The Covid-19 pandemic underscores the need for accessible and equitable healthcare worldwide. Yet, despite the United Nations Charter declaring health as a universal right for all, Taiwan’s 23 million people are still excluded from the World Health Assembly (WHA) due to Chinese government pressure, violating their fundamental right to healthcare.

China argues against Taiwan’s entry into the World Health Organization (WHO), claiming Taiwan lacks statehood and that it represents Taiwanese people within the organization.

However, Taiwan is a fully sovereign state, and communist China has never ruled Taiwan and never contributed to Taiwan’s healthcare needs.

China’s recent military exercises against Taiwan following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022 and President Tsai Ing-Wen’s meeting with current US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles in April this year further refutes Beijing’s claim to represent and protect the interests of Taiwan’s people at the WHO. It is absurd that a regime threatening the health and safety of Taiwan’s people claims to represent them in the organization.

The exclusion of Taiwan from the WHO is not only unfair, but it also politicizes global health issues, which undermines the global response to public health crises.

Despite this exclusion, Taiwan has demonstrated a strong commitment to promoting global health and has made significant contributions to the worldwide health system, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, Taiwan has developed medical countermeasures to COVID-19, strengthening its capacity to innovate critical drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, Taiwan has issued 13 export licenses for its herbal formula NRICM101 (Taiwan Chingguan Yihau) to help countries in the region combat the pandemic.

In addition to its efforts during the pandemic, Taiwan has actively participated in international humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts, further demonstrating its commitment to global health and well-being.

After the war in Ukraine broke out, Taiwan assisted three Ukraine cities with the purchase of power generation and heating equipment and donated millions of dollars to procure equipment that will provide relief to frontline residents hit by the ravages of war.

Moreover, after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that rocked Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6 this year, the people and government of Taiwan have also donated more than US$40 million to help people affected by the disaster. It is, therefore, essential for Taiwan to participate in the WHO to strengthen global health efforts, identify and address emerging health threats, and ensure access to necessary resources and support.

The recent visit to Taiwan by the Canadian parliamentary delegation led by the Hon. John McKay shows Canada’s support for Taiwan, and underscores Taiwan’s crucial role in regional and global prosperity and stability. As the world’s 21st largest economy, Taiwan’s contribution to the global supply chain, particularly as a major supplier of advanced semiconductors, is of utmost importance.

Moreover, Taiwan is one of Canada’s fastest-growing trading partners. Millions of Taiwanese tourists travel to various destinations each year, promoting international trade, tourism and cultural exchange. These facts underline Taiwan’s significance as a global citizen and underscore the necessity of its inclusion in the WHO.

The upcoming annual WHA, the decision body of the WHO, is fast approaching.

Despite health being a universal human right, Taiwan remains excluded from the WHO system.

With a war currently underway in Europe due to Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s territorial integrity, it is crucial that Canada and the democratic world send a clear message that inclusivity and unity are pivotal in fostering a healthier and safer world. It is important to avoid indifference toward this goal. The WHO cannot sacrifice its principle of universality for the sake of obedience to Beijing.

It’s time, now more than ever, to support Taiwan’s participation in the WHA as an observer, as well as in all WHO meetings, activities, and mechanisms.