Nearly 200 House members are calling on the World Health Organization (WHO) to allow Taiwan to join its annual global health summit amid a concerted effort by China to block the island from admittance for the second year in a row.
In a letter sent Wednesday to WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus, a bipartisan group of 172 lawmakers accused the group of being “complicit in Beijing’s campaign to keep Taiwan out of meaningful participation in assemblies” like the World Health Assembly (WHA).
Despite the backing of key allies, including the United States, Taiwan failed to secure an invitation for the five-day summit ahead of a May 7 deadline.
“Global health and safety should not be held hostage to China’s political objectives,” the letter says.
“Taiwan has a long history of generous contributions to international efforts to prevent epidemics and provide critical humanitarian aid following natural disasters. It has been an important participant in global efforts to prevent, monitor, contain, and treat infectious diseases, and has demonstrated its good global citizenship through humanitarian efforts both within the Asia-Pacific region and around the world.”
The letter, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R., Calif.) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), arrives five days before the meeting is set to begin on Monday.
Last year marked the first time in eight years that Taiwan was denied a place as an observer at the annual WHA due to pressure from Beijing as part of a broader effort to isolate the island.
Taiwan’s health minister, Chen Shih-chung, has vowed to send a delegation to the event regardless of whether Taipei is invited to contribute to the international fight against diseases and epidemics.
A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation in April calling on the secretary of state to layout a strategy for Taiwan to regain its observer status in WHO prior to the health summit at the end of the month. Though a similar bill passed through the House at the beginning of the year, the Senate version has yet to move out of committee.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.), co-chair of the U.S. Senate Taiwan Caucus, said in a statement last month it is “clear that China’s diplomatic bullying efforts are responsible for blocking Taiwan’s invitation.”