(TibetanReview.net, Jul22’19) – China has cancelled a signed contract for a tour of the country by Prague’s Philharmonic Orchestra and shattered the city zoo’s long-held dreams of hosting a panda, citing the city mayor’s critical stance on Beijing’s position on human rights, Tibet and Taiwan. Mr Zdenek Hřib’s stance puts him in a rare category of politicians willing to stand up to the global superpower and its economic muscle, noted a telegraph.co.uk report Jul 19. It also puts him at odds with his own national government.
China was stated to be furious at Hřib, 38, for refusing to toe its line over its sensitivities about the status of Taiwan and Tibet despite the Czech government as well as president Miloš Zeman being unabashedly pro-China.
Despite large Chinese investments in the Czech Republic, the mayor has refused to bow to Chinese pressure. Instead, he has tweeted: “China should focus more on Czech-Chinese relations in keeping with previous investment promises that have not been met.”
He has also said: “Abolishing the Prague Philharmonic tour, which had already signed a contract, shows that China is not a reliable business partner.”
Mr Hřib, a doctor who did a medical training internship in Taiwan, has also openly demanded that China remove a clause from a Prague-Beijing cooperation that requires the Czech capital to “respect the one-China policy and acknowledge Taiwan as an inseparable part of Chinese territory”.
Mr Hřib has rejected this article in the cooperation agreement signed by his predecessor in 2016 – in part because Prague zoo wanted to get a panda from Beijing – saying, “This article is a one-sided declaration that Prague agrees with and respects the one China policy and such a statement has no place in the sister cities agreement.”
Since his election less than a year ago, Mr Hřib, a Czech Pirate Party politician, has flown the Tibetan flag at the capital’s city hall, met with Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwanese president, and resisted Chinese demands to expel Taiwan’s representative from a meeting of foreign diplomats, the report noted.
Czech president Zeman is a professed admirer of China’s communist rulers and has visited the country several times to woo their investment. His spokesman has accused Prague city hall of “deliberately harming relations with China” and “systematically undermining Czech interests”.
Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček has sought to calm tensions by tweeting he was keen to meet the Chinese ambassador. “The Czech government has no possibility to influence the steps of a democratically elected local government. I believe the Chinese side understands this,” he has added.
The report said Jan Cizinsky, a Pirate ally on Prague city council, had defended the mayor’s stand, saying “human rights are more than a panda in a zoo”.
Mr Hřib had earlier praised the orchestra for not buckling under Chinese pressure and suggested they perform in Taiwan instead.