Ongoing tensions between Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib and China over Beijing’s “one China” principle could lead to the mayor choosing Taipei as the venue for a performance by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, local media reported on Monday.
The spat started in March, when Beijing tried to bully Hrib into expelling a Taiwanese official from a business meeting in Prague.
Hrib has studied Mandarin in Taiwan, met with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and welcomes Tibetan dissidents to his city, Taiwan News has reported.
Hrib is part of a resistance to China that is likely to spread as leaders become increasingly aware of the threat it poses to democracy worldwide.
On Dec. 23 last year, the BBC reported that operations by Chinese and Russian spies in the Czech Republic posed an “extremely high risk” to citizens of EU and NATO nations, as they used Czech entities to undermine EU unity, engaged in intelligence activity aimed at Czech government agencies, and gleaned economic and technological secrets.
China on Thursday canceled planned performances by the orchestra, saying that the shows would proceed only if its members condemned the mayor over his stance on the “one China” principle. The members refused to betray Hrib.
The orchestra’s refusal to compromise or give in to Chinese authoritarianism must not go unnoticed, but should be celebrated and emulated by defenders of freedom and democracy.
World leaders must tell Beijing that while countries are happy to engage with China culturally and economically, they are resolutely opposed to following Beijing’s orders. The people of the free world are not citizens of the People’s Republic of China.
This idea seems to be lost on Beijing, which for the past several years has been pressing governments to cancel events involving Taiwanese or those who support the nation’s de facto independence.
In February last year, a Hakka cultural event planned at a hotel in the capital of Mauritius, Port Louis, was canceled, with the hotel citing pressure from the Chinese embassy. The event was to be a celebration of Hakka cuisine, with Hakka chefs Jerry Chiu (邱寶郎), Wen Kuo-chi (溫國智) and Chiu Yu-han (邱聿涵) teaching hotel chefs how to prepare signature Hakka dishes. Taiwanese band ZiXuan & Slow Train was also to perform.
In 2017, a Taiwanese cultural event at the University of Salamanca in Spain was canceled only four days before it was to be held, with the university citing pressure from the Chinese embassy. The non-political event was to include presentations of health practices and martial arts, mainstream Taiwanese music and dance performances, and performances by Aboriginal communities.
However, pockets of resistance are emerging. In February, New Zealand hosted 10 Amis teenagers as part of its Austronesian Peoples’ Bilateral Visit Program. The program — designed to help trace the common ancestry of Taiwan’s Aborigines and Maori — proceeded, despite stern protests from China.
Canadians are also growing weary of China after the cancelation of C$2.7 billion (US$2 billion) of agricultural trade and the apparently arbitrary detention of several Canadians in retaliation against the planned extradition to the US of Huawei Technologies Co chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟).
“China’s remaking of the global rules is making the world safe for autocracy, tacitly demanding that Canada passively surrender our values to an authoritarian state,” an Ottawa Citizen op-ed said on Wednesday.
China might press companies and states, but it would be powerless against a united stand. It is imperative that world leaders unite to protect the shared values of freedom and democracy.
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