China rebuked the Czech Republic after the nation’s top diplomat met with an exiled Tibetan leader, compounding brewing tensions between the European Union and Beijing already strained by the war in Ukraine.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky met with Penpa Tsering, the leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile, during a trip to Washington on Tuesday. In a statement on Twitter, Lipavsky re-tweeted Tsering’s remark linking the Tibetan and Czech experience of “living under oppression” — and referenced the eastern European nation’s experience under Soviet domination.
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The Czech Republic “also experienced what it was like to live under the influence of a superpower and to be deprived of human rights,” Lipavsky said, drawing a direct line to the Chinese Communist Party’s seven-decade control over Tibet.
The Chinese embassy in Prague issued a statement calling Lipavsky’s encounter a “serious breach in relations with Beijing,” saying the Czechs had sent “a consequentially wrong message to the Tibetan separatist movement.”
Lipavsky has been vocal in accusing China for supporting Russia’s rationale for the invasion of Ukraine — and has followed a tradition of Czech politicians seeking ties with Taiwan, an issue that has roiled relations between Beijing and Prague.
The Chinese embassy also criticized Lipavsky for twisting Beijing’s “objective and fair approach to Ukraine.”
Lipavsky was in the US for meetings with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who offered support for the Czech position on Russia and China.
China has demonstrated its willingness to single out EU member states that violate its interests. The world’s second-largest economy slashed its purchases from Lithuania this year after the Baltic nation hosted a representative office from Taiwan, which Beijing views as part of China.
Czech relations with Tibet are not new. Vaclav Havel, the late Czech president, had a personal friendship with Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. The nation’s culture minister met with the Dalai Lama in 2016, a meeting that the government in Prague officially distanced itself from at the time.
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