While most of the world has been courting medical supplies from the People’s Republic of China to fight coronavirus, Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates) has distanced himself from the recent charm offensive. This has caught the attention of US conservative broadcaster Fox News, financial news agency Bloomberg, and UK tabloid The Daily Mail, among others.
Fox News pointed out that the mayor was not interested in helping “Chinese officials desperate to rebrand Beijing as a global superpower” through its efforts to distribute supplies such as masks and respirators.
Fox and Bloomberg both quoted Hřib’s comment that supplies from China aren’t “a humanitarian gift or aid.” but simply “business.” Hřib had been critical of a March 20 welcoming ceremony with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) and Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jiang for the first large shipment of respirators and supplies. While the supplies were purchased, the ceremony made it look like a gift, Hřib said.
Hřib previously backed out of a sister city agreement with Beijing, signed by the previous city administration, due to its one-China clause. He has since signed an agreement with Taipei, and he also refused to bow to Chinese pressure to exclude a representative of Taiwan from an official reception.
“Hřib believes that despite the extraordinary circumstances facing the world right now, it is important to keep pressure on China and challenge the country on its history of human rights abuses,” Fox News’ Barnini Chakrabort wrote in the story headlined “Prague mayor says he doesn’t want China’s coronavirus help, supplies.”
Bloomberg in its story “The European Mayor Who Doesn’t Want China’s Help With Virus” said: “The 38-year-old Pirate Party member is a symbol of the skepticism Beijing will have to overcome as it rushes to aid a Europe ravaged by a pandemic that began on Chinese soil.”
The story goes on the point out that Hřib flew the Tibetan flag over City Hall March 10 to commemorate the anniversary of the region’s failed 1959 revolt against Communist Party rule. “The defiant move — a throwback to late President Václav Havel’s support for the Dalai Lama — came at a sensitive time for Beijing just as the coronavirus was prompting its first lockdowns in Europe,” authors Karen Leigh and Lenka Ponikelská wrote.
The article adds that Hřib, who is a medical doctor, spent two months in Taiwan as a student in 2005, and has an honorary citizenship certificate on his wall.
In an opinion piece in The Daily Mail, writer Edward Lucas argues that China, in addition to turning the tide against coronavirus “may have won the war for global supremacy as well.”
The author makes a very critical account of China and its policies, as well as other nation’s support for them via their desire for cheap goods. He then calls for action. “The splendid mayor of Prague, Zdeněk Hřib, showed the way last year. Chinese representatives threatened sanctions because of his support for human rights. No problem, said Hřib. We will boost ties with Taiwan instead,” Lucas writes in The Daily Mail.