China pushes back against efforts to get Taiwan access at WHO
Canada and other nations have called on the WHO to give Taiwan observer status at an upcoming meeting
OTTAWA — China responded sternly to efforts by Canada and its allies to allow Taiwan access to the World Health Organization, telling the coalition of countries to essentially butt out of its internal affairs.
Canada, Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand, Britain, Japan and the US have called on the WHO to give Taiwan observer status at an upcoming meeting of the organization set for next week.
Taiwan had early success in controlling the outbreak of COVID-19, and Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has told The Canadian Press that Taiwan’s presence as a non-state observer in the World Health Assembly meetings next week would help the pandemic fight.
The move is politically sensitive for Canada because it is in its own dispute with China over what it calls the “arbitrary” imprisonment of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
The issue clearly touched a nerve Monday in Beijing, where the spokesman for China’s foreign ministry was asked whether New Zealand – one of the May 11 signatories – had received assurances from China’s leaders that they would not push back against its efforts.
“China deplores and opposes them and has lodged representations with the New Zealand side,” said spokesman Zhao Lijian in an English transcript of his remarks posted on his ministry’s website.
China sees Taiwan as a breakaway region. Its status on the world stage is regularly the cause of diplomatic friction.
“On the Taiwan region’s participation in WHO activities, China’s position is clear and consistent. The one-China principle must be observed,” he added.
“The Taiwan authorities chose to play up its so-called participation in WHO events and return to the WHA at this moment. The timing reveals its true motive, which is to use the current outbreak to seek ‘Taiwan independence.’ It is out-and-out political manipulation.”
While he was speaking directly to New Zealand’s participation, Zhao issued a warning that would apply to Canada and its allies, saying, “we are firmly resolved to uphold our sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. No one should entertain any illusion when it comes to matters concerning China’s core interests.”
In Ottawa, Scheer backed the Liberal government’s efforts to include Taiwan over any opposition from China.
“These types of entities which provide guidance and services to folks on the health and safety of people around the world should not be impacted by global politics and by the foreign policy positions of the PRC (People’s Republic of China),” Scheer said.
Scheer also pointed out that his party has long called for Taiwan’s inclusion in organizations such as the WHO and the International Civil Aviation Organization, and said their work should not be influenced by China’s foreign policy.
— By Mike Blanchfield