Tsai urges WHO to include Taiwan after virus case confirmed

Taipei (AFP) –


Taiwan should not be blocked from international bodies such as the World Health Organization, its president said Wednesday, a day after the island confirmed its first case of a SARS-like virus from China.

The self-ruled island has found itself blocked from major world bodies under pressure from Beijing, which views Taiwan as its territory and has vowed to one day seize it by force if necessary.

The emergence of a new deadly coronavirus in China has highlighted the island's isolated existence, something President Tsai Ing-wen said should change.

"Political considerations should not surpass protection for the people," she told reporters, adding that Taiwan's 23 million inhabitants face the same health risks and threats as the rest of the world.

"I want to again urge the WHO not to exclude Taiwan for political reasons. Taiwan is on the frontline of global infectious disease prevention. The WHO should have a space for Taiwan's participation," she said.

Tsai won a landslide second term in elections earlier this month but is loathed by Beijing because she and her party refuse to acknowledge the idea that Taiwan is part of "one China".

On Tuesday, Taiwan reported its first case of the new virus as the government warned the public against travelling to the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease first emerged.

Tsai called on China to be "open and transparent" about the new outbreak as well as sharing information with Taiwan "fully and accurately".

Taiwan has been blocked from a growing number of international organisations -- including major aviation and medical bodies -- since Tsai was first elected in 2016.

Beijing has also cut official communication with Taipei, ramped up economic pressure and poached some of Taiwan's dwindling number of diplomatic allies.

It has also pressured businesses to list Taiwan as a province of China rather than its own territory.

In 2017, Taiwan was denied access to the World Health Assembly (WHA) -- the WHO's main meeting -- for the first time in eight years and has been unable to attend since.

Tsai's government has accused the WHO of succumbing to political pressure from Beijing.