Diplomatic niceties often occur within what can only be called the theater of the absurd, an observation that is probably lost on most of its practitioners.
A perfect example of such absurdity is the ongoing discussion among EU governments about ending an embargo on arms sales to Beijing so that sales might resume by June.
While such behavior is common to conventional diplomacy, it also reveals a deep hypocrisy. Most of the same countries systematically repudiate Taiwan's democratically-elected leadership while rewarding Beijing's autocrats.
The EU ban on arms sales was imposed after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. There is little evidence that any safeguards have been put in place since that time to prevent such an incident from happening again.
A cynical sacrificing of support for human rights on the altar of commerce has therefore benefited European companies with interests in arms sales.
No doubt EU officials were pleased to hear that Beijing expects to increase its defense spending by 12 percent, although the actual amount is widely believed to be higher. Part of this would fund the annual increase of about 100 ballistic missiles to add to the estimated 700 targeting Taiwan.
Such unprincipled behavior contradicts the impression that European governments support freedom, democracy and individual rights.
However, this is not the first time that the EU has shamed itself. A few years back, EU functionaries in Brussels nixed a proposed visa for President Chen Shui-bian (
This time, however, the decision to lift the arms embargo would threaten world peace and contribute to political instability in the Asia-Pacific region.
While the EU is committed to free movement of goods and services or financial capital within Europe and elsewhere, it does not permit the presence of law-abiding, freely-elected politicians from Taiwan.
Tragically and ironically, terrorists travel more easily in the EU than Taiwanese officials.
Beijing is notorious for bringing diplomatic pressure to bear in its relentless attempt to isolate Taiwan.
It is well known that China's participation and support for international conferences or organizations is conditional on rejecting the participation of Taiwan's leadership.
However, the most blame should go to those spineless politicians and diplomats that collapse under such pressure.
Such shameful behavior is an insult to Taiwan's citizens who have taken so many risks to express their commitment to democracy and freedom.
A peaceful transfer of power after five decades of single-party rule in May 2000 made Taiwan the first democracy in the history of ethnically Chinese societies.
Taiwan deserves to be recognized by the global community for promoting the ideals of economic freedom, democracy and peace.
Chen has been an indefatigable supporter of freedom and democracy. As political leader of the first party dedicated to democracy in Taiwan, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Chen was a strong advocate of human rights. His party won an election that bloodlessly brought an end to the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) monopoly on power.
Since then, Taipei has offered to negotiate in good faith with the unelected officials in Beijing to promote peace and political harmony.
However, this is being undertaken with a steadfast desire to maintain Taiwan's admirable democratic achievements.
Many countries require that visas be denied to Taiwan's top five political figures.
The president, vice president, premier, foreign minister and defense minister cannot visit countries that supposedly share their belief in freedom and democracy.
But ending the ban on selling arms to Beijing would constitute a more serious compromising of these cherished principles.
The English say that "the law is an ass" when talking about laws that violate common sense. Much worse must be said of the supposed delicacies of diplomacy that mask hypocrisy.
Travel bans are an affront to the dignity of Taiwanese citizens. But if the EU caves in to Beijing's requests for lethal military hardware, the hypocrisy and venality of the EU could have deadly consequences. European corporate profits should not be allowed to trump the aspirations of a people that has fought so hard for freedom.
Christopher Lingle is visiting professor of economics at Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala.
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