Czech PM receives strongly-worded letter . . .
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said during a TV interview yesterday that China’s Ambassador to the Czech Republic should be replaced after he sent a threatening letter to Czech authorities on January 10. In the letter, Ambassador Zhang Jianmin warned that the Czech Senate Speaker’s planned visit to Taiwan would result in retaliation against Czech companies based in China, including the Volkswagen subsidiary, Skoda Auto, and the Home Credit Group. Czech Television quoted Prime Minister Babiš saying that the situation “is quite distinctive, and what [the Chinese Ambassador] has written, that is absolutely unacceptable, we must reject that.”
An already strained relationship . . .
Last year, the Czech Republic’s stance on China began to change. Prague’s then new mayor, Zdeněk Hřib, announced the establishment of a sister city agreement with Taipei and expressed support for Tibet. Both stances triggered strong criticism from the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Protesting the signing of the sister city agreement on January 13, authorities in Beijing and Shanghai cancelled their respective sister city partnerships with Prague. Adding to these tensions, Czech intelligence and cybersecurity organizations are reporting that China has been engaging in intelligence activities in the country for years and warned against using Chinese telecoms equipment makers Huawei and ZTE in the Czech Republic’s critical network projects.
Others feeling the ‘China chill’ . . .
The Czech Republic is not the only country standing up to pressure from Beijing. Earlier this year, the Swedish Foreign Ministry summoned China’s Ambassador to Sweden after he appeared to threaten local journalists who criticized the Chinese government. As reported by The Washington Post, Ambassador Gui Gongyou warned that Sweden, “a small country of 10 million people, [could] face consequences from China.” Similarly, recent Chinese ambassadors to Canada have openly issued warnings to Canadian members of parliament and the Canadian government not to follow the U.S.’s lead regarding human rights issues in China.
- The Diplomat: Sister-City relations and identity politics: The case of Prague, Beijing, Taipei, and Shanghai
- Reuters: Czech Prime Minister says China’s Ambassador should be replaced
- Washington Post: China’s ambassador to Sweden calls journalists critical of Beijing lightweight boxers facing a heavyweight