GENEVA – Taiwan’s bid to attend the World Health Organization’s annual assembly was rejected on Monday, the assembly said, after a campaign of diplomatic pressure from China to isolate the island, which it considers to be one of its own provinces.
World Health Assembly (WHA) President Ahmed Robleh Abdilleh, also Djibouti’s health minister, said in a statement that a proposal sent by 13 WHO members seeking for Taiwan to join as an observer would not be included in its official agenda.
Taiwan is excluded from most global groups due to Beijing’s objections. China insists that Taiwan should not be treated as an independent country as it considers the island a province of its own.
Taiwan argues that its exclusion from the WHO has hampered efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, although it is allowed to attend some technical WHO meetings.
Assembly president Abdilleh said that the decision followed a recommendation from the General Committee which discussed the proposal on Sunday in a closed-door meeting.
“The political and legal foundation for Taiwan’s participation in WHA ceases to exist,” Chen Xu, China ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva told the assembly shortly before the decision. “This political manipulation will only be met with opposition from all parties.”
However, both the United States and Britain showed their support for Taiwan’s inclusion.
Loyce Pace, U.S. envoy to the assembly, said that Taiwan has been a critical partner contributing constructively to global health and that the U.S. “deeply regrets” its exclusion from attending the assembly as an observer.
“There’s clearly no health crisis to justify not including Taiwan as an observer of the WHO,” British health minister Sajid Javid told the assembly.
This year’s assembly, joined by thousands of delegates including nearly 100 from China, will discuss key reforms such as changes to the WHO‘s funding.
China began blocking Taiwan’s WHA participation from 2017, marking the end of a warmer period of relations between Beijing and Taipei.
Taiwan last week expressed “dissatisfaction and regret” over the World Health Organization’s failure to invite it to attend the assembly, amid diplomatic pressure from China to isolate the island.