China says Czech senate speaker will pay ‘heavy price’ for Taiwan visit

Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil (left) is greeted by Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu upon his arrival, on Aug 30, 2020.
Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil (left) is greeted by Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu upon his arrival, on Aug 30, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Czech Senate speaker Milos Vystrcil will "pay a heavy price" for making an official trip to Taiwan, the Chinese government’s top diplomat said on Monday (Aug 31), prompting Prague to summon China’s ambassador though Vystrcil said he did not seek confrontation.

Mr Vystrcil arrived in Taipei on Sunday on a visit to promote business links with Taiwan.

He said the Czech Republic would not bow to Beijing’s objections. China considers Taiwan a breakaway province ineligible for state-to-state relations.

Speaking while in Germany, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi said there would be retribution.

“The Chinese government and Chinese people won’t take a laissez-faire attitude or sit idly by, and will make him pay a heavy price for his short-sighted behaviour and political opportunism,” China’s foreign ministry cited minister Wang as saying.

Mr Wang said the Chinese government and people will not tolerate such “open provocation” by Mr Vystrcil and the anti-China forces behind him, though gave no details of how exactly Beijing would react.

Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said that although the government did not support the trip, Mr Wang’s remarks were too strong and he wanted an explanation and would summon the Chinese ambassador.

“I expect that Chinese side will explain them to us. The trip has of course an impact on relations with China, but I think that this has crossed the line,” Mr Petricek told reporters, according to the CTK news agency.

Mr Vystrcil said in a statement that Mr Wang’s comments were an interference in the Czech Republic’s internal affairs.

“We are a free country seeking to have good relationships with all countries and I believe this will be the case in the future irrespective of the statement of the minister. And let me repeat again – this visit is by no means meant to politically confront anyone,” he said.

Taiwan Economics Minister Wang Mei-hua declined to make any direct comment on China’s attack on Mr Vystrcil, but said the two had much in common.

“The Czech Republic and Taiwan are free and democratic countries which put great store on human rights. We have the same values as the Czechs,” she told reporters, speaking before a business forum with Mr Vystrcil.

Czech President Milos Zeman has sought closer business and political ties with China since taking office in 2013, but his efforts have been hit by failed investment plans and Czech wavering about allowing China’s Huawei Technologies to play a role in developing next-generation telecoms networks.

Speaking later at a Taipei university, Mr Vystrcil praised Taiwan and its democratic way of life.

“I believe democracy with freedom, truth and justice stemming from it, constitute our most treasured common values,” he said.