The Chinese regime considers Taiwan a renegade province and part of its territory, despite the self-ruled island having its own democratically-elected government, military, currency, and other traits of a nation-state. Beijing opposes words or actions by foreign government officials that recognize the island’s sovereignty.
Vystrcil arrived in Taiwan on Sunday, leading a delegation of 89 people including business leaders, senators, and Prague mayor Zdeněk Hřib, despite strong opposition from Beijing.
In a speech given at the Presidential Office, Tsai said that Vystrcil’s remarks at Taiwan’s parliament two days earlier—when he said “I am a Taiwanese”—had “struck a chord” with many Taiwanese.
It was a privilege to host @Vystrcil_Milos & members of the #CzechRepublic delegation today. Your visit is a testament to #Taiwan & #Czechia's courage & persistence in pursuit of justice, freedom & democracy. These values guide our contributions to the world. pic.twitter.com/VLdCrxcnD3
— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) September 3, 2020
The phrase “I am a Taiwanese” was an allusion to John F. Kennedy’s famous speech in Berlin in 1963, during which the late U.S. President said “I’m a Berliner” to rally the isolated people of West Berlin. Vystrcil used his speech at the parliament to voice his support for Taiwan’s democracy and freedom.
Tsai said that Vystrcil’s visit had “deepened the ties” between the two states and delivered a message to the international community that Taiwan and the Czech Republic “share common beliefs in democracy and freedom.”
“Our actions tell all of our friends in Europe and like-minded friends throughout the world that the people of both Taiwan and the Czech Republic will not bow to pressure,” Tsai said.
Meanwhile, Vystrcil took a moment to remember former Czech Senate President Jaroslav Kubera, who planned to visit Taiwan this year, but passed away in January.
Vystrcil said he hoped that his visit would “serve as a lead for other countries in the European Union.”
Tsai also awarded a posthumous medal to Kubera that was accepted by Vystrcil. The medal was to recognize Kubera’s long-standing support for Taiwan.
Vera Kuberova, Kubera’s widow, in a pre-recorded video played at the meeting, thanked Tsai for the award.
“I wanted to support you [Taiwan] on your path to independence, democracy, and freedom,” Kuberova added.
After meeting with Tsai, Vystrcil held a joint press conference with Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, during which he was asked by local media about China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s threat. While visiting Germany on Monday, Wang said Vystrcil would “pay a heavy price” for visiting the island.
In response, Vystrcil said that he disliked such comments, and believed there was nothing wrong with his visit to Taiwan, as every country could have its own interpretation of the “one-China policy.”
Beijing interprets it as meaning Taiwan belongs to Communist Party-ruled China, while Taiwan takes it to mean the Republic of China (formal name of Taiwan) is the legitimate government.
Wang’s threat against Vystrcil has drawn strong criticism from several European officials, including Slovakia’s President Zuzana Čaputová and Norbert Roettgen, head of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee.
Most recently, the White House National Security Council also took to its Twitter account to voice support for Vystrcil. It wrote: “No amount of bullying will stop our partners from promoting shared #democratic values.”
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a tweet on Sept. 2, wrote that it stood with Vystrcil “in the face of disgraceful threats” by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“His powerful demonstration of solidarity & support for #Taiwan – a model of freedom and democracy is an example for all,” the Senate committee wrote.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release late Thursday afternoon, detailing how the two states have enhanced their bilateral relationship.
According to the press release, Vystrcil has extended an invitation to the leader of Taiwan’s parliament to visit the Czech Republic. There will be more exchange visits between officials from the two states’ parliaments. The two sides will also enhance their democratic systems by sharing their experiences on holding elections, enhancing internet security, and fighting against disinformation.