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WHO rules out Taiwan as member
20-04-2004
2004/04/20

Visiting WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook said Monday his "simple and clear-cut conclusion" is that China's membership in the World Health Organization is paramount, and Taiwan is not welcome as a separate player in the organization.

"This is also a position that I will stick to in the future," he said on his first visit to China as WHO director-general.

Lee spoke after Gao Qiang, executive vice-minister of Chinese Ministry of Health, expressed concerns over the Taiwan authority trying to join WHO independently after being turned down for seven years.

Gao said the Taiwan authority's goal is explicitly political, noting officials on the Chinese island province have been lobbying to become a member, whether officially or an observer.

"What concerns the Taiwan authority is not the health issue, but the political issue. WHO should not become a political stage," Gao indicated.

What is more, the Chinese Government has attached great importance to the well-being and health of Taiwan's people, and has adopted a positive attitude in regard to supporting Taiwan experts in WHO meetings in the aftermath of (SARS) severe acute respiratory syndrome.

The mainland welcomes Taiwan experts to attend the World Health Assembly next month, he said.

Lee and Gao also pledged greater efforts to step up co-operation between the two sides.

Although believing the battles against SARS and avian flu have not yet ended, Lee said he was quite impressed by China's quick control of the two diseases.

He said the "extraordinary achievements" have given him confidence in view of the campaign China is confronting against AIDS.

China has displayed remarkable capacity in improving the situation, once it realized the necessity, and top leadership is displaying key interest in the fight, he said.

Gao applauded the move by WHO to ensure "available medicines at affordable prices for AIDS patients," saying China welcomes WHO's help.

According to Gao, the biggest problem for China in its fight lies not in related policies or financial support, but the effectiveness of the medicines involved, because the government has policies to allow access to AIDS medicine for poverty-stricken rural patients and allocated special funds to support the cause. Unfortunately, the side-effects of current therapies are hard to overcome.

Vomiting and headaches are the most prominent side effects, and China is in need of WHO help for better therapies, he said.

Chinese statistics indicate the country has an estimated HIV carriers at around 850,000.

Fighting AIDS is also a key goal for WHO, and Lee said WHO and China can co-operate effectively not only in related medicines but in diagnosis and treatment.

The two senior officials reached an agreement on the planned revision of the World Health Regulation, which has the purpose of promoting a more efficient international co-operative mechanism to prevent contagious diseases and should uphold the principle of "being transparent, open and comprehensive."

Gao said the revision should take into consideration the different situations of different countries, because otherwise, the implementation of the regulation may freeze out less developed nations.

"China is dedicating efforts to improve our own public health system, and really wishes the revision can be completed as soon as possible to provide us with some essential guidance," Gao said.
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