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Participation of Taiwan in World Health Organization

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Participation of Taiwan in World Health Organization -- (House of Representatives - April 21, 2004)

Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 4019) to address the participation of Taiwan in the World Health Organization, as amended.

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Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on H.R. 4019, the bill under consideration.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Ohio?

There was no objection.

Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Brown), for his leadership in this effort to obtain observer status for Taiwan at the annual week-long summit held by the World Health Organization in May of each year. My colleague has spearheaded this campaign for many years, and I am pleased to join him once again.

I also want to thank Brett Gibson of the staff of the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Brown), who has done a great job working on this issue.

The people of Taiwan have a great deal to offer to the international community. It is terribly unfortunate that while Taiwan's achievements in the medical field are certainly substantial, and it has expressed the repeated willingness to assist both financially and technically in World Health Organization activities, it has not been allowed to do so because of the intransigence of the Communist Chinese Government.

It is a travesty that during times of crisis, such as the 1998 entovirus outbreak in Taiwan that killed 70 children and infected hundreds and hundreds more, the World Health Organization was unable to help. When an earthquake in 1999 claimed more than 2,000 lives, we learned in published reports that the Chinese Government, whose belligerent insistence that Taiwan be denied a role in international organizations, demanded that any aid for Taiwan provided by U.N. organizations and the Red Cross receive prior approval from the dictators in Beijing. And when the SARS outbreak killed so many in Taiwan last year, the PRC objected to WHO assistance for its neighbor.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson has stated that the people of Taiwan deserve the same level of public health as citizens of every nation on earth, and we support them in their efforts to achieve it. We can show that support by adopting this legislation that would authorize the Secretary of State to endorse and obtain observer status for Taiwan at the annual summit of the World Health assembly and introduce a resolution in support of observer status.

This legislation also makes permanent the reporting requirement mandating an account of our government's efforts at the assembly and the steps the Secretary will take to endorse and obtain observer status at the next meeting of the assembly.

In the face of the AIDS pandemic, the threat of bioterrorism, and vicious infectious diseases like avian flu, the need for international cooperation in public health matters has never been more critical.

But despite the danger of health threats stalking the world's population, 23 million residents of the island of Taiwan continue to be banned from participation in and cooperating with the work of the World Health Organization. Taiwan's exclusion from the World Health Organization is not simply a political question, it is a question of humanity. It is an injury to the lives and well-being of the Taiwanese people, and a lost opportunity to defeat disease, humanity's common enemy.

Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that demands we put aside narrow political considerations in the interest of human welfare. It demands the attention of the international community, and it demands the attention of the United States. Beyond these humanitarian considerations that would apply to people anywhere in the world if granted observer status at the World Health Organization, Taiwan would be uniquely positioned to help strengthen the infrastructure of the international public health system.

The damage from the potential exclusion from World Health Organization does not stop at the island's shoreline. Taiwan's continued forced isolation from the world health community stands to impact the health of all of the countries in East Asia and the greater international community. Diseases do not recognize political boundaries, a fact demonstrated during the 2003 outbreak of SARS, as I mentioned previously. Taiwan's highly trained medical personnel, outstanding medical facilities and respected scientific community would be a tremendous resource to global health professionals working to combat disease. Furthermore, despite its arbitrary exclusion from the World Health Organization and the annual World Health Assembly in Geneva, Taiwan has made generous financial contributions to international efforts to improve public health throughout the world, including a $1 million donation to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

In the context of such compelling arguments for Taiwan's participation in the global network of medical information and organizations represented by the World Health Organization, its continuing exclusion is illogical and dangerous. It is a reality that has been perpetuated through the threats and posturing of the People's Republic of China, a government whose outrageous behavior during last year's SARS epidemic clearly demonstrated an unwillingness to act responsibly in safeguarding the health of citizens on the mainland or Taiwan.

It is my hope and that of other cosponsors of this legislation that our government will take vigorous steps to immediately right this wrong. This legislation calls on the head of the American delegation at the World Health Organization to speak out forcefully on the floor of the World Health Assembly in support of the right of the people of Taiwan to meaningful participation in the international public health community.

The manager's amendment contains a modification on the bill as introduced. It extends beyond calendar year 2004 the authorization for the Secretary of State to seek observer status for Taiwan at the World Health Assembly and to report to Congress on the same.

I would conclude by thanking the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Brown) and his staff for leadership on this bill, and also the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Wexler) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Rohrabacher), who are cochairs of the Taiwan Caucus.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to recognize several of the staff who have been instrumental on bringing this forth today. On the majority side, I would like to recognize Sarah Tilleman and Dennis Halpin for their very hard work; and on the minority side, I would like to recognize and thank Paul Oostburg and Bob King for their service and the hard work they have put in to make this possible today.

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Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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