Taiwan called on WHO to show leadership ahead of the WHA
Ahead of the WHA on May 18, Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare met with Taiwan’s foreign press community on Wednesday. Responding to questions regarding Taiwan’s bid to return to the WHO, Chen said Taiwan will accept any decision that WHO’s member states make, but he hopes the global health body can ensure that its procedural justice won’t be dictated by certain member states.
Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare Dr. Chen Shih-Chung met with the foreign press community for the first time since the COVID19 outbreak. As the commander-in-chief of Taiwan’s response to the pandemic, Chen admitted that he hasn’t had a day off since January 20.
As the world prepares for the WHA, many questions directed at him were about Taiwan’s bid to regain the observer status inside the WHO. Chen said that based on WHO’s latest comments, it’s very difficult to predict whether Taiwan will be invited to join the WHA or not. However, he argued that while the WHO claimed that Taiwan’s qualification to become a member of the global health body was decided 49 years ago, he thinks some rules should be adaptable to the change of time.
Chen said that since Taiwan’s bid to return to the WHO will need to be decided through votes from member states, Taiwan will respect any decision reached by WHO member states. However, he said that procedural justice should be guaranteed.
“I think it’s important for the international community to look at whether WHO’s procedural justice is respected or manipulated by certain member states,” Chen said. “If procedural justice were respected, it means that the organization’s leadership has done something right. Taiwan calls on the WHO to show the attitude of a world leader, because the right attitude can help the world to improve.”
Following WHO’s claim that the information provided by Taiwan is of no value, Chen said when the coronavirus outbreak first started, no expert could accurately predict how the pandemic would develop, so the most important thing for the global response to the pandemic is for every country to transparently provide all the information that they have.
“As long as everyone can share the information that they have, experts can turn it into useful information for the international community,” Chen said. “Those information will be very useful to all global citizens, and isn’t that the core value of the WHO?”
Chen said that if Taiwan unfortunately can’t obtain the observer status at the WHO, the country can only conduct bilateral exchanges with other countries. But if Taiwan can return to the global health body, it can not only receive first hand information about any pandemic, but also share Taiwan’s experience in combating the virus with all of WHO’s member states.
The superficial information from China
At the press conference, a reporter from Hong Kong’s TVB said some experts have suggested that if Taiwan is willing to reach a consensus with the Chinese government, the country will be able to join the WHA. However, Chen said Taiwan will be very willing to reach consensus with any country as long as they don’t try to belittle Taiwan.
Previously, Beijing has claimed that no country cares more about Taiwanese people’s welfare than China. Chen said while Taiwan welcomes any country to care for the welfare of its people, cooperation with China since the start of the pandemic has been difficult.
“Taiwan had limited interaction with China after the pandemic broke out, but most of the information they have provided is superficial and incomplete,” Chen said. “I believe this may not just be the result of the differences between Taiwan and China, but rather, it might also be the nature of the information they have gathered. Some of the information provided by China is useful, but not everything can be used.”
Taiwan considers partially lifting border control
As Taiwan has flattened the curve of the pandemic, many people start to wonder when will Taiwan relax its border control. According to Chen, Taiwan will first restart some important commercial activities under close monitoring. Then it will consider opening up its border for humanitarian causes. So far, the government hasn’t considered resuming any private traveling for citizens.
“We all need to make a living amid the pandemic, but the international supply chain can’t be transformed within a short period of time,” Chen said. “Taiwan’s Ministry of Economics is now assessing which commercial activities need to rely on international exchanges, then the government will make the final decision about easing the border control.”
Taiwan has been trying to strike a balance between tracking quarantined individuals and citizens’ privacy. So far, the Taiwanese government is trying to surveil quarantined individuals through a closed-off system, meaning personal information won’t be easily exposed to the public. “We will continue to explore how to protect citizens’ privacy during a pandemic,” Chen said.
This article first appeared in Mandarin on DW’s Chinese website.