Taiwan says it will attend WHO assembly

Taiwan's President-elect Tsai Ing-wen has not publicly accepted the 1992 consensus, a tacit agreement between the two sides in 1992 that there is one China.
Taiwan's President-elect Tsai Ing-wen has not publicly accepted the 1992 consensus, a tacit agreement between the two sides in 1992 that there is one China. PHOTO: AFP

But it does not accept 'one-China principle' controversially worded in invitation

TAIPEI • Taiwan will take part in this year's World Health Assembly despite a controversially-worded invitation that includes the phrase "one-China principle".

Mr Tung Chen-yuan, the spokesman for the incoming Cabinet, last night said Mr Lin Tzou-yien, Minister-designate for Health and Welfare, will lead a team to the upcoming annual assembly of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Taiwan's continued participation in the assembly does not mean the island accepts the position spelt out in the invitation letter, he added, according to Central News Agency.

The WHO has, for the past seven years, sent an invitation to Taiwan to attend its annual assembly as an observer under the designation "Chinese Taipei".

But unlike in previous years, this year's invitation mentions UN Resolution No. 2758. The resolution was passed on Oct 25, 1971, recognising the People's Republic of China as "the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations" and expelling the representatives of the Republic of China, the official name of Taiwan.

China has consistently blocked Taiwan's efforts to take part in international organisations, but lifted its objection to Taiwan's bid to become a WHO observer less than a year after Mr Ma Ying-jeou of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang began his first presidential term in May 2008.

The invitation this year also mentions Resolution WHA 25.1, which expelled the Republic of China from the WHO in 1972, as well as the "one China principle" underlying the two documents, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

With regard to Resolution No. 2758 and the "one China" principle mentioned in the invitation letter, Mr Tung said the island's participation at the forum is a separate matter. It was unnecessary for the WHO to link the invitation to the assembly to the "one-China principle", he said.

He said Taiwan's participation in WHO activities is not just about the health of the people of Taiwan, but also about its medical contribution to the rest of the world.

The World Health Assembly will be held in Geneva from May 23- 28.

China has consistently blocked Taiwan's efforts to take part in international organisations, but lifted its objection to Taiwan's bid to become a WHO observer less than a year after Mr Ma Ying-jeou of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang began his first presidential term in May 2008, reported Taipei Times.

Taiwan has been attending the annual meeting since 2009, and the invitation usually arrives by early April.

When the long-awaited invitation came last Friday, its wording sparked controversy in Taiwan. Some local media outlets and observers slammed it as yet another attempt by Beijing to exert pressure on President-elect Tsai Ing-wen ahead of her May 20 inauguration.

Ms Tsai has not publicly accepted the 1992 consensus, a tacit agreement between the two sides in 1992 that there is one China, with each side having its own interpretation of what this means.

The agreement is endorsed by the current Kuomintang government helmed by President Ma.

Beijing has repeatedly said that recognising it is a prerequisite for continuing stable cross-strait ties.

Last Friday, China's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said Taipei's participation in the assembly is a special arrangement based on the "one-China principle". He added that the special arrangement was made based on the political foundation that both sides of the Taiwan Strait adhere to the so-called 1992 consensus.

If the political foundation is destroyed, it would be hard to continue such an arrangement, Mr Ma was quoted as saying by China's official Xinhua news agency.

Chinese experts on Taiwan told China News Service that the invitation was a gesture of goodwill and sincerity from Beijing.

Professor Liu Guoshen, head of Xiamen University's Taiwan Research Institute, said the invitation is an act of restraint and friendliness on China's part. The Democratic Progressive Party of Ms Tsai should try to interpret Beijing's message and work together to defend cross-strait peace and stability.

And Professor Li Yihu of Peking University said: "The ball is now in Taiwan's court."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'Taiwan says it will attend WHO assembly'. Print Edition | Subscribe