CZECH REPUBLIC-CHINA-TAIWAN Mayor of Prague: Beijing’s influence is “overestimated”

Zdeněk Hřib targeted for twinning with Taipei and supporting Tibetan dissidents. “No charge” for my commitment to Taiwan and Tibet. China is an “unreliable” trading partner. Alert to Chinese lobbying campaigns in Europe. Xi Jinping embarrassed at the “17 + 1” summit.

Taipei (AsiaNews) – China’s power to inflict economic damage on my country for my support of Taiwan and the Tibetan cause has been vastly “overstated” and I “have not paid any personal costs,” says Zdenik Hřib in a recent interview with the Czech Studies Center Sinopsis.

The mayor of Prague rejects threats with which Beijing seeks to intimidate foreign authorities and politicians who engage with Taipei and Tibetan dissidents.

In January 2020, Hřib entered into a twinning agreement with the Taiwanese capital. Three months earlier, after Chinese authorities refused to remove a clause recognizing the island as part of Communist China, he ended a similar relationship with the Beijing municipality. The Czech politician has also been targeted by the Chinese government for inviting Lobsang Sangay, the head of the Tibetan government in exile, to Prague.

According to the mayor of Prague, China is an “unreliable” trading partner which has not kept its promises of investments in the Czech Republic. They are those linked to the Belt and Road Initiative, Xi Jinping’s infrastructure plan to make his country a hub for world trade. Either way, Hřib argues, engagement against human rights violations in China is more important than economic gains.

Hřib adds that his own country suffered no setbacks for his August trip to Taiwan. In retaliation, Beijing canceled the purchase order for some pianos, which were later purchased by a Chinese private. The reaction of the Chinese government to the visit of the Czech delegation to the “rebel province” deeply marked European public opinion. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Czech Senate Speaker Miloš Vystrčil “will pay dearly”.

For Hřib, Czech society must be on high alert. He recalled the scandal sparked by the discovery that a Czech billionaire was funding a pro-Chinese public relations campaign in exchange for trade benefits.

More and more Eastern European countries, courted by Beijing as a partner of the new Silk Roads, are distancing themselves from the Asian giant. At the annual summit of the 17 + 1 group, which took place online on February 9, six European Union member states were represented by second-tier government officials: for many observers it was a slap in the face. Xi Jinping. The 17 + 1 consists of China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries, 12 of which are part of the EU.

Despite Xi’s promises to increase food imports from the region, simplify customs controls and make China’s coronavirus vaccine available, most of Europe’s 17 + 1 countries are unhappy with relations with Beijing. They point out that Chinese investment, rather than growing, has declined, while the trade deficit with the Asian partner has widened.

Berta D. Wells