Taiwan has been guaranteed direct access to the World Health Organization's (WHO) global health alerts, a mainland official said yesterday.
The mainland had consulted the WHO secretariat to make relevant arrangements to apply the International Health Regulations (IHR) to Taiwan, State Council Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Fan Liqing told a press conference.
The regulation supports a global health alert mechanism to stem the spread of disease and provide a public health response plan, the WHO said.
The latest development shows the mainland government sincerely cares about Taiwan compatriots' health and has adopted many practical and positive measures to this end, Fan said.
She also said the Chinese government's actions demonstrated that "we are highly responsible in regard to global epidemic prevention".
Under the regulations, Taiwan health experts now enjoy open channels to receive technology and information from the WHO. The WHO will send global public health alerts directly to Taiwan, rather than through the mainland, and involve the Taiwan Center for Disease Control (CDC) in its discussions on epidemic prevention.
Experts will also be sent to Taiwan in the event of an epidemic outbreak.
Taiwan media reported late last month that Taiwan had been accepted by the WHO's IHR as the "contact point".
That means Taiwan can communicate directly with the WHO on issues like major disease outbreaks, epidemic prevention and food safety, rather than having to go through the mainland, in accordance with a 2005 agreement between the mainland and the WHO, the Taiwan-based United Daily News reported.
Major Taiwan media considered the new arrangement with the IHR a breakthrough in Taiwan's participation in international activities.
More open stance
Wu Nengyuan, director of the institute of Taiwan studies affiliated to Fujian Academy of Social Sciences, said Taiwan's inclusion in the IHR shows the mainland government is taking a more open stance on Taiwan's activities abroad.
But he also said: "I do not think the time is right to tackle all the problems of Taiwan's participation in international organizations beyond the possibility of the two sides intensifying discussions on Taiwan's title and status when joining international organizations."
On the last day of 2008, President Hu Jintao issued six proposals to promote the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations.
He stressed the mainland is willing to discuss proper and reasonable arrangements for the island's participation in international organizations as long as it does not create the impression that there are "two Chinas" or "one China and one Taiwan".
The IHR was set up in 1969 as a mechanism to prevent the spread of diseases across national borders. It was revised and implemented in 2007, adding SARS and bird flu into its reporting chain. Taiwan applied for membership in 2007 but its plea was rejected.
(China Daily 02/12/2009 page2)