A China tour by Prague’s Philharmonic Orchestra has been cancelled and the city zoo’s long-held dreams of hosting a panda shattered in an escalating feud between a maverick Czech mayor and Beijing.
China is furious at Zdenek Hřib, 38, the city’s anti-establishment mayor, for refusing to toe Beijing’s line over its sensitivities about the status of Taiwan and Tibet.
Since his election less than a year ago, Mr Hřib, a Czech Pirate Party politician, has flown the Tibetan flag at the capital’s city hall, met with Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwanese president, and resisted Chinese demands to expel Taiwan’s representative from a meeting of foreign diplomats.
Mr Hřib, a doctor who did a medical training internship in Taiwan, has also openly demanded that China remove a clause from a Prague-Beijing cooperation that requires the Czech capital to “respect the one-China policy and acknowledge Taiwan as an inseparable part of Chinese territory”.
Taiwan, a democracy of 23 million, functions like any other country with elections, its own currency, military and foreign policy, but China claims it as its own territory and has warned it will annex the island by force if necessary.
“This article is a one-sided declaration that Prague agrees with and respects the one China policy and such a statement has no place in the sister cities agreement,” Hřib told the Guardian earlier this year.