Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lost in the Mail: PRC fails to deliver vital health alerts to Taiwan

What do the government of China and the classic computer game "Oregon Trail" have in common?

They both will give you the occasional case of dysentery:

The government of China recently delayed relaying crucial information provided to it by the World Health Organization (WHO) to Taiwan for 10 days, an unnecessary decision that risked exposing thousands of Taiwanese to the deadly bacterial disease dysentery.

The news came from within the WHO that Thailand had recently exported several shipments of baby corn that were possibly contaminated with the pathogenic bacteria Shigella dysenteriae, which, when ingested, induces the deadliest form of the disease dysentery. Taiwan is barred from membership in the WHO as it is an organization under the umbrella of the United Nations. The government of the People's Republic of China, due to its consistently irrational bouts of paranoia regarding Taiwan's international status, has repeatedly pressured the WHO to sign memoranda of understanding (MOUs), some of which are classified, which more or less assure Beijing that the World Health Organization will continue to toe the China line.

Meanwhile, the 23 million citizens of Taiwan have been excluded from direct representation in the organization, an alarming fact that represents a gaping hole in the global health, disease control and response network the WHO was formed to maintain. Of course, the PRC claims that Taiwan is covered by the WHO, as the island is supposedly a province of China -- a dilusionary assertion that the international community is forced to accept.

The consequence of this policy of appeasement towards Beijing is that the global health network remains incomplete, at great risk not only to the 23 million people on Taiwan but indeed to people everywhere. Imagine what happens when the government of China decides to use the same stalling tactics if, say, they are informed that an airborne pathogen has possibly traveled to Taiwan. As a large shipping and commercial transportation hub, such a disease could easily leapfrog all over the planet using Taiwan as a departure point before Beijing decides it has the time of day to let the authorities on Taiwan know about it. Such a global risk taken for the sake of Beijing's hubris is unacceptable.

These recent developments provide a case in point. Beijing claims that Taiwan is a territory that falls under its jurisdiction, yet when the international community agrees to go along with this bogus idea, China's government consistently shirks all responsibilities regarding Taiwan. Not only does it consistently wave military threats under Taiwan's nose and take every measure to isolate Taiwan's people politically and economically, the PRC government also apparently finds it acceptable to wait ten whole days to inform the people of Taiwan that, sorry:


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