Letters & Opinion

Is Taiwan a Friend or Foe?

A smiling Denys Springer
By Denys Springer

Plato once said that “the measure of a man is what he does with power” therefore I am anxious as to how the next year will go as far as the leadership of the country is concerned. I was indeed heartened by the strong bond that was showed to Taiwan on the Prime Minister’s visit. 

However, I am more concerned by the representation that we give to Taiwan in the wider world and therefore the question above is fundamental, more so when we deal with world health issues. I know that the Minister for Health was in Taiwan not too long ago and therefore should have learned something about the exceptional health service that Taiwan has and is probably one of the best in the world.

Yet, they are unable to be represented in the World Health Organization (WHO) due to China’s intransigence which has no significance especially in a One China Policy or Principle. Their attitude in the WHO to Taiwan is simply hogwash and I hope that my government will now have the guts to call a spade a spade as China’s aim is to infiltrate these world institutions and make demands in relations to Taiwan.

Due to interference from China, Taiwan is barred from entering the world health body. This, in my view, is simply preposterous when Taiwan is one of the best countries in terms of health practices and yet cannot take part in such a world institution because of another country’s say so. Therefore Saint Lucia must stand up and say quite categorically that this is unacceptable and is not what the WHO was designed to be about.

For years Taiwan fought under the name “Republic of China” for observer status in the World Health Assembly (WHA), the international conference the WHO holds each May. The strategy underwent a major shift in 2007 as Taiwan for the first time sought full membership under the name Taiwan. The struggle continues for Taiwan to foster a deeper engagement with the world health community and we all know who is holding that back.

The United States and Japan agree that Taiwan should be given observer status in the WHA even India is of that opinion while the European Union has expressed somewhat more tempered support for Taiwanese professionals gaining meaningful participation in WHO related affairs.

What is simply preposterous and is at present unfavourable for Taiwan to gain a place in the UN main coordinating authority for health was that in 2005 without Taiwan’s permission, or even participation, the head of the Chinese delegation to the WHO signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the UN organization governing the modes of interaction between Taiwan and the WHO.

Based on that memorandum all contact between Taiwan and the WHO is possible only via Beijing. How can the WHO accept such a proposal and sign to that effect when Taiwan is a vibrant democratic country compared to China who is somewhat communistic and has a dictator as the leader. Politics seem to be the name of the game and not the importance of working together to bring about a healthy world body. We are talking about global health and yet a country of 24 million people who have proved themselves to have one of the best health services in the world is not able to participate in that world body. I was under the impression that after the Second World War when it came into being that it represented the world’s population. In my view the UN sell by date has long –passed and another body needs to come into being where that body must be totally devoid of politics.

Taiwan has found that despite the WHO adopting the principle of universality, which took effect in 2007, it is still denied direct contacts with the world health body due to the MOU signed with China. Taiwan is experiencing China’s bullying attitude and many are seeing the discrimination towards Taiwan’s reporters first hand at the WHA.

What China fails to understand is that battering people into loyalty is a highly ineffective strategy. Taiwan in my view has the right to self determination. The WHO refusal under pressure from China to accept Taiwan as a member is without a doubt unacceptable on every front.

Taiwan as part of the global village should be treated fairly like any other country and at any rate is doing its part in making contributions to world health such as offering aid to poorer countries, as Saint Lucia knows full well. They have the right to be included in the international community more so with a population of 24 million people.

Therefore, the only obstacle to Taiwan’s bid is China’s opposition. China’s suppression of Taiwan is getting worse and worse. It is trying systematically to weaken Taiwan’s sovereignty.

It is clear that Taiwan’s medical missions have created more opportunities to work with other organizations around the world and that is commendable. Taiwan in my view is contributing to the world while also building close connections in the world and therefore if those foreign friends hold influential positions they must speak for Taiwan through various means such as writing articles promoting Taiwan’s rights whenever possible.

Therefore, I believe that now is the time for Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and St. Kitts to come together and begin to demand forcefully Taiwan’s participation on the WHO bodies. Between 1998 and 2008 the government and private sectors in Taiwan spent more than US$450 million on medical supplies and emergency aid for the international community.

Recently, during the COVID crisis Taiwan has done its best to help countries around the world, even Great Britain and the U.S. in supplying mask etc. Therefore, let us now give Taiwan our full support on the United Nations world bodies such as the UNFRCCC, ICAO, Interpol etc. We can certainly make a difference if our governments try hard enough and care. Taiwan is a friend indeed.

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