PRAGUE (Reuters) – The speaker of the Czech upper house of parliament is to travel to Taiwan with a trade mission at the end of August, potentially further souring his country’s relations with China which regards the island as a part of its territory.
The Czech Republic adheres to the one China policy, like most countries, but unofficial ties with Taiwan exist, mainly in business and science.
Any visit would infuriate Beijing, which views Taiwan as merely a Chinese province with no right to state-to-state relations and routinely denounces any formal interactions between foreign governments and the island.
For Taiwan, it would be a valuable show of international support at a time when China has ramped up pressure on Taiwan to get it to accept Chinese sovereignty.
Milos Vystrcil’s decision follows a plan to visit Taipei by his predecessor as Senate speaker, Jaroslav Kubera. Kubera died in January before he could make the trip but was under pressure from China and the Czech presidency to drop the idea.
A document sent by China’s Embassy in Prague to the Czech president’s office in January suggested that Czech companies operating in mainland China, such as Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) subsidiary Skoda Auto or lender Home Credit, would suffer if Kubera visited the self-ruled island.
Vystrcil, member of the centre-right opposition, said on Tuesday he was motivated by business development and the country’s tradition of human rights policies.
“We will either stick to our principles or count pennies. I am leaning toward keeping our values and principles,” he told a news conference.
Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou expressed her “sincere welcome” to Vystrcil. The Chinese Embassy in Prague did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Vystrcil’s trip would also irk Czech President Milos Zeman, who has for years tried to build up warm relations with China.
But fizzled investments, Czech cybersecurity warnings over using Huawei and a Prague mayor who defied China signing a sister-city agreement with Taipei instead of Beijing have dented the relationship.
Reporting by Robert Muller; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Alison Williams