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Tibetan flag
April 9, 2008

Chinese officials demand apology

Embassy says ministry support of Tibet could harm country relations

Recent displays of the Tibetan flag have led to unexpected complications. In order to commemorate the 1959 Tibetan uprising and draw attention to human rights violations there, the Green Party displayed the Tibetan flag in the windows of Parliament as well as the Education and Environment ministries last month. At the time, the act caused a row among Czech politicians, and now the incident is having international repercussions.

The Chinese have canceled a trip planned for next week during which a deputy education minister and the heads of three top universities were supposed to travel to China and sign a cooperation agreement that included a bilateral student exchange program.

“Displaying the so-called Tibetan flag at a government building is unprecedented in the European Union,” said Chinese Embassy spokesman Zhou Qian. “It implies direct support for the independence of Tibet, which is an integral part of the People’s Republic of China, and as such has outraged the people of China. At such a time, it is not appropriate to meet with the Czech delegation.”

Qian went on to say that China expects at least an official apology before negotiations can continue. “The People’s Republic of China calls upon the Czech Republic to respect and support our view in questions of nationality of the Chinese people. The Czech government should take appropriate steps to redress the wrongful acts of several offices and remove the negative repercussions they had so that such incidents will not be repeated.”

Education Minister Ondřej Liška could not be reached by press time for comment on his intention to issue an apology. However, he told online news service Aktualne.cz April 4, “The Chinese reaction to our activities clearly shows that our critique has been aimed very well. After all, their attempts to block or at least complicate cooperation in education are the best proof of the nature of their policies.”

Liška added that he was sure the bilateral agreement would eventually be signed as it is also in the best interests of the Chinese. He believes that this incident will not tarnish the good relationship between the countries.

Qian, however, has a different outlook on the situation. “I cannot at this time say how exactly our future relationships will evolve,” he said.

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