Taiwan blames China for absence from U.N. health meeting

TAIPEI (Reuters) - China is disregarding the health of the people of Taiwan by blocking the island’s participation in an annual U.N. health meeting later this month, the Taiwan government said.

A man walks past a row of Taiwan's national flags in Taipei, October 14, 2011. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

Taiwan’s China policy-making body said late on Monday the exclusion of Taiwan from the World Health Assembly (WHA) for a second consecutive year showed Beijing’s lack of will to improve relations.

“China’s use of its one-sided political stance, and persistence in suppressing and blocking our participation in the WHA, disregards Taiwan people’s health safety rights,” the island’s Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement.

“Our government expresses its strong condemnation at this unreasonable action,” the council said ahead of the May 21-26 WHA meeting in Geneva.

Taiwan is one of China’s most sensitive issues. The island is claimed by Beijing as its sacred territory and China has never renounced the use of force to bring under Chinese control what it considers to be a wayward province.

Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, which recognizes the “one China” policy centered on Beijing, and it does not formally take part in U.N. meetings.

Taiwan has, however, in the past been given observer status at some conferences with Beijing’s acquiescence.

But ties between the mainland and the island have worsened since the 2016 election 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.

Last year, Taiwan blamed China for not being given observer status for the WHA meeting. It said health should not be politicized and barring Taiwan put the health of its people and the world’s health safety net at risk.

China’s foreign ministry said on Monday that Taiwan’s governing party only had itself to blame for the exclusion because it did not abide by the one-China principle.

“Taiwan’s inability to get an invitation completely lies with the fault of the DPP authorities,” the ministry said in a statement.

As it did last year, Taiwan will send a delegation to Geneva to argue its case and seek meetings with officials from attending countries and organizations.

Taiwan foreign ministry spokesman Andrew H.C. Lee said the delegation “will work together to push the work further and strive until the last minute”.

He said more than 10 friends and like-minded countries supported Taiwan’s request and would raise the issue at the meeting.

From 2009 to 2016, Taiwan participated in WHA meetings as an observer, under the name ‘Chinese Taipei’, a special arrangement that was agreed on by both sides during Taiwan’s more China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou administration.

Additional reporting by Michael Martina in BEIJING; Editing by Darren Schuettler