Prague, Beijing scrap 'sister city' deal over Taiwan row


PRAGUE, Czech Republic – Prague and Beijing tore up a "sister city" agreement this week after the Czech capital backed out of a clause on the so-called One-China policy denying the independence of Taiwan.

Prague said Beijing demanded it respect the policy on Taiwan as a precondition for lending a panda to Prague zoo. The panda never arrived.

Signed in 2016 ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Prague, the twinning deal said Prague would "respect the One-China policy and acknowledge Taiwan as an inseparable part of Chinese territory".

Taiwan has been ruled separately from China since the end of a civil war in 1949, but under its "One-China" policy, Beijing considers it a part of its territory.

Prague's new municipal authorities voted this week to pull out of the twinning agreement with Beijing to protest the provision that had been adopted by their predecessors.

"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 peaceful 1989 Velvet Revolution toppled 4 decades of totalitarian Communist rule and returned democracy to then-Czechoslovakia, which split into two countries 4 years later.

Beijing also quit the twinning deal, slamming 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 website of China's embassy in Prague on Thursday, October 10.

'Further retaliation'

Angered by Prague's efforts to revoke the controversial clause earlier this year, Beijing in June cancelled a tour by the Prague Philharmonic scheduled for September and August.

"We can expect further retaliation," Josef Mlejnek, a political analyst at Prague's Charles University, told AFP.

The Chinese embassy in Prague said on Facebook Wednesday, October 9, that respecting the One-China policy was crucial to China's cooperation with other countries.

It said Prague's "own interests will suffer" if city hall failed to comply.

Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek told reporters on Wednesday that "threats have no place in diplomacy", adding however that the Czech government respects the One-China policy regardless of Prague's position.

Leftwing Czech President Milos Zeman is a strong supporter of warm ties with both China and Russia.

He invited Xi Jinping to Prague in 2016 and announced Chinese investment worth 95 billion koruna (3.7 billion euros, $4 billion) in that year alone, which has so far largely failed to materialize. – Rappler.com