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Speech by H.E. Madame Wu Yi Head of Chinese Delegation, Vice Premier and Minister of Health On Taiwan-Related Proposal At General Committee of 56th World Health Assembly

19 May 2003

2003-05-20 11:38
Mr. Chairman,

It is with special feelings that I have come to Geneva for this year's World Health Assembly (WHA). As you know, China as well as the whole world is now at a critical time. We are now fighting a war against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) to protect people's health and safety. The sudden outbreak of SARS is a disaster that poses a common threat to all countries on earth. At this very moment, as an institution responsible for addressing world health issues, WHA should invest its precious time in exploring such important issues as how to fight SARS and how to protect our living environment. That is what the people of the entire world are expecting from us.

However, what should not have happened unfortunately happened. In disregard of decisions made by the General Committee and WHAs for six consecutive years, a small number of WHO members once again came up with a proposal on inviting Taiwan to participate in the WHA as an observer. I cannot but say that this is a matter of tremendous regret. Here I solemnly state that the Chinese Government resolutely rejects the inclusion of this proposal into the Provisional Agenda. I also wish to emphasize the following three points:

1. The assertion by the Taiwan authorities and a handful of WHO members that SARS control in Taiwan is undermined by Taiwan's exclusion from the WHO is totally untrue and groundless. The Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits are bound by blood and our hearts reach out for each other. Since the outbreak of SARS in Taiwan, the Chinese Central Government has been deeply concerned about the health of Taiwan compatriots and swiftly taken a series of measures to enhance exchanges and cooperation across the Straits. We have provided to our counterparts in Taiwan the information about the status of the disease, its prevention and treatment measures and related policies through professional medical agencies and, in addition, we have invited Taiwan professionals to Guangzhou and Beijing for field inspection on the prevention and treatment of the disease. In the latter half of April, health and medical groups and organizations of the two sides conducted the "Symposium on the Prevention and Control of SARS on Both Sides of the Taiwan Straits" which was attended also by medical experts from Taiwan. On 9 May, the two sides jointly held a tele-video seminar on SARS with the participation of experts from Beijing, Guangdong and Taiwan. Their academic discussions on the prevention of the disease yielded great results. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has also provided SARS test reagents for the Taiwan disease prevention authorities. The Red Cross Society of China has proposed to provide medical donations to Taiwan through the Taiwanese Red Cross Organization for the prevention and treatment of SARS.

In the meantime, the Chinese Central Government has agreed that the WHO dispatch experts to Taiwan to investigate the SARS situation there and that medical experts from Taiwan can attend a global SARS science conference to be held by the WHO in June this year. People on both sides of the Taiwan Straits are of the same blood, and blood is thicker than water. We have made it clear on many occasions that if Taiwan needs additional information and technical assistance from the WHO and submits their requests to the Central Government, we will readily consider their requests.

However, while medical experts across the Straits are joining hands in their efforts to fight SARS, the Taiwan authorities are using SARS as the political ploy for their separatist activities. Under the pretext of SARS control, they have used money and instigated a small number of countries to join their clamouring for their participation in the WHA. Their true motive is not to develop health undertakings of Taiwan but to create "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan" in the international community. Such act of taking advantage of others' temporary difficulties to pursue one's own interests is unwise and totally unacceptable morally. The political attempts of the Taiwan authorities have all met with failure in the past six years. This year will see the same result.

2. The WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations whose membership is open only to sovereign states. There is no legal ground whatsoever for Taiwan's participation in the WHA. Resolution 2758 adopted at the 26th UN General Assembly in 1971 and Resolution 25.1 adopted at the 25th WHA in 1972 settled once and for all the question of China's representation in the United Nations and WHO politically, legally and in procedure. Pursuant to the Constitution of the WHO and the Rules of Procedure of the WHA, Taiwan as a province of China is not qualified to accede into the WHO as a full or associate member or to participate in the WHA as an observer.

Taiwan's attempt to participate in the WHO as a "health entity" is untenable. The Constitution and any other legal documents of the WHO have no stipulation of the so-called "health entity". In the fifty years' practice of the WHO, there has never been any case of the so-called "health entity".

In accordance with the WHO Constitution, Principles Governing Relations with NGOs and other rules, invitation to NGOs of any country to the WHA shall be subject to the consent of the central government of that country and be consistent with relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. No matter what hat Taiwan wears, as a province of China, it obviously cannot meet the above requirements.

I wish to reiterate that medical and health professionals from Taiwan are welcome to be members of the Chinese delegation to the WHA.

3. International cooperation in the field of health must be based on the important principle of the UN Charter─ respect for state sovereignty and territorial integrity. China attaches importance to international health cooperation and practises the principle of respect for state sovereignty and territorial integrity in international cooperation. We hope that other countries will do the same. To respect others is to respect oneself. I believe that no sovereign state in this world will allow one of its provinces or areas to participate in a UN agency that is only open to sovereign states. This allowed, the world would go out of order and the international law would become meaningless. International organizations would also be deprived of the basis for effective performance of their functions. It is therefore not a technical issue. It is an issue of important principle. For China, it is also an issue that bears on the sentiments of 1.3 billion people.

A small number of countries have been, year after year, raising a question that was already solved long ago in the 70s of last century, a question that is completely out of the scope of deliberations of this specialized agency and totally irrelevant to the world health and medical undertakings. It is simply a waste of the precious resources of the WHO and the time and energy of the overwhelming majority of the delegates. Such an act in blatant defiance of relevant resolutions of the UN General Assembly and the Constitution of the WHO constitutes grave encroachment on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a member state. It is of disservice to the cooperation among all countries in the field of health and is certainly not conducive to the sound development of the WHO.

Mr. Chairman,

A few countries dished out Taiwan-related proposals in the General Committee six times in a row in the past six years. And six times, the General Committee upheld justice and turned them down. Facts have proven that whatever forms the proposals take, they cannot avoid ending in failure.

We call upon all member states of the Committee to support the position of the Chinese delegation and hold by the righteous decisions of the Assembly and the Committee and do not incorporate the Taiwan-related proposal into the Provisional Agenda of the Assembly. We are confident that the Committee will defend justice and safeguard the dignity and legal effect of the UN General Assembly and WHA resolutions.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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