The head of the Czech Senate, Milos Vystrcil, arrived in Taiwan on Aug. 30 along with a large delegation for a rare trip by a senior foreign official that has angered Beijing, which considers the island a breakaway province ineligible for state-to-state relations.
Vystrcil, who as president of the Senate is effectively the second-highest-ranking official in the Czech Republic after the country’s president, said the multi-day visit would promote business links with Taiwan, and the Czech Republic wouldn’t bow to Beijing’s objections.
The delegation is due to meet President Tsai Ing-wen and other top officials in Taiwan, where strict coronavirus measures will be observed during the meetings.
“You cannot accept being someone’s servant, because if you do, then when you obey once, it’s assumed that you obey every time,” Vystrcil told Reuters in Prague on Aug. 29 ahead of the trip.
Vystrcil said his visit underscored the “values-based” foreign policy put in place by then-President Vaclav Havel, an anti-communist dissident and personal friend of the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama.
For Taiwan, the Czech visit is a welcome sign of support amid growing tensions with the Chinese regime.
“Taiwan and the Czech Republic both share the universal values of democracy, freedom, and human rights,” Johnson Chiang, head of the European Affairs Office at Taiwan‘s Foreign Ministry, told reporters this week.
Earlier in August, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar went to Taiwan in the highest-level visit by a U.S. official in four decades.
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.
China warned of possible consequences for Czech companies with Chinese operations when Vystrcil’s predecessor started planning a trip to the self-ruled island.
“Such a visit is deliberately undermining the political foundation between China and the Czech Republic, we condemn such a despicable act,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Aug. 27.