Threats from China over Czech visit to Taiwan draw sharp response from Prague and words of support from international community

Miloš Vystrčil, photo: ČTK/AP/Chiang Ying-ying

The Czech government has sharply rebuffed threats from China over the ongoing visit of a Czech delegation to Taiwan led by Senate speaker Miloš Vystrčil. The closely-watched talks on the island have also won support from international leaders who have called on China to observe the principle of mutual respect.

Statements coming from Beijing reflect the growing wrath of China over a visit by the second highest Czech official; a visit which observers say could set a precedent and open the door that China has so far managed to keep closed.

Beijing, which described the visit as „a despicable act of opportunism“, warned Czechs they would pay “a heavy price” for it and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told journalists on a visit to Berlin on Tuesday that Mr. Vystrčil had “crossed the red line”.

Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petříček reminded his Chinese counterpart that the Czech Republic is a sovereign state.

Tomáš Petříček,  photo: archive of Czech Foreign Ministry

“We strongly reject these statements which don't belong in relations between two sovereign countries. Although I did not support the visit as such, I will always defend the sovereignty of the Czech Republic.“

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš likewise stressed that the tone and language adopted by China in connection with this visit is unacceptable, telling the media this would be communicated to Beijing “via diplomatic channels”.

Meanwhile, as the international media reported on the exchange, words of support came from other EU member states.

Heiko Maas, the foreign minister of Germany, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, told China the EU would not brow-beaten by anyone.

“The EU treats its international partners with respect and we expect to be treated likewise. Threats have no place in international relations.”

The German foreign minister said Europe would be increasingly emphatic in defending its interests and was not about to become a punching bag in the power games between China, Russia and the US. France echoed those sentiments and the president of neighbouring Slovakia Zuzana Čaputová wrote on Twitter:

“Slovakia stands by the Czech Republic. EU-China relations are based on dialogue and mutual respect. Threats directed at one of the EU members and its representatives contradict the very essence of our partnership and as such are unacceptable.”

Even before the visit by the high-level Czech delegation to Taiwan started, 70 foreign politicians and lawmakers signed a petition supporting it, in which they stated “the sovereign right of all countries to develop relations with Taiwan in line with their national interests and shared values.

MEPs for two Czech parties in the European Parliament – the Pirate Party and the Christian Democrats – have asked for the EU to take an official stand in defence of the Czech Republic.

The attention which the visit has received and the international involvement in it are likely to make China even more concerned with regard to its international repercussions and the degree of continued respect for the “One China” policy.