Prague mayor says he rejected China's request to expel Taiwan diplomat

03/29/2019 11:25 PM
Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib
Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib

Taipei, March 29 (CNA) Visiting Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib revealed on Friday that he had once rejected China's request to expel a Taiwanese official from an event he hosted back in his city, because it was not acceptable to do so from a human decency standpoint.

Hrib was answering questions from reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during his visit there.

He was asked about a recent incident that saw Taiwan's Representative to the Czech Republic Wang Chung-I (汪忠一) removed from a meeting held by the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade after China's ambassador Zhang Jianmin (張建敏) protested his participation.

"From a simply human decency, it is unacceptable for me to throw away a guest that I had invited as a host," said Hrib, and therefore "this would never happen on an event that would be held by me."

The mayor then revealed that he had been faced with a similar question from China in an annual meeting between the Prague mayor and diplomats in the city after the start of each year.

"I simply refused them," Hrib said. "It is not possible to throw out a guest if I invite him."

He further said that in Prague, "On my event, I can invite anyone I wish to."

The 37-year-old Hrib, a member of the Czech Pirate Party, has served as mayor of Prague since the municipal election held in November 2018.

In January, he came to the media spotlight after he announced his intention to abolish a clause in the Partnership Agreement signed by Prague and Beijing during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the city in 2016, which required Prague to adhere to a "one China" policy and acknowledge Taiwan as an inalienable part of Chinese territory.

In a recent interview with CNA, Hrib said the inclusion of Article 3 was a "mistake" and that he will seek to negotiate with Beijing to remove the clause, adding that if that fails, he would rather terminate the agreement between the two cities.

On Friday he reaffirmed the intention, telling Taiwanese reporters that he thought it was "a mistake of our political predecessors that allow the Beijing side to drag them into this complicated matter."

"I believe this article has actually absolutely no place in a sisterhood city's agreement, so we would like to leave it out," Hrib said.

He noted that he would like Prague to have mutually beneficial relationships with cities all over the world.

"But those partnerships must be equally beneficial for both sides, and this Article No. 3 is actually just one side benefit for just one side." Hrib said. "For me this is not acceptable."

He added that it was important for Taiwan to have full participation in some international organizations, including the World Health Organization, because it was not a matter of diplomatic detail, but "a matter of significant global health risks that we are facing in the modern age and there is no space for hazard."

During the joint media interview, Hrib expressed his gratitude to Taiwanese investors for their investments in Czech, which he said are creating new job opportunities.

He praised the "very good cooperation" between his country and Taiwan.

Hrib added there were a lot of promises of investments from China, but they were not fulfilled. In fact, he said, they appeared not to be real investments because most of them were acquisitions of local companies.

Among the Chinese investments is the CFC company, Hrib said, noting that the company's primary representative disappeared and his direct subordinate was convicted in the United States for bribing the United Nations representatives.

This was not the kind of investments "I would personally welcome in Czech Republic," he said.

Hrib took a one-month internship at Taiwan's Chang Gung Hospital when he studied medicine at the University of Charles in Prague 14 years ago.

Asked about his impression of Taipei after 14 years, the mayor said Prague and Taipei have changed a lot during that time but "the spirit is still the same; both cities are dedicated to liberal democracy and to a common goals and values like sustainable development and now for example the Smart City concepts."

Speaking of the cooperation between Prague and Taipei, Hrib expressed hope that student exchanges can be boosted and a direct flight route between Prague and Taipei can be established.

Hrib said he believed direct flight services would help increase tourist and business exchanges between the two cities.

Hrib is here to attend the Smart City Summit and Expo at Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center from March 26-29, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

(By Elaine Hou and Elizabeth Hsu)


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