Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib yesterday condemned China as an “unreliable partner” and told a German newspaper that his city would sign a twinning agreement with Taipei.
The comments by Hrib revived a dispute between Prague and Beijing that has soured Czech-Chinese relations, despite a campaign by Czech President Milan Zeman for closer ties between the two countries.
In guest commentary for the weekly paper Welt am Sonntag, Hrib, of the Czech Pirate Party, said that China was “full of resentment” and was trying to influence Czech public opinion.
The 38-year-old mayor, who has been running Prague since November 2018, sought to explain his administration’s decision to cancel a “sister-city” agreement with Beijing in October last year.
The deal was agreed in 2016, but later torn up after Hrib’s administration backed out of a controversial clause on the so-called “one China” policy.
He wrote that he could not sign an agreement that forced Prague to “speak out against the independence of Tibet and Taiwan.”
The mayor said he would instead sign a twinning agreement with Taipei today.
“That way, we have lost one partner, but won another,” he said.
If it goes ahead, the Taipei twinning would come days after Taiwanese re-elected President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), a result widely seen as a blow to China.
Hrib said he did not advocate breaking off diplomatic or economic ties with China, but urged European democracies to think hard about “jumping into bed with such a risky and unreliable partner.”
“I call on all of you not to give up your values and personal integrity in the face of threats and blackmail,” he wrote.
Hrib also accused the Czech government of “neglecting” ideals of the peaceful 1989 Velvet Revolution, which ended four decades of communist rule in what was then Czechoslovakia.
“As mayor, I am working to fulfill my campaign promise to return to a course of respect for democracy and human rights,” he wrote. “These are the values of the Velvet Revolution, which the current leadership of our republic is neglecting.”
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