Dalai Lama’s visit to Prague surrounded by controversy
A visit by the Dalai Lama to Prague this week has turned into a hot political issue. A joint statement by key politicians, reassuring Beijing of the country’s continued pro-China orientation, has evoked a storm of protests and accusations of “uncalled for, shameful servility“.
Meetings between the Dalai Lama and Culture Minister Daniel Herman, Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Bělobrádek and the deputy speakers of the upper and lower chambers – labelled as private – inevitably raised hackles in Beijing. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the Dalai Lama was in Prague to engage in “anti-China-separatist activities” and expressed the hope that the Czech government would take steps to maintain “the present good momentum in Sino-Czech relations.” The Chinese ambassador to Prague met with the Czech president’s chief foreign policy adviser and just hours later the president, prime minister and speakers of both houses of parliament issued a rare joint statement stressing that Tibet is regarded as an integral part of China and the meetings between some Czech politicians and the Tibetan spiritual leader do not signal a change in the country’s official policy line in relations with China.
“This statement was uncalled-for, undignified and servile. I have no idea why our leaders felt the need to make it.”
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka defended the statement, drafted by the Foreign Ministry, saying it fully reflected the government’s foreign policy line in relations with China.
“Everyone has the right to meet who they want. I see no problem with that. But on the other hand, the country’s leaders also have the right to issue a statement confirming the basic principles of our foreign policy line with respect to China.”
“Had the Czech government stood its ground, we would have seen some turbulence in bilateral relations. China has its own vested interests in Europe. It would have found a way to digest this minor incident and the 16+1 meeting would have taken place. It is in their interests as well as in ours.”