07/31/2021, 09.36
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Pope Francis appoints former Taiwanese vice-president to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences

70-year-old Chen Chien-jen is the second Taiwanese citizen to join the academy, the first being Nobel laureate Lee Yuan-tseh. An epidemiologist, Chen was instrumental in Taipei's success in containing the first wave of Covid. He also denounced China's manoeuvres to block Taiwan's participation in the WHO Assembly.


Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Former Taiwanese vice president Chen Chien-jen has been appointed member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The Vatican announced the appointment yesterday, by Pope Francis. The 70-year-old epidemiologist is the second Taiwanese citizen to join the prestigious institution, preceded by Nobel laureate in chemistry Lee Yuan-tseh.

A devout Catholic, Chen is now a lecturer at Academia Sinica in Taipei. From 2016 to 2020 he served as deputy to President Tsai Ing-wen. The Taiwanese academic is considered at home and abroad to be one of the secrets of the island's success in containing the first wave of Covid-19. According to several observers, his experience as health minister during the Sars outbreak in 2003 proved decisive.

In May 2020, shortly before leaving his government post, Chen denounced Communist China's manoeuvres to block Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organisation (WHO) Assembly. The meeting of the body was to decide on coordinated global action to tackle the health emergency.

Taipei has always asked to attend the meeting of the WHO decision-making body as an observer country. Beijing opposes this, arguing that the island is not a sovereign state, but a "rebel" province, to be reunited by force if necessary. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime maintains China must present Taiwanese claims to the WHO, provided Taipei recognises the "one China principle".

The Vatican is one of 15 states that have formal diplomatic relations with the Taiwanese government. 

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