Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

China Must Learn from Taiwan's Handling of SARS

16th May 2003

China should drop its attempts to block Taiwan's bid for Observer Status at the World Health Organisation (WHO) and learn from its willingness to co-operate fully and immediately with the WHO over the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Failure (SARS).

Speaking in a debate in the European Parliament yesterday, Charles Tannock MEP, Conservative Foreign Affairs Spokesman in the European Parliament, said:

"Beijing could learn a lot from Taiwan's reaction to the outbreak. It remains to be seen how serious the growing threat of SARS will become, but it is clear that co-operation with the WHO is a far more sensible reaction than the denial, misinformation and obfuscation demonstrated by the Chinese.

That response led quite rightly to the resignation of China's Health Minister and to a more open admission by the Chinese government of the seriousness of the outbreak, although Chinese television has so far found it impossible to ask the kind of searching questions which one would expect in a Western democracy. China remains a secretive repressive communist state sadly in spite of free market reforms.

Already there is talk of a new glasnost in China. The initial reaction of the people has been shock and disillusionment, but in time China will be stronger for its openness. Greater honesty with its people and greater debate will help China realise its enormous potential. An attempt to go back to the old ways would simply hinder that process.

Conservatives will continue to support Taiwan's very reasonable and justly deserved bid for Observer Status at the WHO, despite China's churlish attempts to block it."