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Taiwan Asks to Join World Health Organization

For the past 10 years, Taiwan has been trying to achieve observer status at the World Health Assembly, the supreme decision-making body of the World Health Organization. For the past 10 years, China has prevented it from gaining that status. Next week the annual session of the World Health Assembly begins in Geneva and Taiwan is going to try again for membership. Lisa Schlein has more from Geneva.

Taiwan lost its membership in the World Health Organization in 1972, a year after losing its U.N. seat to Beijing, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan. The WHO has rejected Taiwan's bid for membership ever since.

Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian, sent WHO a letter about a month ago applying once again for membership. But the answer still appears to be no.

In a videoconference from Taiwan on Friday he said the WHO secretariat had rejected its request because Taiwan is not a sovereign state and, therefore, ineligible for WHO membership.

In an opinion piece in Friday's Washington Post, Mr. Chen says the WHO has jeopardized the health of the people in Taiwan by allowing China to have the final word about membership in the health organization.

But the president of the Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan, Dr. Wu Shuh-min, tells VOA that Taiwan will continue its campaign to join the World Health Organization.

"Through the years, everybody was telling us you should not politicize these whole issue," he said. "And we have been asking for international community to accept us for the reason of human security and the human rights. Yet there is no response for the last 10 years. And, so we really feel no matter how humble we are ... the results are the same."

Taiwan's bid for observer status will come up at the opening of the annual World Health Assembly that begins Monday. Dr. Wu is hoping other countries will follow the United States and Japan in supporting its bid.