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

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Single-engine aircraft crashes near Telkwa

Two occupants of the plane sustained minor injuries and were transported to hospital

Cullen announces bid for provincial NDP nomination for Stikine riding

Current MLA Donaldson not seeking re-election

Northern Health records 1st fatality due to COVID-19

Six people died from the novel coronavirus on the weekend, health officials confirm

Police look for vehicle, male driver after incident involving girl, 11

The driver was described as an older Caucasian male with white hair, no glasses, and no facial hair

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

B.C.’s Chase Claypool catches first NFL touchdown pass

Abbotsford grad establishes new record for longest scrimmage TD by a Canadian

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving Mission RCMP cell, police say; family has doubts

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Most Read