|The World Health Assembly (by Tom Page via Wikimedia Commons)|
In 2009 Taiwan received a historic invitation to participate in the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer. That was the second year of President Ma Ying-jeou‘s administration, a time in which relations between Beijing and Taipei were improving on the basis of the “1992 consensus“, an unofficial agreement between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Guomindang. Since the World Health Organization (WHO) recognises the one-China principle, Taiwan could not participate with its official name “Republic of China”. Taiwan was therefore represented with the name “Chinese Taipei” (中華台北).
The Republic of China (ROC) was a founding member of the WHO, but after the United Nations shifted recognition from the ROC to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Executive Board of the United Nations passed resolution EB49.R37 recommending to the WHA to adopt a similar decision. As a result, on May 10 1972 the WHA decided “to restore all its rights to the People’s Republic of China and to recognize the representatives of its Government as the only legitimate representatives of China to the World Health Organization, and to expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-Shek from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the World Health Organization“. From then on the ROC has never been able to participate in the WHA as a sovereign state.
The rapprochement between Beijing and Taipei under the Ma Ying-jeou administration allowed Taiwan to participate in the WHA, albeit with a lower status. However, the recent electoral defeat of the Guomindang and the triumph of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen seems to have prompted the PRC to harden its stance.
As of April 21, Taiwan has not yet received an invitation to participate in the WHA. The Taipei Cultural and Economic Delegation in Geneva said that it remains optimistic it would receive an invitation, although Taiwan’s Central News Agency had earlier announced that the government expected to receive it by April 10.
According to Taiwanese reports, a mainland Chinese scholar visiting Taiwan has warned that Taipei may not receive such an invitation. Zhu Weidong (朱衛東/朱卫东), deputy head of mainland China’s “Institute of Taiwan Studies” of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was invited by the Foundation on Asia-Pacific Peace Studies to speak at a conference on April 18.
Zhu stated that this year Taiwan will not receive an invitation from the WHA. He explained that mainland China is observing with great concern Tsai Ing-wen’s attitude towards cross-strait relations. The WHA will start only three days after Tsai officially takes over the presidency on May 20. According to Zhu, Beijing “cannot accept” Tsai’s ambiguous stance and her failure to unequivocally adhere to the 1992 consensus. If Taiwan should be excluded from the WHA, this may be viewed as an attempt by Beijing to humiliate Tsai and isolate Taiwan. In this way, it hopes to exact important political concessions and promote cross-strait relations on its own terms.
However, professor Kuo Jianwen (寇健文) of the Institute of East Asian Studies of Zhengzhi University said that mainland China’s think tanks were only trying to exert political pressure on the new administration to acknowledge the 1992 consensus. He said that based on the previous seven years there was still time until the end of the month for Taiwan to receive the invitation.
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