Online petition calls for Taiwan's participation in 2017 WHA

2017/05/14 18:22:22
(CNA file photo)

(CNA file photo)

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) Taiwanese college students have launched an online petition calling for Taiwan to be allowed to attend the 2017 session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer after having apparently been excluded from the event, which begins in Geneva on May 22.

The petition, titled "Health for All: Keep Taiwan in the World Health Assembly (WHA)," is addressed to Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍), director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), whose decision-making body is the WHA.

It was initiated by student groups from several colleges and universities in southern Taiwan, including Kaohsiung Medical University and the Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages, in the hope of attracting endorsements from at least 1 million people around the world.

The petition argues that excluding 23.5 million Taiwanese people from the annual international event on public health violates the main principles of the WHO, namely "Health for All" and the "Right to Health."

As communicable diseases such as Ebola, avian flu, Zika virus and many others do not respect borders, excluding Taiwan from discussions and mechanisms in the global fight against these viruses represents an international health risk, it says.

Being widely recognized for the quality and accessibility of its health system, Taiwan is able to share its experiences and expertise with WHO members and help achieve the United Nations' goal of promoting health‐related sustainable programs, the petition says.

It also says that while the European Union, the United States, Japan and Taiwan's diplomatic allies have been very supportive of Taiwan on this issue, "strong support from people everywhere can make the difference" and keep Taiwan in the WHA.

On Sunday, Peter Chang (張武修), who was Taiwan's health representative to Geneva in 2002-2004, voiced his support for the petition.

The consultant physician at Taipei Hospital which is run by the Ministry of Health and Welfare expressed hope that 1 million endorsements will be received and that the WHO can be persuaded to allow Taiwan to continue to attend the WHA as an observer.

The petition is available at https://goo.gl/UgWMfz.

Taiwan wishes to attend the 2017 WHA meeting as an observer as it did under the name Chinese Taipei from 2009-2016. However, it had not received an invitation as of the May 8 deadline for online registration because of Chinese obstruction.

According to Tim Armstrong, who heads the WHO's department of governing bodies, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan "is not in a position to issue an invitation for Taiwanese observers to attend to the World Health Assembly."

However, "negotiations are still ongoing," said Armstrong, adding that "anything is possible."

(By Chang Ming-hsuan and Elizabeth Hsu)
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