GENEVA (Reuters) – China told the World Health Organization on Monday that it had shared full information about the coronavirus with authorities in Taiwan, where there are 10 confirmed cases, and that outbreak communication had been “smooth” across the straits.
China’s ambassador Li Song was speaking at the WHO’s Executive Board in Geneva, which opened a six-day session, after Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, took to the floor to object to Taiwan’s 23 million people not having their own representative to participate in debates.
Taiwan is denied membership of most international bodies including the WHO, a U.N. agency, due to the objections of China, which considers the island a Chinese province with no right to participate unless it accepts that it is part of China.
That is something Taiwan’s fiercely democratic government will not do. The head of the Taiwan foreign ministry’s Department of International Organisations said on Sunday the department had complained repeatedly to the WHO to stop listing the island as part of China.
“In response to the concerns of the people of Taiwan and in line with the principle of openness and transparency and in order to safeguard the health and well-being of compatriots on both side of the Taiwan Strait, the mainland has repeatedly and in a timely (way) notified Taiwan of the latest information of the prevention and control of the epidemic through normal channels,” Li told the WHO talks.
Taiwan epidemic prevention experts had visited the Wuhan and Hubei province disease prevention and control centre in mid-January, he said, adding: “Their concerns have also been given further answers.”
“The smooth communication between two sides of the Straits on infectious diseases has ensured the orderly prevention and control of the outbreak across the Straits,” Li said.
“This visit has further promoted communication and exchange in the health field across the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
But Li denounced what he called Taiwan’s authorities “lies and excuses” related to its inability to attend WHO meetings, where the island regarded by Beijing as a renegade province is represented by the mainland – under WHO rules.
“There does not exist a so-called gap in the international epidemic prevention system as a result of Taiwan’s non-attendance to the WHA (World Health Assembly),” he said, referring to the WHO ministerial-level meeting held every May.
“Instead it is just the lies an excuses made by the Taiwan authority in an attempt to participate in the WHA,” Li said.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alex Richardson and Hugh Lawson