Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) signed a landmark strategic partnership with Czech President Milos Zeman in Prague yesterday amid a fresh wave of protests in the Czech capital against Beijing’s policies on Tibet.
The first visit by a Chinese head of state to the Czech Republic has been overshadowed by protests by human rights groups and opposition politicians critical of China’s policy in Tibet.
Zeman — who has billed the visit as a chance to boost trade with the world’s second-biggest economy, announced that Chinese investors would pour 95 billion koruna (US$3.93 billion) into the central European country this year alone.
However, the announcement failed to silence China’s critics.
“I have never come across such bootlicking as I can see now,” former Czech minister of foreign affairs Karel Schwarzenberg said, criticizing the warm welcome Zeman has offered his Chinese counterpart.
To show its disapproval Schwarzenberg’s conservative TOP 09 party, which accuses Xi of overseeing mass executions and other serious rights abuses, hung two Tibetan flags from parliament’s windows yesterday.
Several dozen protesters from China’s banned Falun Gong religious movement demonstrated outside Prague Castle as Xi arrived for talks with Zeman, who welcomed the Chinese leader with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute.
Police arrested 12 people on Monday after pro-Tibetan demonstrators scuffled with crowds who had turned out to welcome the Chinese leader.
Chinese flags hung on Prague’s streets were defaced, and a huge billboard of the Dalai Lama, meeting with the late Czech president Vaclav Havel was erected on the road leading from the airport to the city.
“These gentlemen are at home here”, the billboard read, recalling the Dalai Lama’s frequent visits to Prague during Havel’s presidency between 1989 and 2003.
China, which has ruled Tibet since 1951, accuses the Dalai Lama of supporting separatism and violence in the region.
On Monday, Zeman hosted the Chinese president at his official residence, where the two were photographed planting a ginkgo tree, holding watering cans emblazoned with their national flags.
Yesterday, the two leaders signed a strategic partnership, with Zeman saying he wanted the Czech Republic to become a “safe haven” for Chinese investment in the EU.
Xi said the agreement gave the “political direction” for the future development of bilateral relations.
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