The Ma Administration's response to the WHO flap reached a new low as the Minister of Health -- well, I'd like to say fired off a letter but I really don't know what verb phrase to reach for here. Anyway, somehow this marvelous communication was forwarded to its proper recipient, and was duly made public, where it immediately became the target of widespread laughter.
For it shows, more brilliantly than a PhD-length piece ever could, the Ma gov'ts contortions in trying to serve Beijing and get elected at the same time.
In the English translation, whenever the term "the nation", "our country", etc appears in the Chinese, the Minister substitutes "my" and "I" and "our". For example, the opening sentence in Chinese expresses the nation's utmost dissatisfaction with a policy that was no doubt negotiated by the KMT in the first place, in the English version, "I" am expressing utmost dissatisfaction. Similarly, down in paragraph six, "our nation's delegation" becomes "my delegation."
In paragraph two there is an interesting moment -- the term ROC is never used and the sovereignty of that nation is never insisted upon -- indeed, the author never names what nation he represents -- in English the writer refers to "the Department of Health of Chinese Taipei" but in Chinese the mysterious, never to be named nation appears as "Our nation's Department of Health". Taiwan appears a couple of times in the stock phrase "23 million people of Taiwan," as well as "Taiwan and its adjacent waterways and islands" and of course in the complaint itself. His signature says he is an official of "Chinese Taipei."
It is hard to imagine what the government was thinking -- did they not realize that anyone could compare the two letters to see how they handled the issue of ROC/Taiwan sovereignty and how they represented themselves to the WHO? Didn't any of the political appointees think of the coming election? Because it sure looks like they were stumbling over themselves to appease Beijing. Indeed, Ma himself, and his administration, often appear weak and floundering -- here was an opportunity to act tough at no cost, since the WHO isn't going to change its policy on Taiwan. Instead, they weaseled, and confirmed everyone's worst opinions.
Lost in this attempt to fog over what Taiwan is, the Minister is dead right on one point: the WHO is in violation of its own regulations in placing responsibility for the health of the Taiwanese with Beijing rather than with the Taiwan government (see paragraph 2). The WHO looks even worse for the wear.
Amazingly, a US official actually weighed in on the debate, even with a gaggle of Chinese brass in the US to re-establish mil-mil ties. Yes, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, had a few words for the WHO:
US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said yesterday that no UN agency has the right to unilaterally determine Taiwan’s status. Sebelius’ remarks came amid ongoing controversy over Taiwan’s designation in the WHO.We made it clear to the UN appears to be an oblique reference to the flap in 2008 when then-President Chen Shui-bian sent a letter to UN Sec-Gen Ban Ki-moon indicating Taiwan's interest in joining the world body and Ban erroneously responded that Taiwan was considered part of China by the UN. The US warned Ban that this was not the position of the United States nor other powers. Note that Sebelius' remarks are a version of the US position that the status of Taiwan is undetermined and that the issue must be settled peacefully -- kudos either to her for understanding this or to whoever briefed her. And thanks to whoever decided to permit her to say something.
“We have made it very clear to the WHO and I think the United States’ position is that no organization of the UN has a right to unilaterally determine the position of Taiwan,” Sebelius said on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva when asked by press about the matter. “It needs to be a resolution that includes China and Taiwan in a discussion and we would very much welcome that road forward.”
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