Fri, May 12, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Against unfair treatment

We, the undersigned, strongly protest the ill-advised actions of the US Department of State in refusing Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), president of Taiwan, appropriate transit stops in the US as befitting the rank and position of the democratically elected representative of one of the US' oldest allies in Asia.

As a consequence, this refusal has endangered the president of Taiwan and relations with the US. The president could not accept the snub and thus changed his flight plan to Paraguay and Costa Rica.

This change forced President Chen, his entourage and the flight crew to fly for nearly 35 hours non-stop. When his route was later revealed, China used its influence to prevent Chen's plane from landing and refueling in Lebanon.

Taiwan became a true democracy in 1996. Since that time its people have freely elected their president, with Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) being elected in 1996 and Chen in 2000 and again in 2004. Ironically, since becoming a democracy, it has been increasingly difficult for the presidents of a democratic Taiwan to receive fair and equal treatment in regard to entry visas for, visits to and even transit stops in the US.

The refusal to allow Chen's plane to have a respectable transit stop in the US where he could disembark was not just a diplomatic snub. It was also a personal attack. The State Department spokesperson would only refer to President Chen with forms of the pronoun "he" and not his proper title of "president." Such actions are undiplomatic, spiteful and petty.

The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), enacted on April 10, 1979, when Taiwan was not a democracy, was established to maintain peace and security in the Western Pacific. As China increases the number of deployed missiles targeted at Taiwan -- currently over 800 -- the State Department rewards it with VIP treatment.

That same TRA states clearly in the very first paragraph that the US will act to "preserve and promote extensive, close and friendly commercial, cultural and other relations with Taiwan." Now that Taiwan has become the most promising democracy in Asia, it is all the more ironic that instead of promoting "extensive, close and friendly" relations with this democracy, the State Department treats it like a pariah.

For what reason has the State Department contradicted the express policy of the TRA and refused to treat Taiwan's president with respect? These US actions border on hypocrisy, insincerity and favoritism, particularly at this time when the US frequently accommodates and receives as guests the leaders of the dictatorial and autocratic one-party state of China, one of the greatest abusers of human rights in Asia and the world.

The opposition party in Taiwan, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), argues that the US is not a dependable partner, that Chen is not respected by the US government and that China would be a better partner for Taiwan.

The denial of transit rights is not just inept scheduling. It has much wider implications for the reputation of the US as a supporter of democratic governments and leaders.

US President George W. Bush's diplomatic goal is to maintain the status quo between Taiwan and China. But by humiliating Taiwan, the US unhinges the status quo from neutrality to a positive acceptance of China's policy of downgrading Taiwan's stature in international affairs.

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