After the city of Prague, Czech Republic decided to withdraw from its sister-city partnership with Beijing, Chinese political leadership was infuriated.
This conflict emerged when the Pirate Party won the Prague mayor’s office and voiced its displeasure with Beijing’s “one China” policy, which sees Taiwan and Tibet as part of China.
This sister-city agreement was signed in 2016, but was rescinded on October 7, 2019. Mayor Zdenek Hrib claimed that China refused to take down any mention of this policy. Hrib asserted that the declaration was not suitable for an agreement between the two cities, given that it’s a question of national policy.
China’s embassy was not happy, which then went on Facebook urging Prague’s leadership to change its position as soon as possible or “it will be their own interests that will be hurt.”
This cancellation must still receive the city assembly’s approval. After sending a “serious protest” to the city’s political leadership, the Chinese embassy declared that this rupture of ties is “a breach of trust” which hurts relations between China and the Czech Republic.
Prague’s policies towards China conflict with Czech national leadership. President Milos Zeman is a strong supporter of Chinese investment in Europe. The Czech Foreign Ministry, which acknowledges the one China policy, said the Czech government would stay out of this matter.
This dispute’s origins can be traced to last year when China banned several orchestras with “Prague” in their names from performing in the country after Hrib did not bother to kick out a Taiwanese diplomat from a meeting he held.
Prague has been a hub of support for Tibet, with the former President Vaclav Havel and other elected officials hosting the exiled spiritual leader Dalai Lama in the past — much to Beijing’s consternation.
Under Hrib’s leadership, the practice of displaying the Tibetan flag at Prague city hall — a practice dating back to Havel’s presidential administration — was restored. However, the national government has taken a different approach by having police suppress peaceful protests during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit in 2016 where people also had their Tibetan flags removed from their homes.
China’s ascent as a world power has been controversial to say the least.
From a genocidal communist experience to market liberalization in the 1980s, China has undergone a significant transformation in the last 50 years that has taken it to considerable heights on the world stage.
However, these reforms have not changed its authoritarian political structure and questionable trade policies with other nations.
The election of Donald Trump in 2016 has made people realize that China has adverse interests to most Western countries.
For that reason, Prague’s municipal government is correct in calling out China’s authoritarian practices and at least challenging the narrative that China is a benign actor.
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