Today, as the World Health Assembly (WHA) resumes its annual meeting online, it has been found that messages that contain the word “Taiwan” are blocked from appearing in the comments section below a live-streaming video of the event on Facebook.

In Taiwan, social media users have tried to leave comments like “Taiwan can help,” a slogan initiated by the Taiwanese government to gain global recognition for its successful handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, but to no avail, with a red exclamation mark appearing next to their text. “Formosa,” another name for the island of Taiwan, is also banned.

Since Facebook fan pages allow admins to block comments containing certain words, this is a clear example of the World Health Organization (WHO) censoring content relating to Taiwan, an anonymous expert told DW.

“If that is true, it would be an outrage to see the WHO and Facebook teaming up to do China’s dirty work of censoring the success story in the fight against COVID-19,” said Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), Taiwan’s Representative to the United States. In a tweet, she said it is “[t]roubling that the WHO is taking on the CCP’s habit of censorship,” after several failed attempts to leave messages.

To counteract the censorship, Taiwanese Facebook users have come up with creative ways to bypass the blocking by mixing texts with special characters and diacritical marks, like “T@!wan c@n help.” Interestingly, “President Tsai can help,” the comment left by Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), the deputy secretary-general of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, was not blocked.

But “Taiwan” does not seem to be the only word that the WHO seeks to censor. Some found that phrases like “China Wuhan Pneumonia” and “China virus” are blocked, too.

This incident added to Taiwanese people’s anger at the WHO, which bows to Chinese pressure to exclude Taiwan from the WHA, the policy-making body for the organization, again. Despite its effective response to the pandemic, Taiwan is still rejected from participating in the meeting this year due to the organization’s One-China policy.


Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG Images

Devotees wear protective face masks, to protect themselves from the coronavirus (COVID-19), while praying at Lungshan Temple in Taipei, Taiwan, March 12, 2020. Taiwan has won global praise for its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

From 2009 to 2016, Taiwan attended the WHA as an observer under the name “Chinese Taipei” when Taiwan’s relations with China were warm under the administration of the former President Ma Ying-jeou, who favors close ties with China. But its participation has been blocked since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016.

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) told the media today that Taiwan is dissatisfied with the WHO’s decision to exclude Taiwan from the meeting and has lodged a protest.

On Tuesday, Eswatini and Belize, two of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, lauded Taiwan for its success in containing the pandemic and voiced support for its participation in the WHA in a session meeting, but were interrupted by the Norwegian chair Bjørn-Inge Larsen, who asked them not to “discuss this issue of observer” in their addresses.

In a statement on Facebook, President Tsai said there have been 644 parliamentarians from 25 European countries who have written to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to highlight the need for Taiwan’s presence in the WHA, and another 106 parliamentarians from four central European and three Baltic countries have endorsed their backing for Taiwan’s presence in the WHO in a joint letter to the head of the organization.

The United States, Japan, and Australia have also spoken out in support of Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHA meeting.

台灣爭取參加WHA  紐約時報刊全版廣告

Photo Credit: CNA

Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a full-page in the New York Times to call for global support for Taiwan's participation in the WHO, November 9.

To raise awareness for Taiwan’s inclusion in the meeting, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a full-page ad in the New York Times on Monday with the slogan “Taiwan Can Help.”

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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