Picture of skirmish between human rights demonstrators and pro- Xi Jinping supporters wins Czech Press Photo

Photo: Michal Šula / ČTK

A photograph of a skirmish between human rights activists and supporters of Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Prague this year has won the top prize in this year’s Czech Press Photo. During the visit in March, organized groups of Chinese supporters clashed with Czech activists, some of them evoking the legacy of the late Václav Havel and his friendship with the Dalai Lama. The winning entry was taken by photojournalist Michal Šula.

Photo: Michal Šula / ČTK
I spoke to the well-known Czech-born photographer Líba Taylor, who was on the jury, asking about this year’s winner.

“There is always a conversation about the nominated pictures and we ended up with three finalists in the top category. There was a lot of debate and in the end the jury opted for quite a dynamic picture. It covers the Czech domestic scene, which is quite important, and the jury arrived at the decision it was the best entry.”

The photo basically shows a skirmish or a struggle and you have these sharp intersecting lines which are placards or flags and you have this figure who is basically draped in one of the flags…

“The background was people in Prague demonstrating against the visit of the Chinese president. There were Chinese who tried to block them. In the photo, some people were smiling and it was a situation where people were playing with the flags. That is the theme of the picture. It is a political event but it was quite funny.”

Do you think that this photograph will speak to a broader Czech audience?

Michal Šula,  photo: ČTK
“Well I think it should. People know the context, they saw it in the news, it was a controversial event and also because our position vis-à-vis the Chinese is kind of uncertain when our president makes private visits to China. So I think it was very good that people can see what happened in local news.”

One of the sort of subtexts is, is that there is a division still going back to the last presidential election, the result of which was a split with the approach of someone like Václav Havel or other political forces…

“Well, as you know, that division remains. The country is divided and is going to be so until someone unites it.”