US concerned about
WHO restrictions on Taiwan
By Shih Hsiu-chuan / Staff Reporter
The US has renewed concerns over restrictions that the WHO imposes on Taiwan’s
participation in the organization and reiterated its support for Taiwan’s
inclusion as an observer at the WHO’s governing body, the World Health Assembly
(WHA), and at WHO technical bodies.
A report by the US Department of State to Congress describes Taiwan’s
participation in the WHO as “sporadic” and “intermittent.”
The situation “inherently limits Taiwan’s ability” to deal with future public
health emergencies due to “a lack of timely information and accessible
resources,” according to the report, a copy of which the Taipei Times obtained
Taiwan began to participate in the WHA as an observer under the name “Chinese
Taipei” in 2009, an arrangement subject to annual renewal with China’s consent.
On April 8, the Department of Health said Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) would
attend the 66th WHA, to be held from May 20 to May 28 in Geneva, Switzerland, as
in previous years, after receiving an invitation from WHO Director-General
Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍) on April 3.
Despite recognizing the presence of Taiwan at WHA meetings from 2009 to last
year, the US said that the overall situation with regard to Taiwan’s engagement
in relevant working groups and technical activities of the Geneva-based WHO
“To date, the improvement in cross-strait relations [including a bilateral
agreement on health cooperation], coupled with WHA observer status, has not
resulted in greater technical involvement of Taiwan experts and officials in
relevant meetings,” it said.
The US said the WHO has not replied to requests by Taiwan to participate in its
organizations, including the STOP TB Partnership, the Global Influenza
Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), the WHO Western Pacific Regional
Office and its annual Regional Committee, the International Food Safety
Authorities Network, and the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) Framework.
Taiwan had hoped to join the PIP Framework by having vaccine manufacturer,
Adimmune Corp (國光生物科技), make a partnership contribution and sign a material
transfer agreement with the WHO to receive PIP biological materials from the
GISRS, but the firm was only recently invited to attend the latest industry
segment of the PIP Advisory Group meeting, the US said.
The progress was facilitated through the US Mission in Geneva, the report said.
The Department of State presents the report to the US Congress annually to
explain its policy on Taiwan’s participation in the WHO.
The US has helped Taiwanese experts attend WHA meetings in Geneva, where members
of the public with Repubilc of China passports have been harassed and sometimes
turned away if they could not produce a second form of photo identification for
UN security, according to the report.
“In 2011, Taiwan experts and participants had extreme difficulties accessing the
WHA, particularly at the Palais des Nations ... In 2012, in part through
diplomatic efforts by the United States, a solution on entry to the Palais des
Nations emerged so that there were no incidents regarding participation by
Taiwan experts last year,” the report said.
The solution has carried over into dealings with WHO headquarters as well, the
The US again voiced its opposition to the “non-transparent” manner in which the
WHO issued an internal memorandum in 2010 to limit Taiwan’s participation in the
International Health Regulations (IHR), the WHO’s regulatory framework to
prevent epidemics, and in which it refers to the nation as “Taiwan, Province of
The US said that the “unresolved issue” of nomenclature for Taiwan at the WHO
hampers efforts to further involve Taipei in effective implementation of IHRs.
As of last year, all Taiwanese ports on the IHR Authorized Ports list were
identified as belonging to China, the US said.
“The nomenclature issue likely is one factor causing delayed communications with
experts with Taiwan. Some WHO communications continue to be incorrectly routed
through Beijing or through China’s Mission in Geneva,” the US said.
The US said that the issue of nomenclature is “so closely linked to Taiwan’s
participation in IHRs,” and thus “we believe Taiwan should be referred to as
‘Chinese Taipei’ in both internal and external WHO communications.”
The US continues to object to the usage of the phrase “Taiwan, Province of
China,” “Taiwan, China,” and “other closely related nomenclature” in WHO/WHA
internal documents, as well as in all other international organizations in which
Taiwan is a meaningful participant, the department said.