Against Beijing’s strong objections, an official delegation from the Czech Republic, headed by Senate President Miloš Vystrčil, arrived in Taiwan Sunday on a six-day visit aimed at strengthening economic and cultural ties between the two countries.
The 89-member delegation arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 11:00 a.m. on a direct charter flight, which took off from Prague Saturday afternoon.
Vystrčil, the second highest ranking official of the Czech Republic, after the country’s president, is the highest-level Czech official to ever visit Taiwan.
The delegation’s visit has been strongly condemned by China, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory and opposes any official contact that could be seen as elevating Taiwan’s status as an independent nation.
Vystrčil, however, said the Czech Republic will not bow to China’s objections, according to a Reuters report Saturday.
“You cannot accept being someone’s servant, because if you do, then when you obey once, it’s assumed that you obey every time,” Vystrčil told Reuters ahead of the trip.
Before boarding the flight at Václav Havel Airport Prague, Vystrčil said the purpose of the Taiwan trip is to show support for democracy, and to bring economic benefits for Czech companies.
He also said the visit is to honor the spirit of late Czech President Václav Havel.
Havel had publicly voiced his support for Taiwan to gain entry to the United Nations at the 50th anniversary of the founding of the world organization in 1995. He also met with late Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui when the latter visited the Czech Republic in the late 1990s.
Vystrčil’s delegation, which includes Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib and representatives of the country’s political, business, scientific and cultural sectors, will be in Taiwan until Sept. 4.
During their stay, the Czech Senate speaker will meet with President Tsai Ing-wen and other top officials. He is also scheduled to deliver speeches at the Legislative Yuan and National Chengchi University in Taipei.
Vystrčil will also receive a Congressional Diplomacy Honorary Medal from the Legislature, making him the first legislative head from a country with which Taiwan has no diplomatic relations to receive the honor since it was created in 2007.
Czech Senate speaker leaves for Taiwan visit, angering China
The head of the Czech Senate travelled to Taiwan on Saturday for a rare trip by a senior foreign official that has angered China, which considers the island a breakaway province ineligible for state-to-state relations.
Senate speaker Milos Vystrcil said his visit would promote business links with Taiwan, and that the Czech Republic would not bow to Beijing’s objections.
“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 ahead of the trip.
Vystrcil said his visit underscored the “values-based” foreign policy put in place by late President Vaclav Havel, an anti-communist dissident and personal friend of the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama.
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.
For Taiwan, the Czech visit is a welcome sign of support amid growing tensions with China.
“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’s, told reporters this week.
Earlier this month, 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.
Vystrcil’s trip has further complicated relations between China and the EU country.
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 Thursday.