It is with a heavy heart that we must admit that the World Health Organization (WHO) is at it again. In fact, they couldn’t be anymore at it if they tried. It’s no secret that Taiwan’s status on the world stage is, to put it lightly, contested, with many official governing bodies and constitutions not recognizing us as an official nation. The WHO is no different and as a result will not grant Taiwan official membership, in no small part due to pressure from China. But, when you think about it, the WHO not granting Taiwan membership actually makes sense, as it seems they have no idea what to actually call us.
The above tweet from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (外交部), posted on Thursday February 6, has slammed the WHO for constantly changing Taiwan’s name in their official coronavirus situation reports. As reported by SETN 三立新聞網, in a report posted on January 22, the WHO referred to Taiwan as “Taiwan, China” in the Surveillance section of the document that lists “Confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease reported by provinces, regions and cities in China.” By January 23 it had been changed to “Taipei Municipality” and by the 25th it was “Taipei.” In our country’s latest incarnation, in a report published on February 6, we were listed as “Taipei and environs” – a fourth different title in two weeks, making the WHO seem more indecisive about picking a name than a kid studying English in a buxiban… (Read more: All You Need to Know About Coronavirus in Taiwan)
Situation Report – 17 states that there are 11 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Taiwan and environs, although it does not specify whether or not they are in Taipei City itself or the greater environs area. The biggest issue with the latest name, other than the fact that it sounds like the name of a terrible indie band made up of NTU students, and the fact that it exists in the first place, is that it refers to everywhere outside of Taipei as somewhat of an afterthought. The word environs, defined as “the surrounding area or district,” is a real kick in the teeth to the 21,134,000 people in Taiwan living outside of Taipei.
Taipei resident Kai Wan Xiao is originally from Tainan (one of the less important places outside of Taipei) and told Taiwan Scene about the difficulties of growing up in the environs and why she had to move to Taipei to be taken seriously by organizations such as the WHO, the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee. “I was always proud of where I came from,” said Kai. “But then I studied abroad in Geneva and people started making fun of me when they found out I wasn’t from Taipei. They’d say things like: ‘Oh, you’re not even from Taipei Municipality? I didn’t know there were other places to live in Taiwan, China!’”
Kai added: “People would ask me weird questions like: ‘Does the environs have electricity?’ and ‘Is everything on fire, like all of the time?’ It really hurt my feelings and as soon as I graduated and returned to Taiwan, I moved to Taipei in order to be recognized on the world stage.”
We’ve all seen the memes about WHO standing for “Wuhan Health Organization” and we could joke about the virus being a major disaster for “Beijing and environs,” but there’s really no need to indulge in all that. We understand that the WHO has a lot on its plate at the moment, with the spread of coronavirus only getting worse. All we ask is that you call us Taiwan. Taiwan, China won’t do, nor will the other names that your disputed territory name generator threw up. Just say Taiwan. Look, we literally just said it. It’s not that hard.
In all seriousness. Our hearts go out to the people of China, the people of Hubei province, the people of Wuhan, and all of the people across the world suffering at the hands of this disaster. Taiwan is with you every step of the way and you have Taiwan’s full support, regardless of what you want to call us. 武漢加油, 台灣加油, 大家加油! RIP Dr. Li Wenliang.