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WHO excludes Taiwanese journalists from annual assembly

Delegates gather for the opening of the World Health Assembly in Geneva on May 22, 2024 (Photo/CPJ)

By Tenzin Nyidon

The World Health Organization (WHO), a United Nations agency, on Monday excluded Taiwanese journalists Judy Tseng and Tien Hsi-ju from participating in its annual assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. This decision followed China’s appeal to side line the democratically governed island nation, further mandating that Taiwanese journalists to submit Chinese passports to attend the assembly.

Tseng and Tien of Taiwan’s public wire news outlet, Central News Agency (CNA), submitted a request for press accreditation on May 9 and 10 to cover the WHO’s World Health Assembly (WHA). In response, they received a message from the UN’s press accreditation unit requesting an “official Chinese passport in accordance with UN policies and General Assembly resolutions.”

Despite re-submitting their Taiwanese passports, the status of their applications remained pending. Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHA is not a new development, as China objects to the participation of the democratically governed island, which it considers its territory. Last year, the same two journalists were also denied entry by UN officials to cover the annual gathering, being told their denial was due to their Taiwan passport holder status.

“A journalist’s nationality should not determine their eligibility for press accreditation to cover one of the most important conferences relating to global health issues in the world,” said Iris Hsu, China representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “WHO and the United Nations should not be complicit in China’s relentless effort to block Taiwanese journalists from reporting on crucial health policy-making.”

The WHO’s insistence that Taiwanese reporters submit People’s Republic of China (PRC) passports is not a new phenomenon. In January, former Miss Tibet Tenzin Paldon’s participation in the Miss Global 2023 pageant in Cambodia was abruptly ended after the Chinese government pressured the organizers to have Paldon wear a sash labeled “PRC” instead of “Tibet.” Many argue that such actions highlight the effectiveness of China’s broader propaganda efforts to portray Taiwan and Tibet as parts of China on the international stage.