‘I am Taiwanese’, Czech Speaker Vystrcil tells Taiwan parliament

Comments are likely to rile China, which has threatened to make Milos Vystrcil pay a ‘heavy price’ for visiting island.

Czech senate president Milos Vystrcil receives a medal before delivering a speech at the main chamber of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei
Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil receives a medal before delivering a speech at the main chamber of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan [Ann Wang/ Reuters]

The president of the Czech Senate declared that he was Taiwanese in a speech at Taiwan’s parliament on Tuesday, channelling late US President John F Kennedy’s defiance of Communism in Berlin in 1963, in remarks likely to further rile Beijing.

Addressing Taiwan’s parliament on Thursday, Milos Vystrcil, who is leading a delegation of about 90 politicians and business executives, said Kennedy’s declaration: “Ich bin ein Berliner,” was an important message for freedom.

“Please allow me to use the same method to express support for Taiwan’s people. Allow me to be so humble but also resolute in saying to your country’s parliament that I am Taiwanese,” Vystrcil said to a standing ovation.

Vystrcil spoke in Czech and his comments were translated into Mandarin.

China claims the democratically ruled island as its territory and has already threatened to make Vystrcil pay a “heavy price” for his visit. The Czech Republic, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Kennedy’s speech in 1963, telling the people of West Berlin who were surrounded by Communist-ruled East Germany that he too was a Berliner, is often seen as one of Kennedy’s greatest speeches.

Vystrcil has said his Taiwan visit underscores the “values-based” foreign policy put in place by late President Vaclav Havel, a dissident under the country’s Communist rule and a personal friend of the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama.

Vystrcil is the first senior foreign politician from a non-diplomatic ally of Taiwan to deliver a speech at Taiwan’s parliament.

Taiwan Legislative Yuan Speaker You Si-kun said Vystrcil’s Taiwan visit not only strengthened the friendship between the two countries but would also deepen democracy.

While the Czech government has not supported his visit, it has been upset by China’s strong condemnation and has summoned the Chinese ambassador in Prague. Beijing on Monday also summoned the Czech ambassador.

Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said earlier on Monday he expected China to explain the threat against Vystrcil.  

“Of course the journey has an impact on our relationships with China, but I think this has gone too far,” he told journalists.    

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has labelled the statement “impertinent and inappropriate”.

Czech President Milos Zeman has sought closer business and political ties with China since taking office in 2013, but his efforts have been hit by failed investment plans and Czech wavering about allowing China’s Huawei Technologies to play a role in developing next-generation telecoms networks.

Source: News Agencies