China opposed any move by Taiwan to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a “pretext” to seek independence, its Embassy in New Delhi said on Thursday.Taiwan was looking to “hype up Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organisation (WHO)” while “their real intention is to solicit foreign support and seek independence under the pretext of the pandemic”, the Chinese Embassy said in a statement.“We are firmly opposed to that and have repeatedly clarified our position,” said the statement, which was issued in response to comments made by Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu in an interview with The Hindu on Wednesday.Mr. Wu said Taiwan’s status had limited its ability to share information about COVID-19 and its arrangement with the WHO was “far from satisfactory”. He called for “full participation” in the WHO and for Taiwan to interact with countries on “an equal basis”.Taiwan is not a member of the WHO. China has opposed its inclusion in the World Health Assembly (WHA), the organisation’s decision-making body, citing the ‘One China principle’, although Taiwan participated in the WHA as an observer from 2009 to 2016.Relations have been strained after the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) election win in 2016. In the statement, the Embassy said the DPP “has been stubbornly adhering to ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist status” and “undermined the political foundation for the region’s participation in the WHA”.India is among the 179 of the 193 member states of the UN that do not maintain any diplomatic ties with Taiwan. While the U.S. has been pushing for Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHA, the move will require a simple majority from member states.Also read | India caught in U.S.-China spat over Taiwan’s status at WHOAhead of next week’s WHA meet, India has found itself in the middle as it takes over as chairperson of the executive board. The government is yet to make a final decision on whether to support the U.S. move to include Taiwan or to accept China’s objections to it, officials said.Final view“The agenda of the WHA meeting still being evolved,” an official said on Thursday. “We will take a final view [on the Taiwan inclusion issue] depending on how the agenda evolves.”The Chinese Embassy statement rebutted Taiwan’s claims that it had been excluded from the WHO and that it had provided an early warning on the pandemic that had been ignored.Taiwan sent an email on December 31 to the WHO, the same day Wuhan authorities alerted the body, and asked for more information about the outbreak. The email, later made public, did not provide any new information or warning about the pandemic, as was initially claimed. The WHO, which has faced questions over its initial response to the pandemic, did not follow up with Taiwan’s request for information.Also read | U.S. increases support for Taiwan in recognition battle with China | China, U.S. spar over Taiwan“The Taiwan region is never excluded from the WHO global anti-epidemic system,” the Chinese Embassy said. “As of May 6, China’s mainland had updated Taiwan on the epidemic situation 148 times. The WHO has also clarified many times that Taiwan has not made an alert, but only sought more information… The so-called statement that Taiwan first issued a warning but did not receive the attention from the WHO is purely groundless.”Also read | Taiwan, WHO clash over ‘early warning’ claim“We urge the relevant Indian media take a correct stance on issues of core interests concerning China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, adhere to the one-China principle, do not provide platform for ‘Taiwan independence’ forces, and avoid sending wrong messages to the public,” the statement said.
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