Czech leader defies China, addresses Taiwan’s parliament

Taipei, #dailynews60 : Defying anger from China, the president of the Czech Republic’s Senate addressed Taiwan’s national legislature, offering a strong rebuke to authoritarian politics and Beijing’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy.

Milos Vystrcil concluded a speech that underscored shared democratic values by proclaiming in Mandarin that I am Taiwanese, a throwback to former US President John F Kennedy’s famed 1963 anti-communist speech in a then-divided Berlin in which he declared he was a Berliner.

Beijing is furious about the Czech delegation’s visit, with the Foreign Ministry summoning the Czech Republic’s ambassador in the country to lodge stern representations on Monday and saying the visit amounted to flagrant support of Taiwan independence .

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and strongly objects to any official contact between its diplomatic allies and the self-governing island.

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “The Chinese government and people will not sit by and let this go unchecked, and will definitely make them pay a heavy price for their short-sighted behaviour and political opportunism.

Vystrcil directly referenced Kennedy’s Ich bin ein Berliner speech, and emphasised democratic freedoms embraced since the Czech Republic threw off communist rule at the end of the Cold War and Taiwan emerged from martial law at the end of the 1980s.

In 1963, the American president JFK, in his famous speech ‘I’m a Berliner,’ clearly opposed communism and political oppression and supported the people of West Berlin, Vystrcil said. He said ‘Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.'”

Please let me use the same manner to express my support to the people of Taiwan: I’m a Taiwanese, he said, speaking the last phrase in Mandarin Chinese.

Vystrcil’s visit follows a spat last year between Beijing and Prague, the Czech Republic’s capital. The two cities ended a sister-cities agreement because Beijing has wanted Prague to agree to the one China principle, which is China’s stance that Taiwan is a part of its territory.

The visit is also in direct opposition to Czech President Milos Zeman, who has taken strongly pro-China views. Vystrcil is due to meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen later in the week.

Amid China’s campaign of diplomatic isolation and military threats, Taiwan has been blocked from participating in major international forums and now has just 15 formal allies.

Despite the lack of official ties, the US remains Taiwan’s closest partner and source of defensive weaponry to counter China’s threat to bring the island under its control by military means.