The mayor of Prague condemned China as an “unreliable partner” Sunday and told a German newspaper his city will sign a twinning agreement with Taiwan’s capital Taipei.
The comments by Zdenek Hrib revive an ongoing dispute between Prague and Beijing that has soured Czech-Chinese relations despite a campaign by Czech president Milan Zeman for closer ties between the two countries.
In guest commentary for the weekly paper Welt am Sonntag, Hrib of the Czech Pirate Party said China was “full of resentment” and was trying to influence Czech public opinion.
The 38-year-old mayor, who has been running Prague since November 2018, sought to explain his administration’s decision to cancel a “sister city” agreement with Beijing in October.
The deal was agreed in 2016, but later torn up after Zdenek’s administration backed out of a controversial clause on the so-called One-China policy.
In Welt am Sonntag, Zdenek wrote that he could not sign an agreement that forced Prague to “speak out against the independence of Tibet and Taiwan.”
Beijing views Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to retake the island one day, by force if necessary.
The Prague mayor said he would instead sign a twinning agreement with Taipei on Monday.
“That way, we have lost one partner but won another,” he said.
If it goes ahead, the Taipei twinning would come days after Taiwan emphatically re-elected incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen, a result widely seen as a blow to China.
Zdenek said he did not advocate breaking off diplomatic or economic ties with China, but urged European democracies to think hard about “jumping into bed with such a risky and unreliable partner.”
“I call on all of you not to give up your values and personal integrity in the face of threats and blackmail,” he wrote.
Zdenek also accused the Czech government of “neglecting” ideals of the peaceful 1989 Velvet Revolution that ended four decades of communist rule in the Czech Republic.
“As mayor I am working to fulfil my campaign promise to return to a course of respect for democracy and human rights,” he wrote.
“These are the values of the Velvet Revolution, which the current leadership of our republic is neglecting.”