PRAGUE (Reuters) – Prague city council voted on Monday to cancel a partnership agreement with Beijing after it failed to remove an article requiring it commit to the “one China” principle, which refers to China’s stance that Taiwan and it both belong to one China.
The city’s leadership, elected last year, says it is non-standard for city-to-city partnerships such as the one signed by the previous administration in 2016, to include diplomatic matters that are up to national governments.
“Unfortunately, the Chinese side did not respect our opinion that we do not want the political article, so the negotiations did not lead anywhere,” council member Hana Kordova Marvanova.
“For us this is also a gesture that we do not want to declare subservient attitude to the authoritarian regime in China.”
The decision must still be approved by the city assembly, where parties backing the executive council have a majority.
The spat between Prague and Beijing, which has been rumbling throughout the year, has soured ties between the two countries, which have in recent years tried to build a stronger political and business relationship.
Chinese authorities have already canceled tours of several Czech musical groups to China that had some link to Prague.
The Czech ties to China have been pushed mainly by President Milos Zeman, who has frequently visited China and backed investments by Czech lender Home Credit there, as well as Chinese telecoms firm Huawei’s business in the Czech Republic.
New agency CTK reported Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said foreign policy was determined by the government and it maintained its position on China, although it respected the council’s decision. The Czech government adheres to the one China principle.
The Chinese Embassy in Prague said last month that the cause of the clashes was on the Czech side. It said Prague city hall had “very negative” effects in affairs related to China’s sovereignty, and this undermined the atmosphere in bilateral relations.
The embassy did not immediately answer a request for comment on Monday.
Czech-Chinese relations have already been dented by a warning last year by the Czech cyber-security watchdog against risks of using equipment made by China’s Huawei and ZTE in critical infrastructure.
Expectations of billions of dollars worth of Chinese investments in the country have also not materialized.
Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Alison Williams