Czech Senate president Milos Vystrcil on Thursday morning met Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen during his visit to the self-ruled democratic island, defying China that has called the trip “an act of international treachery” and his statements, violation of Beijing’s ‘One-China policy’.
The harshest Chinese reaction to the trip had come from foreign minister Wang Yi who is on a five-nation Europe outreach visit and told Vystrcil that he had “crossed a red line”. China treats Taiwan as its territory and objects to official contact between other countries and the self-governing island.
“The Chinese government and Chinese people won’t take a laissez-faire attitude or sit idly by, and will make him (Vystrcil) pay a heavy price for his short-sighted behaviour and political opportunism.” the Chinese foreign minister said over the weekend.
Wang was promptly rebuked by Germany, Slovakia and France.
German foreign minister Heiko Maas, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, on Wednesday confronted Wang for his threat, telling him that Europeans offered its international partners respect and expected “the exact same” from them. “Threats don’t fit in here,” Maas said on Tuesday according to a Bloomberg report, standing next to Wang at a press briefing in Berlin.
The French foreign ministry has called Wang’s comments “unacceptable”, a message echoed by Slovakia President Zuzana Caputova. “Threats directed at one of the EU members and its representatives contradict the very essence of our partnership and as such is unacceptable,” President Caputova said in a tweet.
Milos Vystrcil, whose visit to Taipei triggered the diplomatic storm, landed in Taiwan on 30 August with a 90-member delegation, declaring that the Czech Republic would not bow to objections from Beijing that considers the democratically-ruled island a breakaway province.
On Thursday morning, he stuck to his schedule and met Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen and other top government officials Thursday. Tsai presented a medal for Jaroslav Kubera, the late predecessor of Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil, who died in January before he could travel to Taiwan to accept the medal.
“I do not feel I have crossed any red line whatsoever,” Vystrcil told reporters after the meeting, according to news agency Associated Press.
Vystrcil said he hadn’t done anything that would be an infringement of the One China policy but underlined that “every country has the right to interpret the One China principle in their own way.”
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said Taiwan is trying to maintain the status quo “and the status quo is that Taiwan does not belong to China. Taiwan is governed by its own people.” The two sides also spoke of plans to deepen cooperation in business, scientific research and democratic exchange.
Vystrcil had on Tuesday angered Beijing when he, in his address to Taiwanese lawmakers, invoked a 1963 speech by US President John F Kennedy during a Cold War trip to West Berlin and emphasised democratic freedoms embraced by the Czech Republic after communist rule at the end of the Cold War.
“In 1963, the American president JFK, in his famous speech ‘I’m a Berliner,’ clearly opposed communism and political oppression and supported the people of West Berlin,” Vystrcil said. “He said ‘Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.’”
“Please let me use the same manner to express my support to the people of Taiwan: I’m a Taiwanese,” he said according to the AP report.
On Thursday, Taiwan parliament speaker You Si-kun showered praises at Vystrcil for his “stirring” speech to lawmakers and described him as a paragon of a cultured country. “Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s vulgar threats, however, were like a cold, unwelcome winter wind that causes discomfort,” the speaker said, according to a Reuters report.