Taiwan “knows why” it has not received an invitation to join this year’s World Health Assembly session, wrote Chinese state media as the deadline for registration as an observer passed on Monday.

The spokesperson for the Beijing’s office dealing with cross-strait issues said that conditions were not possible for the island to participate, as President Tsai Ing-wen has not publicly acknowledged that both sides of the strait belong to “one China.”

The latest obstacle to the island’s participation in international organisations came a week after Chinese delegates interrupted Australian officials speaking at the Kimberley Process – a global initiative to eradicate conflict diamonds – demanding the ejection of their Taiwanese counterparts.

World Health Organization Executive Board Room
The World Health Assembly – the decision-making body of the United Nations’ World Health Organisation File photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In the lead-up to Monday’s deadline, Taiwan had asked the 20 remaining states who recognise them to contact World Health Organisation Director-General Margaret Chan – a former Hong Kong official leading the Chinese delegation.

Tsai was also vocal on her Twitter account, asking for Taiwan’s inclusion citing the island’s contributions to global healthcare programmes.

‘Not surprising’

However, a Tuesday editorial of People’s Daily claimed that it was not surprising Taiwan was not invited: “Even foreign observers can understand, how would the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)’s government not know?”

The DPP, which came into power following last year’s elections, is nominally – but no longer vocally – pro-independence.

Tsai’s reluctance to publicly state that the island is a part of China has also irked Beijing, which has responded by cutting the numbers of tourists to Taiwan and sending aircraft carrier Liaoning near to the island in December and January.

People’s Daily mocked Taipei for its blocked attempts to participate in international organisations, saying it was “banging its head against a wall.”

“The DPP authorities need to reflect on themselves: Why has Taiwan not achieved anything since it came into power?”

Likewise, Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson An Fengshan told reporters on Monday that the DPP authorities were to blame for Taiwan not being invited to the World Health Assembly.

reuters tsai taiwan
Tsai Ing-wen. File photo: Reuters/Pichi Chuang.

Under a previous period of warming relations from 2009 to 2016, Taiwan participated in the health conference under the name “Chinese Taipei.”

Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang government had come to an accord with Beijing – the “92 Consensus” – which stated that both the island and the mainland belonged to “one China,” with the interpretation of “China” differing across the straits.

Taiwan is formally known as the Republic of China, a state that still nominally claims sovereignty over the mainland after its defeat by the Chinese Communist Party in a civil war 70 years ago. Beijing and Taipei do not recognise each other diplomatically.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.