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China thwarts Taiwan's global ambitions

Taiwanese vent their feelings about the prospect of returning to the Chinese fold
Taiwanese vent their feelings about the prospect of returning to the Chinese fold  

Staff and wires

GENEVA, Switzerland -- China has used its vote and its weight in the international community to deny Taiwan its bid for observer status in the World Health Organization.

Despite support from the United States and European Union, China voted against the acceptance of Taiwan and, according to Taiwan's Foreign Ministry, persuaded several countries to reject the bid.

The rejection of Taiwan's sixth attempt to join the WHO comes despite the island's decision to apply as a "health entity" instead of a country.

Without giving names, the foreign ministry said delegates from several countries without formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan said they did not support the bid because of "immense pressure" from China.

The World Health Assembly, the 191-member WHO decision-making body, decided not to include the Taiwan issue on the agenda of its annual meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

Only six of Taiwan's allies spoke in favor of the Taiwan bid, while 17 countries, including France and Spain, spoke against it, Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said. The United States and Japan did not express an opinion, it said.

This was despite U.S. President George W. Bush signing a bill authorizing the State Department to help Taiwan gain observer status.

In March, the European parliament passed a non-binding resolution urging European Union nations to support Taiwan at this year's meeting.

Big blow

The decision comes as a blow to Taiwan's goal of making its presence felt in the international political stage. China regards the self-ruled island as a rogue state that belongs to China. The two sides split amid civil war in 1949.

Taiwan claims its bid is driven by humanitarian issues, and aims to press for international health assistance for the 23 million people on the island.

China has said Taiwan has sufficient access to health assistance from the mainland, and does not require assistance from the WHO.

In the past, the island has tried applying under its official name, the Republic of China.

Taiwan wished to "express our sincere thanks" to all those who showed support for the island's WHO bid, the ministry said in a statement.


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