Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill, Monday, May 11, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

China pushes back against efforts by Canada to get Taiwan access at WHO

Issue is politically charged partially because of two Canadians detained in China

China responded sternly Monday to efforts by Canada and its allies to allow Taiwan access to the World Health Organization, telling the coalition of countries to essentially butt out of its internal affairs.

Canada, Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand, Britain, Japan and the U.S. have called on the WHO to give Taiwan observer status at an upcoming meeting of the organization set for next week.

Taiwan had early success in controlling the outbreak of COVID-19, and Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has told The Canadian Press that Taiwan’s presence as a non-state observer in the World Health Assembly meetings next week would help the pandemic fight.

The move is politically sensitive for Canada because it is in its own dispute with China over what it calls the “arbitrary” imprisonment of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

The issue clearly touched a nerve Monday in Beijing, where the spokesman for China’s foreign ministry was asked whether New Zealand — one of Monday’s signatories — had received assurances from China’s leaders that they would not push back against its efforts.

“China deplores and opposes them and has lodged representations with the New Zealand side,” said spokesman Zhao Lijian in an English transcript of his remarks posted on his ministry’s website.

China sees Taiwan as a breakaway region. Its status on the world stage is regularly the cause of diplomatic friction.

“On the Taiwan region’s participation in WHO activities, China’s position is clear and consistent. The one-China principle must be observed,” he added.

“The Taiwan authorities chose to play up its so-called participation in WHO events and return to the WHA at this moment. The timing reveals its true motive, which is to use the current outbreak to seek ‘Taiwan independence.’ It is out-and-out political manipulation.”

ALSO READ: Are COVID-19 mutations cause for alarm? Experts say no

While he was speaking directly to New Zealand’s participation, Zhao issued a warning that would apply to Canada and its allies, saying, “we are firmly resolved to uphold our sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. No one should entertain any illusion when it comes to matters concerning China’s core interests.”

In Ottawa, Scheer on Monday backed the Liberal government’s efforts to include Taiwan over any opposition from China.

“These types of entities which provide guidance and services to folks on the health and safety of people around the world should not be impacted by global politics and by the foreign policy positions of the PRC (People’s Republic of China),” Scheer said Monday.

Scheer also pointed out that his party has long called for Taiwan’s inclusion in organizations such as the WHO and the International Civil Aviation Organization, and said their work should not be influenced by China’s foreign policy.

Despite co-operation on health and trade since the pandemic’s outbreak, relations between Canada and China have been severely strained since the RCMP arrested Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou on an American extradition warrant in December 2018.

China arrested Kovrig and Spavor nine days later in what is widely viewed as retaliation and has levelled accusations of spying against the men. Canada has marshalled a broad coalition of international support calling for their release and that has angered Chinese leaders.

Taiwan is also squarely in the centre of the Trump administration’s dispute with China and the WHO. The U.S. has temporarily halted funding to the organization over its allegedly inadequate assessment of COVID-19’s early threat when the novel coronavirus was breaking out in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

ChinaCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP confirm man dead in Chilliwack shooting incident

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

UPDATE: Police oversight agency investigating after shots fired Saturday night in Chilliwack neighbourhood

RCMP reported a ‘distraught male’ fired at police officers on Christina Drive – IIO is on scene Sunday

Chilliwack Economic Recovery Network provides info for local businesses

Local retailers and restaurants are eager to get back to business in a way that’s safe.

Chilliwack mayor urges locals to shop local as stores open doors

Restaurants and retail are among the businesses allowed to re-open as B.C. heads into phase two.

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

‘Not a joke’: Promoter wants to rocket-launch man the length of White Rock pier

Brooke Colby says he’s building an eight-foot rocket in his backyard

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

Boy, 2, left with ‘soft tissue injuries’ after being hit by car in Squamish intersection

Boy was release from hospital, police continue to investigate

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Most Read