On Saturday, RTHK, a Hong Kong-based broadcasteraired an interview of Bruce Aylward. Adward is the WHO assistant director-general. He was asked if the WHO would make Taiwan a member of the organisation. Aylward refused to answer the question. When pressed, he even said that “Well, we’ve already talked about China.”
His last line appeared to mirror China’s stance on Taiwan, which is that the island is a breakaway province. Taiwan, however, considers itself an independent country.
When COVID-19 spread all over the world, Taiwan, which China considers as one of its territories, not an independent nation, has successfully protected itself from the global epidemic, source of which is not far from it.
Taiwan is not a member of WHO. WHO can’t even talk about Taiwan? Because any talk about Taiwan will offend China.
WHO membership is only given to countries that are members of the United Nations – which does not recognise Taiwan – or whose applications are approved by the World Health Assembly.
What this means is that Taiwan has been excluded from emergency meetings and important global expert briefings on the coronavirus pandemic. Taiwanese official Stanley Kao has also said the island has been denied permission to attend the World Health Assembly’s annual meetings in recent years.
It also means the WHO lists Taiwan’s coronavirus statistics together with China’s, a move Mr Kao says denies the world of accurate and timely information on the pandemic.
Can WHO afford not to talk about Taiwan? No, it can’t. As of march 18, Taiwan had seen just just 100 cases compared to the more than 80,000 in China and the tens of thousands in several countries in Europe.
But, Taiwan’s narrowest point, the Taiwan Strait between the island and the mainland is just 130 km. So, by all accounts, Taiwan should be in the midst a major coronavirus outbreak.
Alert authorities in Taiwan has saved Taiwan so far. Taipei swiftly deployed a combination of measures to identify and contain the virus, including the use of big data to help contain potential cases.
Taiwan has been tackling its coronavirus outbreak despite being frozen out of the World Health Organization (WHO) and continual bullying from China. In short, Taiwan has had to rely on itself to fight the coronavirus.
Taiwan’s anti-coronavirus strategy utilizes a combination of early vigilance, proactive measures, and information sharing with the public, as well as applying technology in the form of analyzing big data and online platforms. All this is done with an impressive level of public transparency and engagement, in stark contrast to China’s use of draconian and coercive measures and censorship to handle the coronavirus outbreak.
Until 2016, Taiwan was allowed to participate in WHO’s annual assembly as a non-state actor. This is no longer the case, and for the past three years, its request for an invitation has been denied..