Taiwan’s application to participate in the annual assembly of the World Health Organization was rejected after a campaign of diplomatic pressure from China to isolate the island, which it considers one of its provinces.
The President of the World Health Assembly (WHO) Ahmed Roble Abdile, also the Minister of Health of Djibouti, said in a statement that the proposal sent by 13 WHO members to allow Taiwan to join as an observer would not be included in its official agenda.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry has expressed “deep regret and dissatisfaction” with the decision.
“China’s re-use of policies to address the public interest in global health security and harm to the health and human rights of the Taiwanese people is unacceptable to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” the statement said.
Taiwan is excluded from most world groups because of China’s objections.
China insists that Taiwan should not be seen as an independent country because it considers the island a province.
Taiwan claims its exclusion from the WHO has hampered efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is allowed to attend some WHO technical meetings.
On Tuesday, Taiwan said it disputed China’s assertion that it had taken appropriate measures for Taiwan’s involvement in global health affairs.
Dr Abdillah said the decision not to include Taiwan came on the recommendation of the General Committee, which discussed the proposal on Sunday behind closed doors.
“The political and legal basis for Taiwan’s participation in the WHA is ceasing to exist,” Chen Xu, China’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told the assembly shortly before the decision.
“This political manipulation will meet only opposition from all sides.”
However, both the United States and the United Kingdom have shown their support for the inclusion of Taiwan.
Lois Pace, the U.S. envoy to the assembly, said Taiwan is an important partner that constructively promotes global health, and that the United States “deeply regrets” that it did not attend the assembly as an observer.
“Obviously, there is no health crisis that does not justify the inclusion of Taiwan as a WHO observer,” said Health Minister Sajid Javid.
This year’s assembly, which was joined by thousands of delegates, including nearly 100 from China, will discuss key reforms, such as changes in WHO funding.
China has begun blocking Taiwan’s participation in the WHA since 2017, marking the end of a warmer period of relations between officials in Beijing and Taipei.