Taiwan remains as reporting one of the lowest cases in COVID-19 disease. With the state’s meticulous and early measures, the world needs to be looking up for the precautions. However, the World Health Organization still rejects Taiwan from becoming a member, which is a serious issue in the time of a pandemic, which is yet to be controllable.
Confirming its first case on COVID-19 on January 19, 2020, Taiwan only has 398 cases and 6 deaths in its 23.6 million population to be current today. Since the very first appearance of the disease in Wuhan, China, the Taiwanese government began taking mandatory precautions immediately. The dates were showing late December back then, and both China and World Health Organization were claiming there were no evidence of human to human transmission. The government tried to gather more information about the disease and its possibilities to pass to humans, but the WHO did not respond to Taiwan’s request or shared the government’s information with its member states. China and the World Health Organization finally confirmed human to human transmission in 21st of January, approximately one month after Taiwan government adopted testing and screening for the disease.
An even more interesting incident took place in 28th of March, when journalist Yvonne Tong from Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK interviewed the WHO assistant director-general Bruce Aylward. Tong asked the assistant director about the consideration of Taiwan’s membership, in which Aylward pretended not to hear the question. Consequently, Tong repeated her question followed by Aylward hanging up the Skype call with the interviewer. When Tong connected with the call again, she insisted to talk on Taiwan’s situation, and Mr. Aylward responded: ‘We have already talked about China’. The interview went viral on social media and citizens and governments started to concern about WHO’s work ethic as being world’s biggest international health organization.
But why isn’t Taiwan a member of the World Health Organization and why are they completely ignoring Taiwan’s diplomatic presence? China’s presence on international politics obstructs the country to have official diplomatic relations with other states and international organizations. For centuries, China has been ignoring the diplomatic existence of Taiwan and pretending that Taiwan is not an independent state, rather, it is the territory of People’s Republic of China. Consequently, China has been blocking and threatening other states to not to recognize Taiwan as a state, and not to have diplomatic relations with them. Even though most of the countries in the world has unofficial relations with Taiwan nowadays, it is hard for any state to oppose a powerful state as China, and lose their diplomatic relations and memberships in the international organizations as well. Taiwan currently has only 15 countries which officially recognize and maintain diplomatic relations with them. China is one of the 5 permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the UN. To be a member state of the WHO and its assembly WHA, the country either has to be a member state of the UN, or the member states of the WHO have to decide the membership status of the country. Thus, China is strongly preventing Taiwan to become a member in both the UN and the WHO. From a short time between 2009-2016, Taiwan was approved as an observer in the World Health Assembly. However, when Tsai Ing-wen from the Democratic Progressive Party was elected as the president in 2016 Taiwan national elections, the WHO immediately ended the observer status of Taiwan. This is one of many examples of the WHO acting on the behalf of China’s interests. China is strongly against the DPP of Taiwan being in charge, since it is a complete democratic independence supporter party. Additionally, there are individuals and political parties pro-unification in Taiwan such as KMT Party and its supporters who strongly believe in the Chinese reunification and act in a way that harms the current democracy in the country. So, the conflicts between China and Taiwan not only affect the reputation of Taiwan on the international arena, but cause internal turmoil within the state and its citizens. Thus, when things don’t go on the way China wants, they find a way to manipulate the Taiwanese government, even though it is meant using the World Health Organization, or the Taiwanese citizens that follow the lead of Chinese government to do it. Manipulating the democracy, creating uprisings within the state, publishing fake news, and manipulating the WHO is a few of China’s attempts to breakdown the state of democracy within Taiwan. What the world needs to fight against the COVID-19 disease is to unite and put politics behind. When the whole world is facing with a significant threat and emergency, seeking your own political benefits is not even considerable. Unity is imperative.
Nowadays, the only thing that Taiwan government and concerned citizens and governments want is the World Health Organization not acting under the pressure of China and act democratically to every state in the world, as being one of the most powerful organizations in the world. COVID-19 is not yet to be controllable around the world and while the effects of the disease are killing many more every single day, every state is in need to be united and work together to get through the dark times. There should be no obstacles and influences for unity in front of the World Health Organization.