PRAGUE – Prague has signed a twinning deal with Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, after the Czech city canceled a similar agreement with Beijing last October.
The Chinese government has warned the move could be detrimental to the Czech capital.
The twinning document was signed Monday by the mayor of Prague Zdenek Hrib of the Pirate Party, with his Taipei counterpart, Ko Wen-je, who received the key to the city.
The agreement extends a memorandum of understanding closed in 2001, to promote friendship between the inhabitants of the two cities, as well as “commercial and economic flows” and “exchanges and cooperation” in the areas of cultural, educational, scientific, technological, tourism and health.
“This twinning will be very fruitful. Despite the undeniable geographical distance, we are joined by common democratic values, respect for fundamental human rights and cultural freedom,” said Hrib.
The Prague City Council, ruled from 2008 by a coalition led by the Pirate Party, canceled last October a twinning deal agreed with Beijing two years earlier.
The reason behind Prague’s withdrawal was the city’s demand that a paragraph be deleted from the document that speaks of the existence of “One China,” one of the pillars of the foreign policy of the Asian giant.
The One China policy stipulates there is only one sovereign country under that name, thus denying Taiwan’s autonomy as The Republic of China.
The Czech government does recognize the One China principle.
When China refused to eliminate this heading, Prague City Council decided to revoke the twinning agreement in its entirety to establish one with Taipei instead.
Faced with this decision, the Chinese Embassy to the Czech Republic asked the City Council to reconsider its position and warned that, otherwise, Prague would feel “prejudice to its interests.”
“Prague has the right to twin with the cities of the world it wants, and I think Beijing should leave them the right to choose,” Ko said after signing the agreement.
The conflict between Prague and China already caused the cancellation of tours in the Asian country of several Czech orchestras last year.
The Czech Republic is among the countries of Central and Eastern Europe that support the Chinese investment initiative of the silk route.