The Claim and Our Verdict
- The claim: Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan’s minister of health and welfare, said that Taiwan would not build “mobile cabin hospitals” because this term is used in mainland China.
- HKBU FactCheck Service did not find Chen had made such a remark that Taiwan would not build “mobile cabin hospitals” because this term is used in mainland China.
- The Facebook post claimed that mobile cabin hospitals are not allowed in Taiwan because the name is used in mainland China. Such statement appeared in various interpretations of Chen’s remark during a press conference about whether the Taiwan government will build mobile cabin hospitals. These interpretations added inflammatory details to Chen’s remark.
- Our ruling: Therefore, we rate the claim as FALSE.
A Facebook post published May 19, 2021 claims that mobile cabin hospitals were not allowed in Taiwan because it is named by the Chinese Communist Party. The post also links to a news article published by China Times, a Taiwan daily Chinese-language newspaper, titled “Why does Chen Shih-chung dare not to build mobile cabin hospitals in Taiwan? Yaung Chih-liang’s satire on Chen’s speech made the audience burst into laughter.”
A mobile cabin hospital is a medical unit composed of a series of compartments with different medical or technical support functions. During the severe epidemic of COVID-19 in mainland China, the government quickly converted spaces such as large-scale event venues, closed schools, etc., to mobile cabin hospitals in order to effectively contain the epidemic. These mobile cabin hospitals are highly adaptable, such that their internal design structure or equipment can be changed anytime on demand.
As of the issuance of this report, the post had been shared two times, and had received four comments and 46 reactions.
It is found that the claim originates from Chen’s remark during a press conference held by the Central Epidemic Command Centre, Taiwan (CECC). In response to a journalist’s enquiry to the government’s plan to construct mobile cabin hospitals as mainland China, Chen said, “We do not consider building them now. Currently, isolating the patients is still our guiding principle during the pandemic.” Apparently, Chen emphasised that the government will maintain the current anti-pandemic guidelines rather than building new mobile cabin hospitals. Chen did not express any concerns that mainland China used the name so that Taiwan will not use it. Further searches on Chen’s remarks in other public venues during that period did not find any information in relation to the claim. According to a news article published May 28, 2021 by Central News Agency, a semi-official news wire service based in Taiwan, Chen told another conference that the government did not plan to build mobile cabin hospitals but rather would set up outdoor emergency rooms in these high-level hospitals, in order to prevent overcrowding and to reduce the risk of infection.
Concerning Chen’s aforesaid remarks, Yaung Chih-liang, the former minister of the Department of Health, said on May 18 during a political talk show, “it does not matter how we call the ‘mobile cabin hospital’ and naming it ‘sugar cube hospital’* will be totally fine. We could build some simple negative pressure facilities in the closed hospitals and schools, which may cost more than a billion dollars. It will be better to build such facilities as a backup than doing nothing.” The news article published by China Times also claimed Yaung’s speech was a satire on Chen’s taboo on the hospital’s name originated from mainland China.
*“mobile cabin” hospital and “sugar cube” hospital are homophones in Chinese.
On May 20, Kao Ming-chien, chairman of Taiwan association of health alliance, told China Review News Agency that the Taiwan health authority could change to another name if Chen does not want to name it as mobile cabin hospital, like how they built the “upgraded quarantine stations.” A news article published by the state-owned news media Global Times quoted Kao’s remark and claimed with an exaggerated tone that Kao thought Chen had a particular concern on the term.
Wang Hung-wei, a Taipei city councillor, said in a Facebook post, “Because China has built mobile cabin hospitals and successfully weathered the epidemic crisis, Taiwan must not use the four words ‘Fang cang yi yuan (square cabin hospitals).’ Otherwise, we would be shamed. The ‘upgraded quarantine station’ is similar to mobile cabin hospital, but we still have to distinguish these two terms.”
In conclusion, there is currently no evidence to support the claim. The remarks allegedly made by Chen originates from some public figures’ and media outlets’ interpretation of Chen’s denial of construction of mobile cabin hospitals.
Chen also clarified on May 28, during a press conference that Taiwan health authority did not plan to build mobile cabin hospitals but rather would build upgraded quarantine stations. He never said in public venues that the rejection is due to the concerns on the name itself, nor did he specify whether the “mobile cabin hospital” and the “upgraded quarantine stations” are the same.
Therefore, we rate the claim as FALSE.
- Facebook post, May 19, 2021.
- Chinese Journal of Contemporary Pediatrics, “The significance and clinical experience of Wuhan fangcang hospital for Prevention and control of coronavirus disease (武汉方舱医院防控冠状病毒病的意义和临床体会),” May 15, 2020.
- China Times, “Why does Chen Shih-chung dare not to build mobile cabin hospitals in Taiwan? Yaung Chih-liang’s satire on Chen’s speech made the audience burst into laughter (陳時中不敢蓋方艙醫院？楊志良脫口狠酸一句 全場笑翻),” May 19, 2021.
- Central Epidemic Command Centre, YouTube video, “333 new local cases and 2 imported cases (新增333例本土＋2例境外！指揮中心召開記者會說明),” May 17, 2021.
- Central News Agency, “Hospitals with intensive care units will build outdoor emergency rooms; Mobile cabin hospitals will not be built (重症急救責任醫院擬設戶外急診室 不建方艙醫院),” May 28, 2021.
- Big names among civilians (庶民大頭家), YouTube video, “Exclusive: New batches of vaccine doses will arrive in Taiwan; Media practitioners delete ‘AZ. Moderna’ immediately (獨家好消息? 疫苗將抵台 “媒體人”立馬刪「AZ.莫德納」),” May 18, 2021.
- China Review News Agency: “’Mobile cabin hospitals must be built if a surge of COVID-19 cases happens,’ said Kao Ming-chien (高明見：一旦爆發大規模感染 必須方艙醫院),” May 20, 2021.
- Global Times, “Will Taiwan be shamed if they use the same name ‘mobile cabin hospitals? At present, they still have so many political manipulations: Taiwan media (“方艙醫院”大陸用過台灣用就沒面子？台媒：到現在還那麼多政治算計),” May 21, 2021.
- Wang Hung-wei, Facebook post, May 20, 2021.
- Central Epidemic Command Centre, YouTube video, “The highest daily record of deaths—19 cases! 297 local cases and 258 adjusted cases were recorded today: CECC press conference(單日19死再創新高！今增本土297例＋258例校正回歸 指揮中心記者會說明),” May 27, 2021.