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Prague to End Sister City Relations with Beijing

On Monday, October 7,the Czech Republic’s capital city of Prague decided to end the sister city relationship that it started with Beijing three years ago. After the current mayor Zdeněk Hřib took office, he requested that the “one China principle” term in the sister city agreement be removed. In response, China has repeatedly cancelled the Czech orchestra’s trips to China.

The city councilor of Hara, Kordová Marvanová, proposed the bill to end the sister city relationship with Beijing. She believed that the agreement of the sister city relationship should not contain a declaration of a political position. In addition, Prague should not support an authoritarian regime in this way.

In March 2016, when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Czech Republic, the two countries signed a number of treaties and agreements, including the establishment of a sister city pairing between Prague and Beijing. The agreement stated that Prague was committed to abiding by the “one China principle” and recognized that “Taiwan is an inalienable territory of China.” It was the mayor of Prague, Adriana Krnáčová, who, at that time, pushed the agreement.

In November 2018, 37-year-old Zdeněk Hřib, a strong supporter of Taiwan, succeeded Krnáčová as the current mayor. Starting in January of this year, Hřib has called on Beijing to remove the “one-China” clause from the sister city agreement. Hřib visited Taiwan in March. Hřib said that Prague only wants to focus on cultural cooperation, not politics. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the riots in Tibet on March 10 of this year, many buildings including the Prague City Hall raised the snow lion flag of the Tibetan government in exile.

In retaliation, over the past six months, China has cancelled the itineraries of the Prague Philharmonic, the Pražák Quartet, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Guarneri Trio Prague in coming to China. The cancellations caused dissatisfaction in the Czech Republic’s political and cultural circles. Last month, the Czech Culture Minister Lubomír Zaorálek summoned Zhang Jianmin, the Chinese ambassador to the Czech Republic, to criticize the Chinese side for canceling the performance of the Czech orchestra as “seriously hurting China’s image.” Zaorálek said that bilateral cooperation can only be based on mutual respect, and China’s behavior is not in line with that. He was frightened that China would stop at nothing in order to force the outside world to accept its political views. Zaorálek added that if the Beijing authorities continued this behavior, the Czech Republic would stop the cultural exchanges with China.

Source: Deutsche Welle, October 7, 2019