Below is a letter to the editor penned by H.E. Douglas C.T. Shen, Ambassador of the R.O.C. (Taiwan)
On April 8, 2020, in a press conference held by WHO, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus claimed that he was attacked by “racial slurs” from Taiwan. He also claimed that Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs “didn’t disassociate” from it. These wild accusations unfairly tarnish Taiwan’s international image and are absolutely baseless.
His unwarranted charges, made without any attempt at verification, have caused serious damage to the government and people of Taiwan. Such slander is irresponsible.
It is only reasonable that people of the world monitor the response of WHO and its leader to COVID-19. For good reasons, Dr Tedros and WHO have been held accountable for the lack of transparency and the delay in preemptive response to the pandemic.
As a democracy, the Government of Taiwan is not in the business of telling people what to think or say. Nor could it manage opinions from unidentified individuals of unknown nationalities on the internet. Taiwan is opposed to all forms of discrimination because it knows better than any other country what discrimination is all about. For years, it has been unjustifiably excluded from key international organisations such as WHO due to political interference from China.
As early as December 31, 2019, Taiwan has alerted WHO of the potential for human-to-human transmission of the new type of coronavirus originated from Wuhan, China. Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears. Had the world health body acted on the warning then instead of playing it down, the world could have gained two months of precious time to preempt the pandemic from spreading. Tens of thousands of lives could have been saved.
As COVID-19 ravages the world, WHO should engage Taiwan and take a page from its remarkable success in combating this global pandemic. Virus knows neither politics nor borders. The world needs to come together to combat the disease, leaving no one behind. Politicisation will not help Dr Tedros nor WHO better manage the health crisis.
Universal health care, advanced public health system and invaluable lessons learned from the 2003 SARS pandemic all prompted Taiwan to take expeditious preventive and proactive response measures against COVID-19. This has minimised the impact on citizens’ daily life through treatment, tracking, quarantine and mitigation, thus creating a widely recognised Taiwan Model that the international community envies.
Taiwan has also donated key supplies to frontline medical personnel in countries affected by the pandemic, including Saint Lucia. The whole world would benefit if WHO welcomes Taiwan with open arms and allows Taiwan to share its experience and expertise in managing infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases.
As head of WHO, Dr. Tedros should honour his pledge that “we are only as strong as we are united.” We once again call on WHO to put aside all political considerations and invite Taiwan to fully participate in all its meetings and mechanisms.