February 6, 2020 / 5:51 AM / 21 days ago

Taiwan accuses China of giving WHO wrong information about virus cases on island

TAIPEI/GENEVA (Reuters) - Taiwan accused China on Thursday of providing the World Health Organization (WHO) with wrong information about the number of coronavirus cases on the island, after the WHO published incorrect case numbers earlier this week.

FILE PHOTO: Foxconn employees wearing masks attend the company's year-end gala in Taipei, Taiwan January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Yimou Lee/File Photo

At the WHO headquarters in Geneva, the United States and China clashed over the issue of Taiwan’s exclusion from participating in WHO meetings, where it is represented by China.

On Tuesday, the WHO corrected the number of cases reported on the island after having said there were 13. At the time Taiwan had only 10. Taiwan said on Thursday there were now 13 cases.

Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told a news conference that the crux of the problem was China giving the wrong case number details to the WHO.

“This was wrong information that was provided by China which created the mistake,” she said.

Ou said Taiwan had also protested to the WHO for again changing how they refer to the island, which it now calls “Taipei and environs”, having previously called it “Taiwan, China”, then “Taipei municipality” and then just “Taipei”.

“We beseech the WHO not to put Taiwan’s information under China, creating mistake after mistake after mistake.”

Taiwan says the main consequence of that so far has been Italy including Taiwan in its ban on flights from China.

Taiwan is not a WHO member because China, which views the island as a wayward Chinese province and not a country, says it adequately represents Taiwan in the organisation.

Democratically governed Taiwan says it is an independent country called the Republic of China - its formal name - and has never been part of the People’s Republic of China.

“For the rapidly evolving coronavirus, it is a technical imperative that WHO present visible public health data on Taiwan as an affected area and engage directly with Taiwan public health authorities on actions,” Andrew Bremberg, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, told the WHO Executive Board.

Japan supported this stance, with Ambassador Ken Okaniwa telling the forum: “We should not make a geographical vacuum by creating a situation where a specific region cannot join WHO even as an observer”.

Cong Ze, a Chinese diplomat speaking at the WHO, expressed its “strong dissatisfaction” that some countries had raised the issue of Taiwan’s participation at the technical meeting.

China’s foreign ministry, in a faxed statement to Reuters, said the case numbers it reported to the WHO for Taiwan all came from Taiwan’s government.

“If there are mistakes, this is the relevant authorities in the Taiwan region deliberately reporting mistakes to us,” it said.

The WHO did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the figures.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Gabriel Crossley, Beijing and David Stanway in Shanghai; Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Frances Kerry

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