The European Parliament has voted against lifting a ban on arms sales to China. The ban was imposed in June 1989, in response to the Chinese government's brutal repression of peaceful demonstrators calling for political reforms. The U.S. imposed a similar ban on arms sales to China, which remains in effect today.
Demonstrations took place throughout China in June 1989. The Chinese army killed or wounded unarmed protesters estimated in the thousands in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square. To date, no one in China has been held accountable for the attack on this peaceful demonstration. Many protesters remain unaccounted for to this day. Some protesters are still jailed, denied due process of law in unfair trials.
The vote by the European Parliament came in response to moves by some of the twenty-five European Union members to lift the ban on arms sales to China. The matter may come up again at next month's E-U-China summit in The Hague.
There are many reasons to maintain the ban, including regional stability and human rights. Most important is that lifting the ban would send the wrong message at a time when the Chinese government remains a major violator of human rights.
The U.S. welcomes the increasing ties between the European Union and China. But it is important to remember that the embargo is on weapons sales -- not on other trade with China. And the arms embargo does not restrict China's capacity to promote economic growth at home.
Moreover, lifting the China arms embargo would not be in the strategic interest of Europe or the U.S. No mechanisms exist to prevent China from transferring weapons or weapons technology to other countries, including those in unstable regions, or using the weapons for internal repression.
The U.S. and E-U bans on arms sales to China are complementary and were imposed for the same reason -- the Chinese government's serious human rights abuses. A ban on arms sales to China should remain a key part of efforts by the U.S. and the E-U to promote respect for human rights in China.