Beijing has invited Taiwanese people to visit China for vaccinations in a move that appears likely to infuriate the democratically elected government in Taipei.
China’s Taiwan Bureau said in a statement on Friday that Taiwanese people were welcome to be inoculated as long as they followed social distancing measures, Reuters reported. While Beijing has closed its borders to most international travelers, it claims sovereignty over the self-governing island of Taiwan; Taiwanese with certain permits can still enter the People’s Republic.
The World Health Organization recently authorized images of Sinopharm and Sinovac developed in China for emergency use during a pandemic, despite doubts about their effectiveness against symptomatic infection.
While China has administered more than 800 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, Taiwan is starting slowly. The island of about 23.5 million people, which was a model for limiting the coronavirus to a recent peak of infections, has inoculated only about 3% of its population.
Taiwan recently received more than 1.2 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from Japan. The United States, Taiwan’s most important ally, has also promised at least 750,000 shots.
Beijing has offered to send Chinese-made vaccines to Taiwan, which restricts imports of Chinese pharmaceuticals. In a statement, the Taiwan Office called on Taipei to “quickly remove the artificial barriers to sending continental vaccines to Taiwan and allow the broad masses of Taiwanese compatriots to receive safe and highly effective continental vaccines.”
Taiwanese President Tsai Ying-wen has accused Beijing of blocking at least one vaccine deal its government had hoped to sign with a European drugmaker.
The Taiwanese Office said at least 62,000 Taiwanese had been vaccinated from Beijing as of May 31, although opinion polls in Taiwan show that only a small minority would choose shots fired in China.