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U.K., EU back Taiwan's WHA participation

Taipei, April 12 (CNA) The British ministries in charge of foreign policy and health care have voiced support for Taiwan's meaningful participation in international organizations, including the World Health Assembly (WHA).

The decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO) will hold its 71st session from May 20 to 28 in Geneva, and Taiwan wants to attend as an observer.

It has yet to receive an invitation, however, because of Chinese obstruction and will likely be excluded from the event for the third consecutive year.

In London, House of Commons member Martin Vickers asked the country's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt about Taiwan's bid in written inquires on March 28 and April 2, respectively.

The parliamentarian wanted to know what steps their departments have made or are taking to support Taiwan's participation in the WHA as an observer this year and whether they have encouraged Taiwan to participate in technical meetings of the WHO.

In a written response issued on April 5, Jackie Doyle-Price, under-secretary at the Department of Health and Social Care, said the United Kingdom continues to support Taiwan's meaningful participation in international organizations.

"The Government is working with likeminded countries to lobby the World Health Organization (WHO) at official level to issue an invitation to Taiwan to observe the World Health Assembly (WHA) in May," Doyle-Price wrote.

"The United Kingdom continues to support Taiwan's meaningful participation in international organizations where statehood is not a prerequisite and where Taiwan can make a valuable contribution," the statement said.

"The U.K. believes the WHA and related technical meetings of the WHO meet these criteria."

Mark Field, minister of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, offered a nearly identical response on April 10.

EU response

Meanwhile, asked about Taiwan's participation in the WHA, an official from the European Union told CNA in an email that "the EU promotes practical solutions regarding Taiwan's participation in international frameworks, wherever this is consistent with the EU's 'One China' policy and the EU's policy objectives.

"This includes the WHO and all its technical meetings where Taiwan's participation would be welcome as it is in the broader global -- and indeed the EU's interest," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The official noted, however, that the EU is not a member of the WHO but only an observer, limiting what it can do.

"In general, as well as in this particular case, we make an effort to discuss with partners and seek practical solutions to include Taiwan where it has relevant technical competence and capacities," the official said, reiterating the same EU stance as last year.

Apart from Britain and the EU, the United States and Canada have both expressed their support for Taiwan's bid to participate in the 2019 WHA session.

CNA asked the WHO, meanwhile, if it has decided not to invite Taiwan to the 71st WHA session and what impact Taiwan's absence will have on the world's health security, but WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier sidestepped the question.

Instead, she repeated the WHO's previous response on the issue.

"Previous invitations to the WHA have been issued on the basis of a 'cross-strait understanding'," Lindmeier said, adding that in the absence of such an understanding invitations have not been issued.

"If there is no 'cross-strait understanding' this year, it is not expected that an invitation to the WHA will be issued," she said.

Taiwan participated in the WHA as an observer under the name Chinese Taipei from 2009 to 2016 amid warmer cross-Taiwan Strait relations under the then-Kuomintang administration, which prioritized reducing cross-strait tensions and building friendly ties with Beijing.

Since 2017, however, China has persuaded the WHO not to invite Taiwan in line with its hardline stance on cross-strait ties after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office in May 2016.

(By Elaine Hou, Tai Ya-chen, Hu Yu-li and Elizabeth Hsu)