Taipei accused China Thursday of endangering the health of Taiwanese people and compromising global epidemic prevention by blocking it from the World Health Organization (WHO), as its hopes of attending a major meeting next month dim.

Last year was the first time in eight years that Taiwan was not granted access to the World Health Assembly (WHA) — the WHO’s main annual meeting — due to pressure from Beijing as part of its efforts to exclude the island from international events.

China, which sees self-governing democratic Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, has used its clout to diminish the island’s presence on the world stage since Beijing-sceptic President Tsai Ing-wen took power in May 2016.

world health organisation who
The World Health Organisation in Geneva. Photo: U.S. Mission Geneva/ Eric Bridiers.

Taiwan has yet to receive an invitation to the WHA assembly in Geneva next month.

The island’s foreign ministry accused China Thursday of having a “secret arrangement” with WHO granting Beijing power to veto its attendance even at smaller technical briefings.

Out of the 154 WHO briefings Taiwan applied for between 2009 and 2017, only 46 were approved, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

It also said China had delayed timely notification of health information to Taiwan.

“The unilateral arrangement between China and the WHO not only poses a threat to the health of the Taiwanese people, but it also causes a loophole in global epidemic prevention,” it said.

The comments came in response to a Wednesday statement from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), which said Taiwanese experts were free to attend WHO conferences aside from the WHA and were still receiving timely information on disease prevention.

The foreign ministry said the TAO statement was “untrue.”

AFP has not yet received a response from the WHO.

Despite intensified lobbying efforts this year, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said earlier this week it was not optimistic it would receive an invite to the May 21-26 WHA meeting.

“WHO faces a lot of pressure and we are all very clear where that pressure comes from,” said Michael Hsu, director-general of the department handling Taiwan’s participation in international organisations.

Taipei sees May 7 as the last date for it to receive an invitation, which is the online registration deadline.

Last year the WHO said there was no basis to invite Taiwan because the “cross-strait understanding” of previous years no longer existed.

A number of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies have written to the WHO urging the island’s admittance while US senators this month called on the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to help Taiwan regain “observer” status.

Taiwan was expelled from the WHO in 1972, a year after losing the “China” seat at the United Nations to Beijing.

In 2009, Taiwan was invited to attend as an “observer” under the name “Chinese Taipei” under former Beijing-friendly president Ma Ying-jeou.

But the island has once again been sidelined since Tsai took the presidency.

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