Prague - The Czech government wants to improve relations with China as a chance for the Czech economy, and this is why it will not criticise the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) told reporters after the cabinet's meeting.
The government, comprising also the ANO movement and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), approved Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek's (CSSD) working trip to Beijing.
In addition, the cabinet wants to boost Chinese investments in the Czech Republic, Sobotka added.
Opposition TOP 09 chairman and former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg said the government had traded the protection of human rights for money.
Human rights are violated not only in Tibet but all over China, Schwarzenberg told CTK.
In its effort to improve bilateral relations, Prague will not interfere in China's internal affairs and it cannot recognise the exile Tibetan government, Sobotka said.
The Czech Republic would like to follow the EU's common approach to Beijing, that is the policy of one China with Tibet as its inseparable part, Sobotka said.
Germany, France and Britain have signed strategic contracts with Beijing and the Czech Republic must catch up with them, Sobotka added.
"We are a country dependent on the export of our goods and services. And it is immensely important to secure further new markets for our products," Sobotka told reporters.
TOP 09 first deputy chairman Miroslav Kalousek called Sobotka's statement shocking and he expressed a sharp disagreement with it.
Kalousek told public Czech Radio that he was not against Zaoralek's trip to China but he would like the head of diplomacy to highlight human rights issues there.
"There is no tradeable equivalent to freedom and human rights. The Czech foreign minister and Czech prime minister should not give them up," Kalousek noted.
Sobotka's approach will weaken the international position of the Czech Republic that in the past earned a human rights authority reputation thanks to then president Vaclav Havel and Schwarzenberg, Kalousek said.
Zaoralek will fly to Beijing on Sunday and he will stay in China until the middle of next week.
This will be the first official visit by a Czech foreign minister in China after 15 years, Sobotka said.
Zaoralek's visit is to open the door to similar trips of other Czech politicians, including President Milos Zeman.
At present, the Czech Republic has worse relations with China than the key European countries and Sobotka's government wants to change it, he noted.
Zaoralek calls his visit to China a breakthrough.
Both countries' relations were frozen and significant political contacts did not exist of late, he said.
Yet, the Chinese government cannot be ignored, since in 15 years China will have the highest GDP in the world, Zaoralek said.
The Czech Republic is interested in export to China and cooperation in the aviation and energy industries as well as in agriculture.
Zaoralek and Chinese politicians will also discuss Chinese investments in the Czech Republic.
Beijing could build a modern technological park in the Czech Republic, Zaoralek said.
He added that China focused on the Moravian-Silesian Region for this project, mainly in view of a high number of the jobless in this area.
Zaoralek said the centre should not be a mere assembly shop but it should enable the production of complex technologies.
The Presidential Office's foreign section head Hynek Kmonicek indicated that Zeman might pay a visit to China this year.
At the end of the year, Zeman is to visit either Moscow or Beijing, Kmonicek told CTK recently.