Police president apologises for Tibetan flag incident at Prague Film Academy

Illustrative photo: Ladislav Bába

Police President Tomáš Tuhý has apologized to the dean of the Czech Film Academy (FAMU )for the behaviour of two police officers on the academy’s premises during the recent visit to Prague by the Chinese president. In an incident reminiscent of communist-era practices, the officers entered the premises and demanded to know who was responsible for hoisting the Tibetan flag on the building.

Illustrative photo: Ladislav Bába
Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit to Prague raised the issue of business interests versus human rights and a possible shift of Czech foreign policy eastwards, but it was the incident at the Czech Film Academy that sparked the most concern. The behaviour of two officers, who entered the premises and demanded to know who had raised the Tibetan flag, noting that “the Chinese would not like it” had activists ringing alarm bells with regard to freedom of expression here in the Czech Republic.

The incident was reminiscent of communist-era practices and the interior minister was under fire to launch a thorough investigation. He vehemently denied claims that police had received orders to quell anti-Chinese protests during the visit and said he would resign if an investigation revealed that the police had received orders to “side with Chinese demonstrators and intervene against Czech human rights activists”.

Tomáš Tuhý,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Monday brought an apology from Police President Tomáš Tuhý who sent the dean of the Film Academy Pavel Jech an open letter saying that the behaviour of the officers in question was “inappropriate and uncalled for”. He said the incident was caused by a communication error and their own overzealous activity. Both now face disciplinary proceedings. The police president stressed that no order from high places had been issued for the removal of the Tibetan flag from the school building or any other hoisted in Prague at the time of the Chinese visit.

The academy’s dean Pavel Jech told Czech Radio he accepted the apology, but did not consider the matter closed.

Pavel Jech,  photo: archive of Radio Prague
“This is a very sensitive, very important matter at stake. Freedom of expression is one of the most precious, most fundamental rights we have. And there may have been an attempt to violate it on academic soil. So we want to look into this further, to consult with a lawyer and make sure that there was no violation of the law.”

Meanwhile, an investigation continues into other incidents that accompanied the Chinese president’s visit, including who gave the order for the police to prevent a demonstration by human rights activists on Hradčanské náměstí which had been approved by Prague City Hall and claims by human rights activists who got into skirmishes with Chinese nationals that the police had intervened against them unfairly.