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2020.04.22 14:23

Lithuanian president doesn’t back Taiwan’s WHO membership – aide

LRT.lt, BNS2020.04.22 14:23

The Lithuanian president supports cooperation with Taiwan, but membership at the World Health Organization (WHO) is only open to UN member states, a presidential aide said on Wednesday.

The response comes after about 200 Lithuanian politicians and public figures sent an open letter to President Gitanas Nausėda on Wednesday, asking him to support Taiwan in its dispute with the WHO and advocate for the country's independence.

“Only UN members can formally become WHO members, and Taiwan is not one of them,” the president's spokesman Antanas Bubnelis told BNS. “Despite that, expert-level and practical cooperation in stopping the global spread of Covid-19 is possible, and Lithuania supports such cooperation.”

Read more: China is undermining Western democratic values and Lithuania is no exception – opinion

China has been blocking Taiwan's membership in the WHO, while Beijing does not renounce its threats to regain the island's control by force, calling any support to Taiwan interference with its internal affairs.

The open letter asked Nausėda to back Taiwan’s participation in international organisations, including at the UN and the WHO, open Lithuania’s economic representation in Taiwan and also advocate for the country’s full independence among EU leaders.

The letter's authors said Lithuania should show solidarity with Taiwan, in view of the island's progress in fighting the spread of the coronavirus and support for Lithuania's independence from the Soviet Union.

“We believe that now, three decades after March 11, [1990, independence declaration] Lithuania is herself ready to demonstrate its commitment to the fundamental constitutional values ​​of freedom and democracy by expressing similar support for Taiwan.

“Lithuania is herself ready to demonstrate its commitment to the fundamental constitutional values ​​of freedom and democracy by expressing similar support for Taiwan.”

“During the long decades of the Cold War, Taiwan was one of the few countries to have consistently pursued a policy of non-recognition of the occupation of the Baltic States,” the letter said.

“Taiwan also supported initiatives of diplomatic resistance to the Soviet occupation of Lithuania. Today Taiwan is selflessly providing humanitarian aid to Lithuania in the fight against the pandemic.”

Taiwan has sent 100,000 facemasks to Lithuania in an aid deal brokered by the Lithuania-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group.

Read more: China's soft power: Pro-Beijing screening in Vilnius attracts government figures and officials

“However, humanity could have averted the dangers of Covid-19 [...] had the spread of the virus not been concealed in the earliest stages [...] by the Chinese Communist Party regime,” the letter said.

“Although Taiwan’s health officials warned about the high likelihood of the human-to-human infection as early as the end of December of 2019, the World Health Organization suppressed the report.”

The authors of the letter also say that all citizens in the world, including in China, are suffering from lies and repressions of the Beijing regime, which is regressing towards totalitarianism.

China is now actively seeking to use the critical situation in the world to maintain its persecution of dissent, as well as to expand its geopolitical influence networks and spread soft power under the guise of aid, according to the authors.

“Taiwan is constantly threatened by military force. Due to the brutal pressure from China, this democratic state of 23 million people has lost all representation in international organizations,” it said.

The authors underlined President Nausėda’s pledge during election debates to expand not only economic, but also political relations with Taiwan.

The development of Lithuania’s political and diplomatic relations with Taiwan would also be "a good opportunity to strengthen cooperation" with the United States, the letter said.

Read more: Chinese demonstration in Vilnius unmasks Beijing's reach into Lithuania – LRT Investigation

The 204 Lithuanian signatories include 50 MPs, six MEPs, seven winners of the Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Arts, 27 university professors, and 47 doctors of science.

The lawmakers include Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Arvydas Nekrošius, representing the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, as well as Gabrielius Landsbergis, leader of the largest opposition party, the conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, as well as Viktorija Čmilyte-Nielsen, leader of the Liberal Movement.

MP Mantas Adomėnas from the conservatives said Taiwan was an example for the world on how to fight the coronavirus. However, China is blocking its access to the information and resources of international organisations, he said.

“Lithuania has been in such a position itself when it was unrecognised and blocked by a giant aggressive regime. I believe now is a kind of an ‘Iceland moment’,” he said. Iceland was the first country to recognise Lithuania’s independence from the Soviet Union on February 11, 1991.

"Lithuania has been in such a position itself when it was unrecognized and blocked by a giant aggressive regime."

“Lithuania can make a brave and fateful step by helping Taiwan's international recognition. It would be a victory not only for Taiwan, an old supporter of Lithuania's freedom, but also for the whole free democratic world,” Adomėnas told BNS.

The letter was presented to the president's office on Wednesday morning, he said.

Initiatives of this nature have usually led to strong reactions from the Chinese government.

The Lithuanian government, like many other countries in the world, does not officially recognise Taiwan's independence and supports the long-standing One China policy.

Read more: The rough face of China’s soft power in the Baltics – Investigation