BEIJING (Reuters) – The Chinese government said on Friday that the health of people in Taiwan is not being put at risk by Taiwan’s inability to attend a U.N. health meeting this year as there is no barrier to technical or medical exchanges and aid.
Self-ruled Taiwan has accused Beijing of obstructing its efforts to attend the May 22-31 annual meeting in Geneva of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Ties between China and Taiwan have worsened since the election last year of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who – unlike the island’s previous China-friendly administration – has not acknowledged the “one China” principle.
Taiwan says health should not be politicised and that leaving Taiwan out of dialogue puts the world’s health safety-net and health of people on the island at risk.
But the health of people in Taiwan and the island’s lack of attendance at the meeting are two different matters, An Fengshan, spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told a regular news briefing.
Taiwan’s information exchange channels with the WHO are smooth, Taiwan can attend technical WHO meetings and if needed WHO experts can visit the island, An said.
“These arrangements ensure that Taiwan can effectively and in a timely way deal with sudden public health issues whether on the island or internationally,” he added.
China views democratic Taiwan as a renegade province to be retaken with the use of force if necessary, and says other countries and international organisations should not recognise it or treat as a separate country.
Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, which recognises the “one China” policy centred on Beijing, and it never formally takes part in U.N. meetings. But it has in the past been given observer status at some conferences with Beijing’s acquiescence.
Taiwan is still sending a delegation to the meeting even though it does not have an invitation, warning China that attempts to exclude it could irreversibly damage ties.
The official China Daily, in a Wednesday editorial, said Taiwan’s delegation will likely try to “make a scene” to garner sympathy, but the real goal of Tsai’s government is clear.
“She is seeking to hijack public health in Taiwan to serve her political goal of winning de facto statehood recognition for the island,” it said.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Richard Pullin)