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The Chinese embassy in Vilnius on Wednesday expressed "strong dissatisfaction" with Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius' call to invite Taiwan to next week's World Health Assembly (WHA).
Linas Linkevičius
Linas Linkevičius
© DELFI / Domantas Pipas

Beijing, which threatens to regain control of the island, says Taiwan's participation is out of consideration. Meanwhile, Taipei’s representatives welcomed Linkevicius' position, saying political disagreements should be put aside for the sake of preserving lives.

China: this is out of consideration

Linkevicius earlier on Wednesday called on Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), to invite Taiwan as an observer to the assembly so that the island nation could share its experience in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I emphasized that we respect and do not question the 'One China' policy, but in practical expert terms, Taiwan's participation as an observer would be helpful," the foreign minister told BNS after his telephone conversation with the WHO director general.

"We would hope that China might perhaps agree to that, because we know that consensus among the parties is needed," he added.

However, this draw "strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition" from Beijing.

"The Chinese Embassy in Lithuania expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to Mr. Linas Linkevicius, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Lithuania, for his call on WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, inviting Taiwan authorities as an observer to the upcoming 73rd WHA," the embassy said in its comment to BNS.

"Mr. Linas Linkevicius openly supporting Taiwan authorities' participation in WHA, has sent a misleading signal to Taiwan secessionists," it said.

"Since the current Taiwan authorities refuse to recognize One-China principle and seeking the secession from China, therefore, the political precondition for Taiwan authorities’ observer status to WHA no longer exists. In such a context, the Chinese government firmly opposes Taiwan separatist authorities’ participation in WHA in any form."

According to the embassy, there are no obstacles for Taiwan experts to work with the WHO at technical levels, but "any form of representation at WHA is totally out of political considerations".

"Such political motivation serves no good to the global combat against COVID-19 pandemic," it said.

Taiwan thanks Lithuania

Next week's annual meeting of the WHA, the WHO's decision-making body, will focus on the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The WHO leadership says it has no mandate to invite Taiwan without the consent of member states.

Taiwan's participation has been strongly supported by the United States, but blocked by China which has not ruled out regaining control of the island by force, calling any support to Taiwan interference with its internal affairs.

Andy Chin, the Riga-based head of Taipei's mission to the Baltics countries, says Taiwan's sharing of its experience at the World Health Assembly would benefit the world as a whole.

"This is an encouragement to Taiwan, to our people. We know that (...) in fighting against this virus, we do our best because we have the experience with SARS in 2003," he said, commenting on Linkevicius' position.

Taiwan, an island of 23 million people just off the coast of China, has reported 440 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including seven deaths.

Chin attributed Taiwan's success to its good health system and the authorities' transparency that inspired public confidence.

"We believe that (to combat) the virus and to preserve people, we should put the political consideration aside, because (protecting) people's lives is the most important thing," he said.

BNS
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