Prague mayor explains ditching Beijing for Taipei

01/14/2020 04:35 PM
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Prague Mayor Zdenek Hřib (right) and Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲)/Image taken from Ko
Prague Mayor Zdenek Hřib (right) and Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲)/Image taken from Ko's Facebook page at: facebook.com/DoctorKoWJ

Prague, Jan. 13 (CNA) Prague decided to terminate its sister city agreement with Beijing in favor of Taipei because the Chinese side showed "a lack of respect" to the city during talks over a "one-China policy" clause in the deal, Prague Mayor Zdenek Hřib told CNA Monday.

During an interview with CNA on Monday, Hřib, who assumed office in November 2018, said his government could not accept the clause in the sisterhood pact the city signed with Beijing in 2016 because the city wanted non-political partnerships with its sister cities.

In negotiations with Beijing on the possibility of removing the clause, Hřib said the Chinese side did not show any respect to his city.

Not only did Beijing not answer the letters Prague sent on the matter, it canceled a tour of China by Prague's Philharmonic Orchestra scheduled for September, the mayor said in the interview on the sidelines of a signing ceremony to establish sisterhood ties with Taipei at Prague City Hall on Monday.

The ceremony, also attended by Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), came months after Hřib canceled the partnership with Beijing in October over the controversial clause in the pact that asks Prague to accept the Chinese policy that sees Taiwan as part of China.

That gained the 37-year-old Prague mayor, a member of the Czech Pirate Party, considerable media attention, with Czech media saying his anti-China attitude could hurt his country's relationship with China.

Hřib said Monday, however, that he discussed the issue with the Czech Republic's foreign minister, who assured him that sisterhood ties were within the jurisdiction of each city's government and were not related to nation-to-nation ties.

Commenting on the same issue, Ko criticized Beijing's "barbaric" handling of the sisterhood issue with Prague and urged China's government to be more open-minded about Taipei's friendly exchanges with Prague.

"Taiwan needs more friends around the world and given the Czech Republic's reputation as an important industrialized country in central and eastern Europe, Prague can serve as a gateway for Taiwan to enter the region," he told CNA.

During Monday's ceremony, the two mayors signed the partnership agreement to enhance bilateral economic, trade and cultural cooperation.

"Smart city topic is a big issue nowadays. As we plan to move forward in Prague in this area, I believe we need partners also for this," Hřib said. "Taipei is definitely the right partner for this, so I think it's quite logical that we would like to upgrade our current relationship to the level of sister cities agreement."

Three other memorandums, including one on cooperation between the cities' zoos, were signed as well. As part of the deal, the Taipei Zoo will send a pangolin to Prague Zoo as a gift.

At the event, Hřib, who visited Taipei in March, said Prague and Taipei are bound together by shared democratic values with respect to human rights and freedom.

He also said Taipei is like his second hometown as he had previously stayed in Taiwan for two months in 2003 as an exchange medical student.

In response, Ko thanked Hřib for his friendly attitude toward Taiwan and invited him to visit the country again.

(By Lin Yu-li and Joseph Yeh)

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