Theodoros Benakis

Taiwan excluded from the World Health Assembly due to Chinese influence

Taiwan in the EU and Belgium @TaiwanEU
"#TaiwanCanHelp" installation art displayed in front of the Palace of Nations in Geneva during the 2023 World Health Assembly.

The World Health Assembly (WHA) opened its 76th annual gathering on 21 May in Geneva. The COVID-19 pandemic experience showcased a need for unity on a global level. However, the body that governs WHO rejected the request of Taiwan to join the event as an observer.

The decision proves the influence that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) exercises on the World Health Organisation bodies. China and Pakistan argued against the invitation for Taiwan, deploying arguments of routine. The Marshall Islands, Belize, Nauru and Eswatini – four of the 13 UN countries in formal diplomatic relations with Taipei – declared their support. In addition, US, UK, France, Australia and several other countries strongly supported Taiwan.

Taiwan has one of the best healthcare systems in the world and successfully responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, while China has not. Moreover, China’s response to the pandemic put the many at risk.

Thus, the exclusion of Taiwan from the WHA is unfair, unjust and irresponsible.

However, Taiwan obtained the status of an observer in the WHA from 2009 to 2016 under the designation “Chinese Taipei”. Then, in 2016, after the electoral victory of the democratic and pro-Independence Tsai Ing-wen as president, PRC intensified its pressure on WHO and blocked Taiwan from participating in the assembly. 

As the 76th session of the WHA gets underway, the reactions in Geneva, Brussels and in other capital cities remind that #TaiwanCanHelp! 

Taiwan’s Health Minister Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元) held a press conference at the Geneva Press Club emphasising that his country wants to contribute to global public health. In addition, the minister noted that WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has the authority to invite Taiwan to participate in the WHA, avoiding a vote of member states. Minister Hsueh Jui-yuan promised to continue work for his country’s inclusion in the WHO.

On the sidelines of the WHA, doctors and public health experts from Taiwan shared their expertise at self-organised events.

[The Taiwanese community in Belgium in front of the European Parliament, Credit: Taiwan in the EU and Belgium @TaiwanEU]

The Taiwanese community in Belgium held the “#HealthforAll, #TaiwanCanHelp -the bid to support Taiwan’s entry into WHA” event today in front of the European Parliament!

The rally received widespread support from members of the Belgian Parliament and the European Parliament!

“Today in Brussels, together with many others, I demonstrated in favour of Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the World Health Assembly. That made me come late to a Trade Committee meeting. But colleagues forgave me. 🙂 #TaiwanCanHelp, ”  tweeted Reinhard Bütikofer MEP.

Explore more