106 lawmakers from seven Eastern European countries have voiced support in recent weeks for Taiwan’s participation at the World Health Assembly (WHA) set to reconvene next Monday, according to the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday.

In separate letters sent to World Health Organisation (WHO) President Tedros Adhanom, the lawmakers collectively expressed a “high-level of support” for Taiwan’s participation at the WHO’s 73rd annual assembly, citing Taipei’s “exemplary” record of controlling the spread of Covid-19.

Taiwan mask Covid19 Taipei
Photo: May James/HKFP.

Taiwan has been hailed internationally for its successful handling of the pandemic — it reached a record of 200 days without a locally-transmitted case last Friday and has reported a total of 563 cases and seven deaths since the start of the outbreak.

Taipei’s bid for a seat at the WHA was backed by politicians from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia. Signatories included Poland’s Waldemar Andzel and the Czech Republic’s Marek Benda.

“Excluding 23 million Taiwanese people from participating in the WHO is not only a violation of their human rights, but also detrimental to global cooperation in the prevention of the pandemic,” a ministry statement read. The ministry will continue to advocate for Taipei’s inclusion at the international body, it added.

The ministry separately thanked the signatories for their support and called on other officials to back Taiwanese participation at the WHA “in the interests of all parties involved.”

The joint petitions were also welcomed by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. “We all know that by allowing us to share in the #TaiwanModel, #TaiwanCanHelp the world,” she tweeted.

The 73rd World Health Assembly, an annual forum of WHO’s 194 member states traditionally held in Geneva, is set to resume for five days next week to decide on issues of policy and budget. The assembly met briefly with an abridged agenda in May. This year marks the first time virtual assembly in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier in the pandemic outbreak in March, a WHO spokesperson declined to entertain questions from a reporter from Hong Kong’s public broadcaster on Taiwan’s handling of the pandemic and whether the international body would reconsider Taiwan’s membership.

The US announced in July that it will withdraw from the WHO, citing a failure to demonstrate independence from the Chinese Communist Party.

World Health Organisation
World Health Organisation headquarters in Geneva. Photo: WHO.

Democratic Taiwan has been ruled as the Republic of China separately from Beijing since the arrival of the Kuomintang on the island following defeat by Chinese Communists in 1945. Moves by other countries to engage with Taipei as head of a separate sovereign entity frequently draw the ire of Beijing, which has vowed to “reunite” Taiwan with the mainland. It views the island as a province and an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China under its “One China” policy.

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.