A mainland official on Wednesday slammed the attempt of Taiwan authorities to seek membership in the World Health Organization (WHO), saying there already exists an often-used mechanism with the WHO to protect international health concerns on the island.
Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian sent a letter to WHO director general Margaret Chan on April 11 requesting WHO membership for Taiwan.
Yang Yi, spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said Taiwan authorities are using WHO membership as a political ploy that is aimed at elevating their secessionist activities to the international stage.
"We strongly oppose such activities," Yang said, adding that the move should also be opposed by the international community.
The spokesman said the WHO is a specialized organization under the United Nations, to which only sovereign states can belong.
"As a part of China, Taiwan is not eligible to join the WHO as a member or quasi-member. Neither is it qualified to join the WHO as an observer," Yang said.
Yang said the Chinese mainland is highly attentive to the need to protect the health rights and interests of Taiwan compatriots and has made many attempts to push forward cross-strait health and medical exchanges and cooperation.
In 2005, the Ministry of Health and the WHO Secretariat signed a memorandum of understanding on the participation of Taiwan health and medical experts in WHO technical activities.
Under the MOU, the WHO can invite health experts from Taiwan to participate in its technical activities, and send staff and experts to Taiwan to investigate health issues and provide technical health assistance.
In the event of severe public health emergencies in Taiwan, WHO can also send staff and experts to Taiwan for field visits, and provide technical health assistance.
Yang said that since the MOU was signed, 12 groups of experts from Taiwan have participated in WHO technical activities.
Taiwan has sought observer status in the WHO over the past 10 years, but has never succeeded.
(Xinhua News Agency April 25, 2007)