Prague - The Czech Republic´s decision not to criticise the occupation of Tibet does not mean its giving up of the defence of human rights in China, it only wants to restore normal relations with it, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek has told CTK shortly before his visit to China.
Ilustrační foto - Český ministr zahraničí Lubomír Zaorálek hovoří s novináři 14. dubna v Lucemburku při příchodu na jednání šéfů diplomacií EU. ČTK Dospiva Jakub
The Czech centre-left cabinet seeks an extension of the Czech trade with China, but the opposition criticises it for having exchanged human rights protection for money.
Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD) said the non-challenging of China´s borders has become important now in view of the present efforts to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine, threatened by the neighbouring Russia.
"If China wants us to say we respect its borders, we believe that China will respect the same principle applied to other countries," Zaoralek said.
A debate on Prague´s approach to the communist China flared up in reaction to Wednesday´s statement by Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) that the Czech Republic will follow the EU´s policy towards Beijing including its recognition of the inseparability of Tibet and the principle of non-interference in China´s internal affairs.
"As a result of its recognition of China´s territorial integrity, Prague logically cannot recognise the exiled Tibetan government," Sobotka said.
Opposition conservative TOP 09 head and former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg reacted to him saying that there are people who "abandon the path of honesty and bow to money. Unfortunately, this is the case of the Czech government now,"
"By no means are we withdrawing from our positions for the sake of export and investments´ success," Zaoralek told CTK.
"This does not mean that we would not pursue our human rights policy, which is one of the basic principles of our foreign policy," he added.
"In the case of China, we are trying but to achieve a normal [bilateral] relationship, which has not existed for many years," Zaoralek said.
Like Sobotka, he emphasised that the Czech Republic, by declaring its respect for China´s territorial integrity, only repeated what was previously declared by the EU, including countries such as Germany, France and Denmark.
Zaoralek said the human rights issue will be mentioned in the official declaration to be signed by Prague and China.
"In the talks with China we have pushed through that our joint declaration should point out the importance of and respect for human rights," said Zaoralek, the first Czech foreign minister to visit China after 15 years.
"If this were not part of the declaration, I couldn´t imagine us launching this debate," Zaoralek said.
He said political cooperation with Beijing is a condition for Czechs signing big contracts with China, in which the Czech cabinet is eminently interested.
"If we want to cooperate with someone, it is of no sense to put his shortcomings as the first topic on the agenda," he added.
He said Russia´s recent intervention in Ukraine has caused the loss of confidence in Russia and its market, which is why foreign investors, including the Czechs, are logically turning to China.
Prague is interested in enhancing Czech export to China, in cooperation in the areas of aviation, energy, agriculture, tourism and culture, Zaoralek continued.
He said in China he would also discuss Chinese investments in the Czech Republic.
Zaoralek´s visit is to open the door to Chinese trips by other Czech officials including Industry and Trade Minister Jan Mladek and possibly also PM Sobotka (both CSSD) and President Milos Zeman.
In September, Prague is to host the summit of 16 central European countries and China.
"This is the first step in our ´Chinese offensive´. I think it would be a mistake if our cabinet decided to ignore this huge space and continue Prague´s hitherto practice of keeping China aside," Zaoralek told CTK.
Sobotka´s centre-left cabinet arose from the October 2013 elections and was appointed in late January, after seven years of the right wing´s rule.