UN Agencies Criticized for Taiwan Exclusion Amid Virus

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U.S. politicians, including Senators Mitt Romney and Cory Gardner, criticized international organizations for excluding Taiwan amid a global effort to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

China has placed pressure on the World Health Organization, International Civil Aviation Organization and International Criminal Police Organization to exclude Taiwan from discussions, Romneysaid, echoing calls for immediate inclusion of the island. The U.S. State Department alsocriticized ICAO for allegedly blocking users on Twitter who make reference to Taiwan’s non-participation.

While the international community works contain thefast-spreading coronavirus, they are also trying to navigate ageopolitical minefield. China considers Taiwan a part of its territory despite the People’s Republic never having controlled the island, and treats any talk of formal independence as deeply hostile. China has increased pressure on internationalbrands over the past few years to avoid calling Taiwan a country.

The WHO declared the virus a public health emergency of international concern on Thursday, but didn’t permit Taiwan to attend emergency briefings, sparking criticism from the U.S. andCanada. There are 10 confirmed cases of the virus in Taiwan.

While Taiwan’s government was a founding member of the United Nations, the People’s Republic of China took its seat in the body, and all subordinate organizations such as the WHO and ICAO, in 1971.

“Taiwan has a relevant and credible voice on transnational health issues, and the United States has long supported its active engagement in international venues, including ICAO, where its expertise can be beneficial,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

“We call upon ICAO to immediately and permanently reverse its practice of blocking discussion of Taiwan on its Twitter properties and make clear publicly its understanding that freedom of expression must always supersede the political insecurities of member states,” she said.

ICAO, the aviation agency of the United Nations, denied blocking Twitter users.

Italy confirmed two coronavirus cases on Friday, and decided to suspend all flights from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Macao until Apr. 28. Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu on Sunday asked Italy to drop its ban on flights from the island, saying the decision is based on information which includes Taiwan as part of China.

The ban affects Taiwan-based carriers China Airlines and EVA Airways. Vietnam on Saturday had banned Taiwan flights as well, but withdrew the decision hours later after Taiwan negotiated with its government.

Taiwan hasslapped an entry ban to residents of China’s residents of Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak, as well as those from the southern Guangdong province. Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung said in a briefing Saturday that the ministry won’t rule out extending the ban to more Chinese provinces if necessary.

— With assistance by Miaojung Lin

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