“I am Taiwanese,” the Czech spokesman says to Parliament, is likely to anger China

Czech Senate Speaker Milos Westersl speaks at the main hall of the Legislative Parliament in Taipei, Taiwan, September 1, 2020. REUTERS / Anne Wang

TAIPE (Reuters) – The president of the Czech Senate declared himself a Taiwanese in a speech to the Taiwanese parliament on Tuesday, directing late US President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to communism in Berlin in 1963, in comments likely to further anger Beijing.

China, which claims democratic Taiwan is its own province, has threatened to make Czech Senate President Milos Westersell pay a “heavy price” for visiting the island. The Czech Republic, like most countries, does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Speaking to the Taiwanese parliament, Westersell, who is leading a delegation of nearly 90 politicians and businessmen, said Kennedy’s declaration of being a Berlin resident was an important message for freedom and against communism.

“Let me also personally express my support for Taiwan and the ultimate value of freedom and conclude today’s speech … perhaps with a more modest, yet equally powerful phrase:“ I am Taiwanese, ”said Westersell, who garnered the standing ovation.

Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in 1963, which told the fearful people of West Berlin who were surrounded on all sides by communist East Berlin that he was also a Berliner, is a title often called the best of Kennedy’s speech.

Westersell said his visit to Taiwan underscores the “values-based” foreign policy of late President Vaclav Havel, an anti-communist dissident and personal friend of the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama.

While the Czech government did not support his visit, it resented China’s strong condemnation and recalled the Chinese ambassador. On Monday, Beijing also summoned the Czech ambassador to report.

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Czech President Milos Zeman has sought closer commercial and political ties with China since taking office in 2013, but his efforts have been hit by failed investment plans and Czech reluctance to allow the Chinese company Huawei Technologies to play a role in developing next-generation communications networks.

(Ben Blanchard Report). Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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