PRAGUE (AFP) - Prague's anti-establishment mayor on Thursday (July 18) criticised China over its threat to cut investment in the Czech capital after the city told Beijing it respects Taiwan's independence.
Earlier this year, Pirate Party Mayor Zdenek Hrib vowed to cut a clause from a Prague-Beijing cooperation agreement that said Prague would "respect the one-China policy and acknowledge Taiwan as an inseparable part of Chinese territory".
Taiwan has been ruled separately from China since the end of a civil war in 1949, but under its "one-China" policy, Beijing considers it a part of its territory.
With talks on a new agreement still under way, Prague's move triggered anger in Beijing, which cancelled a June concert tour by the Prague Philharmonic.
"China should focus on making good on its unfulfilled investment promises," Mr Hrib tweeted on Thursday.
"The cancellation of the Prague Philharmonic's concert tour, despite a signed contract, demonstrates that China is an unreliable business partner," he added.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told the Xinhua agency on Wednesday that Prague and its mayor had "behaved very badly on issues involving China's national sovereignty".
"This is the fundamental reason why related parties and individuals of Prague are not welcomed by Chinese people," Mr Geng told the official Chinese state-run news agency.
The controversial cooperation deal was signed in 2016 by Mr Hrib's predecessors, in part because Prague zoo wanted to get a panda from Beijing.
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Prague that year invited by his Czech counterpart, the pro-Chinese, pro-Russian veteran left-winger Milos Zeman.
Mr Xi promised hefty investments which have so far largely failed to materialise.
Mr Zeman's spokesman Jiri Ovcacek on Thursday accused Prague city hall of "deliberately harming relations with China" and "systematically undermining Czech interests."
But Mr Jan Cizinsky, a Pirate ally on Prague city council, hit back, insisting that "human rights are more than a panda in a zoo".
Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek, meanwhile, pledged to meet the Chinese ambassador to Prague as soon as possible.