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China takes aim at Czech mayor with canceled orchestra tour

By
Elizabeth Shim
Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib's meeting with leaders of Taiwan and exiled Tibetans is drawing criticism from the Chinese government. Photo courtesy of Czech Pirate Party
Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib's meeting with leaders of Taiwan and exiled Tibetans is drawing criticism from the Chinese government. Photo courtesy of Czech Pirate Party

May 2 (UPI) -- China has canceled planned City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra concerts, alleging the mayor of Prague has conducted pro-Taiwan activities, a Hong Kong-based newspaper reported.

Ming Pao reported Thursday the philharmonic was expected to tour China next week, but the plans may have been canceled after Mayor Zdenek Hrib met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, and with Lobsang Sangay, the Tibetan political leader democratically elected by exiled Tibetans in 2011.

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The Prague mayor has a history with Taiwan. In his student days, Hrib, 37, participated in a student exchange program in the country in 2005.

After being elected mayor in November 2018, Hrib reportedly attempted to remove a clause stating Taiwan is Chinese territory that is included in a sister-city agreement between Prague and Beijing.

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Officials of the Czech Republic have been attempting to resolve the issue with Beijing, but according to Antonin Stanek Chinese officials said the orchestra must condemn the Prague mayor if they are to perform in the country, according to Ming Pao.

The philharmonic reportedly rejected the request and said it would not conduct cultural exchange on the basis of politics.

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Hrib said he would look into allowing the orchestra to perform in other countries, including Taiwan.

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China does not recognize Taiwan's sovereignty under its One-China policy.

Zheng Li-jun, Taiwan's minister of culture, said the country would welcome the Prague Philharmonic and urged China to not mix politics with culture.

China may have tried to interfere with other Czech Republic activities.

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Taiwan News reported Beijing asked the Czech government to exclude Taiwanese diplomats from a Czech industry ministry event in March. The Czech government did not comply, and China followed with the orchestra cancellation, according to reports.

During Tsai's term of office, relations with the mainland have declined.

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