Prague Faces Threats from Beijing After Ending Sister City Agreement

On October 4, the municipal government of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, said it would end its sister city agreement with Beijing after its counterparts refused to enter into a negotiation on the deletion of a clause affirming Prague’s recognition of the one-China policy.  Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib said the political nature of the clause was inappropriate because the sister-city agreement was a “cultural arrangement.”

While the cancellation still needs approval from the municipal assembly, the city has already faced a backlash from Beijing.  In meetings with Chinese counterparts, Czech diplomats stressed that the move “is a city-level, not national-level policy – one that would be impossible for the national government to overrule because it is a decision made by a democratically elected city hall.”  This has not stopped China from putting pressure on Prague.  Briefing the press, President Milos Zeman said, “China reacts by retaliatory measures.  Some airlines that were to fly to Prague are to deflect to Croatia.  But most importantly, the financing of Slavia Prague [football club] is to be stopped.”  Zeman’s claims could not be independently confirmed.  A club spokesman also declined to confirm Zeman’s claim.

Hrib has challenged Czech President Zeman’s pro-China stance since becoming mayor in 2018.  One month after entering office, he refused a request from the Chinese ambassador to dismiss Taiwanese representatives from a meeting with foreign diplomats.  He has also stated his support for Tibet.