An internal World Health Organization note calling Taiwan part of China generated a splashy protest from Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who called it 'belittlement' of the island’s ever sensitive political status.
But the Sept. 14 internal note made public this week generated an unusually splashy protest from Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who called it “belittlement” of the island’s ever-sensitive political status and a breach of the UN agency’s rules.
The note on dealing with Taiwan calls the self-ruled island of 23 million people a “province of China” rather than "Chinese Taipei," the government says. Taiwan and the WHO agreed to the second name, which sidesteps the question of whether Beijing has sovereignty over the island, when they won rights in 2009 to attend the UN body's World Health Assembly as an observer.
Mr. Ma seized upon the memo as an opening reelection campaign gambit, say political experts. The presidential race that started in April and culminates with a vote on Jan. 14 pits Ma – sometimes criticized locally as too pro-Beijing – against an opposition party widely considered tougher on issues involving China. This week the president has held a rare press conference on the WHO memo and asked the foreign ministry to lodge a protest with the WHO. His government says it also will take up the issue at the World Health Assembly.