/ Staff writer, with agencies
Prague and Beijing this week tore up a “sister city” agreement after the Czech capital backed out of a clause on the “one China” policy that denied the independence of Taiwan.
Prague said Beijing demanded it respect the policy on Taiwan as a precondition for lending a panda to Prague Zoo in the agreement signed in 2016 ahead of a visit to the city by Chinese President Xi Jinping （習近平）.
The panda never arrived.
The Prague City Council on Monday withdrew from the deal, with Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib saying that China had refused to remove mention of the policy.
The declaration is not appropriate for a pact between cities, as it is a matter of national policy, Hrib said.
“Thirty years after the Velvet Revolution we must remind ourselves that conscience is not for sale,” tweeted Michaela Krausova, head of the Pirate caucus at Prague City Council.
The conflict has been brewing since the upstart Pirate party took over the Prague mayor’s office in November last year and took issue with Beijing’s “one China” policy in regards to the sovereignty of Taiwan and Tibet.
Beijing on Wednesday hit back, with the Chinese embassy in Prague saying that the council’s action was a breach of faith that would hurt relations between China and the Czech Republic.
“The ‘one China’ principle concerns China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and involves China’s core interests. It is the basis and premise for China to carry out all foreign exchanges and cooperation,” the embassy said in a statement on its WeChat account.
Beijing yesterday announced it was quitting the deal, criticizing the Pirates for turning “a blind eye to the norms governing international relations” and repeatedly making “wrong moves and improper comments on issues related to Taiwan and Tibet.”
“Beijing Municipality terminates its sister-city relationship with the City of Prague with immediate effect and suspends all official exchanges,” Beijing City Hall said in a statement posted on the embassy’s Web site.
Czech President Milos Zeman has pushed ties with China, but Prague’s government has figured in diplomatic rows between the two nations.
However, Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Tomas Petricek said threats do not belong in diplomacy.
“I see it as very strong pressure. I told the Chinese ambassador that we should rather concentrate on creating a friendly environment for development of our relations,” he told reporters in Prague on Wednesday.
However, he added that the Czech government respects the “one China” policy regardless of Prague’s position.
Prague has long been a bastion of support for Tibet, with former Czech president Vaclav Havel and other politicians hosting the Dalai Lama.
Hrib’s administration restored Havel’s practice of flying the Tibetan flag from Prague City Hall.
Hrib, a 38-year-old doctor, spent one of his medical internships in Taiwan.
He headed a delegation from Prague to a smart city forum held in Taipei at the end of March.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, right, presents a certificate of honorary citizenship to Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib in Taipei on March 28. Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times