Czech parliament chief assures Taiwan of her support after outcry in China
PRAGUE (Reuters) -Czech lower house of parliament speaker Marketa Pekarova Adamova on Wednesday assured Taiwan of her country's support for partner states who respect human rights and liberal democracy, ahead of a visit to Taipei planned for March.
The Czechs have been intensifying relations with the self-ruled island, which giant neighbour China claims as its own, and President-elect Petr Pavel spoke with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen on Monday, drawing a sharp rebuke from Beijing.
Pekarova in turn spoke on Wednesday with Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.
"I assured the minister that systematic support of partners who respect human rights and the principles of liberal democracy belongs among priorities of our parliamentary diplomacy," she said in a statement issued through her spokesman.
Pekarova plans to travel to Taiwan with a delegation of businessmen and representatives of educational and scientific institutions.
The pro-Taiwan stance by Pavel marks a turnaround from President Milos Zeman, who retires in March and who favoured building closer relations with Beijing.
The Czech Republic does not have diplomatic relations with the island, whose democratically elected government strongly disputes China's territorial claims over it, but the legislature and the centre-right government have been strengthening economic and cultural ties.
Most countries avoid high-level public interactions with Taiwan and its president, not wishing to provoke China, the world's second largest economy.
Wu said in the call he was happy to see Taiwan-Czech exchanges and cooperation in various fields continue to develop and deepen, Taiwan's foreign ministry said in a statement.
"The Czech Republic is not afraid of the coercion of authoritarian regimes, adheres to the values of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights, and continues to enhance our bilateral friendship, which is deeply admired and respected by the people of Taiwan," the statement paraphrased Wu as saying on the call.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Robert Muller, additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; editing by John Stonestreet and Nick Macfie)