The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) attempts to pressure Australia to back off calls for an international investigation into China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China, appear to have backfired as Australia now supports Taiwan rejoining the World Health Organization (WHO) after it was ousted by Beijing in 2016.
“The position, which follows an appeal from Taiwan’s Health Minister, is consistent with Australia’s long-held view that Taiwan should be able to participate in practical cooperation at the UN health agency,” The Sydney Morning Herald reported. “Australia and China’s foreign ministries have traded barbs over the past week, leading to accusations of bullying, coercion and intimidation as the Morrison government pushes global calls into an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.”
Taiwan warned the WHO in December about the coronavirus epidemic that was growing inside China but was ignored. FT reports:
Taiwan said its doctors had heard from mainland colleagues that medical staff were getting ill — a sign of human-to-human transmission. Taipei officials said they reported this to both International Health Regulations (IHR), a WHO framework for exchange of epidemic prevention and response data between 196 countries, and Chinese health authorities on December 31.
Taiwanese government officials told the Financial Times the warning was not shared with other countries.
Australia is expected to formalize its call for an international investigation into China during the World Health Assembly on May 17.
“The challenge of COVID-19 demands a determined, global response. The WHO must therefore maintain a close working relationship with all health authorities,” a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told The Sydney Morning Herald. “We support Taiwan’s participation as an observer or guest, consistent with our one-China policy.”
Taiwan is only eligible for observer status at the WHO because China claims that Taiwan is not its own nation and is essentially a province that belongs to China. The Council on Foreign Relations reported:
While Beijing will never accept Taiwan’s formal entry into organizations that require statehood, lesser forms of participation are possible. For example, during the 2008–2016 political detente between Beijing and Taiwan’s Kuomintang (KMT) government, Taiwan was invited to be an observer at the [World Health Assembly] WHA under the name “Chinese Taipei.” This invitation, however, had to be renewed annually with China’s approval, and Taiwan was blocked from most WHO technical meetings where important health information and decisions were discussed. Since Taiwan elected [pro-independence] President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)—which Beijing condemns—in 2016, Taiwan has not been able to return to the WHA.
The news comes after China tried to threaten Australia with economic punishments if it continued to press ahead with support for investigations into China.
“Ambassador Cheng Jingye on Monday said the push was ‘dangerous’ and could encourage Chinese citizens to not purchase Australian exports or travel to the nation,” Sky News Australia reported. “The government however is not backing down from the call for an independent inquiry, with Foreign Minister Marise Payne criticizing the threat of an economic hit due to the push.”