expel forthwith the representatives of Taiwan from the place that they unlawfully occupy at the World Health Organization. Thus, solving once and for all, in political, legal and procedural terms, the issue of China’s representation at the WHO. These are the legal basis on which  WHA rightly rejected, for 5 times in succession since 1997, and with overwhelming majority, the so-called proposal of “Inviting Taiwan to participate in the WHO as an observer.”
 
 Mr. Hackett claimed in his article that Taiwan has no access to the information of the WHO because it is excluded from the activities of the WHO. These arguments do not stand up under scrutiny.  
 
 During a recent interview with the Foreign Policy magazine, Ms. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Director-General of WHO, pointed out:  “The Taiwan authorities are not really excluded from information sharing, they have access to all of our documents, everything. The problem, again, is a political one. In this case, those who want a change in Taiwan’s status use health concerns to make their point.”
 
 Needless to say,  the real intention of the Taiwan authorities is not to promote the health, well-being of Taiwan compatriots, as they claim, but rather attempt to create “two Chinas” or “One China, One Taiwan” in the world arena, making trouble and instigating confrontation in cross-strait relations.
 
 WHO and WTO are two international organizations of different nature and with different membership qualifications. WHO is a UN specialized agency, WTO is not. While WTO includes countries and separate customs territories, only sovereign states are eligible for WHO membership. When Mr. Hackett cited Taiwan’s recent entry into WTO as a precedent to participate in WHO, he is really mixing things up.  
 
 Mr. Hackett had it right when he said that President Bush had a successful trip to China last month. But he is wrong and irresponsible to propose exploiting this opportunity to play up Taiwan’s participation in WHO, since it runs counter to the UN charter, relevant UN resolutions and the one-China policy of the US government, poisoning cross-straits relations and will cause damage to China-US relations. In the end, it will hurt US own interests.  
 
 China-US relations have seen steady improvements recently. President Jang Zemin and President Bush met twice within four months, and reached a common understanding on working towards a constructive and cooperative relationship. This has not come easily and is worth cherishing.
 
 Taiwan has been an inalienable part of Chinese territory since ancient times. The question of Taiwan bears on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and it is the most important and sensitive issue at the core of China-US relations. Only when the three Sino-US joint communiques are strictly observed and the question of Taiwan properly handled can there be stability and growth in China-US relations.
 
 If Mr. Hackett is genuinely concerned with the health and well-being of our Taiwan compatriots, he might as well persuade the Taiwan authorities to recognize the one China principle and stop such separatist activities as squeezing into WHO. This will help ease tension across the Taiwan Straits, and will do good to a stable and healthy China-US relations. It will be in China’s interest, as well as in the interest of the US.

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