Visiting Czech official meets Taiwanese leader amid China protests

Taipei, Sep 3 (efe-epa).- Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen on Thursday met with Czech Senate speaker Milos Vystrcil during his rare trip to the self-ruled island that has angered China and sparked a diplomatic row.

Tsai and Vystrcil met at her office in Taipei during which the Taiwanese leader conferred posthumously the Order of Propitious Clouds award, a civilian medal, to the late Czech Senate president Jaroslav Kubera.

Kubera was supposed to visit Taiwan by the end of January, but he passed away on Jan 20 after a cardiac arrest.

Tsai said Kubera was a “good friend” of Taiwan who made lots of efforts to enhance bilateral ties between the island nation and the Czech Republic.

Vystrcil is leading an 89-member delegation that includes Czech senate members and entrepreneurs on a trip to Taiwan that China claims as its sovereign territory. The week-long trip began on Aug 30.

China on Monday warned that Vystrcil would pay a heavy price for challenging the “One-China” policy by making an official visit to the island.

“Those who attempt to challenge the One-China principle on the Taiwan question are making themselves enemies of the 1.4 billion Chinese people and will have to pay a heavy price for their moves,” said China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Wang said Taiwan, which has been governed independently from mainland China since 1949, was an “inseparable” part of China.

Unfazed by the Chinese criticism, Tsai expressed the hope that the honor conferred on Kubera would be “a long-lasting symbol of the two countries’ friendship and persistence in democratic values.”

“As long as we persist in our values, Taiwan’s efforts in preserving freedom and democracy will be seen by the rest of the world,” she said.

Two Taiwanese public banks have expressed interest to open their branches in Czech.

China Airlines, Taiwan’s national carrier, is also considering re-establishing direct flights between Prague and Taipei as soon as international travel reopens after the Covid-19 induced curbs are relaxed.

During his visit to Taiwan’s parliament on Tuesday, Vystrcil received standing ovations from lawmakers when he said in Mandarin, “I am Taiwanese.” The move sparked ire from Beijing.

The phrase evokes a famous speech by US President John F Kennedy during a Cold War trip to West Berlin in June 1963 when he said, “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner) when he visited West Berlin in June 1963.

Also part of the Czech delegation is Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib, who already had a run-in with the Chinese authorities last year in an incident that led to the termination of the sister-city relationship between the two capitals.

Beijing wanted the agreement to include a clause acknowledging the “One China” principle.

“It’s clear that blackmail is a standard tool used by the People’s Republic of China,” Hrib, mayor of the Czech capital since November 2018, told EFE in an interview in February.

The friction in diplomatic relations followed immediately after Hrib took office as the leader of a coalition headed by the Pirate Party when he refused to bow to pressure from the Chinese ambassador to expel the diplomatic representative from Taiwan.

The rift began when the Prague city council requested the removal of the clause that recognized the principle, which is a pillar of Beijing’s foreign policy.

Unlike the capital city’s authorities, the Czech government, led by populist magnate and prime minister Andrej Babis, does comply with Beijing’s stance. EFE-EPA

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