Taiwan’s incoming government is accusing China of “political interference” after a senior Chinese official cast doubt over the island’s observer status in the World Health Organisation.
Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office, China’s top agency that deals with the island, said Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly is based on the “one China” principle and that this could cease if bilateral relations deteriorate further, Reuters reports, citing state news agency Xinhua.
Taiwan has attended the annual gathering of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO, since 2009 as an observer.
Tung Chen-yuan, a spokesman for the income Taiwanese government, said Ma’s comments are unacceptable.
China and Taiwan have had warming relations under the outgoing government which was run by China-friendly Nationalists.
But ties have begun to strain with their successors, the independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Tsai and the DPP won landslide presidential and parliamentary elections in January, in part on rising anti-China sentiment on the island.
She has said she will maintain the status quo with China but has never conceded to a key bilateral agreement, the “one China” principle.
Under this agreement with the Nationalists, Taiwan and China agree they are both part of a single China although both sides lay claim to being its legitimate government.
“We believe this is political interference in our participation in the WHO. We cannot accept this and express our solemn protest,” Tung said at a press conference on Sunday.
“Taiwan people’s health and their right to fully participate in the international community must not be constrained by any political framework,” he said.
China considers self-ruled Taiwan a wayward province ever since defeated Nationalists fled to the island after a civil war with China’s Communists in 1949.
Beijing has never renounced the use of force to take back the island, particularly if it makes moves toward independence.
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