PRAGUE – Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in the Czech Republic on Monday for a visit aimed at boosting economic and political ties, a visit that’s prompted protesters to fly the Tibetan flag along a key stretch of road to downtown Prague.
Xi’s visit — his only stopover in Europe before flying to the U.S. — is a result of a more business-oriented Czech approach to China than the one that prevailed under the late President Vaclav Havel, a prominent proponent of human rights. President Milos Zeman was the only European Union leader to attend China’s celebrations of the end of World War II.
Zeman has come under fire for telling Chinese state-run broadcaster CCTV that relations between the two countries had suffered in the past because Czech foreign policy had been overly pressured by the United States and the EU.
Miroslav Kalousek, chairman of the opposition TOP 09 conservative party called Zeman’s remarks “repulsive” and said they went counter to the country’s long-term foreign policy as a member of the EU and NATO.
Xi’s visit has irked many and police said they had detained a dozen activists Monday for replacing Chinese national flags along the main road from the airport to downtown Prague with Tibetan flags.
In another sign of protest, a billboard with Havel and the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama was placed along the route Monday, and the Prague 6 district where the Chinese embassy is located was flying the Tibetan flag to mark the anniversary of the 1959 uprising against the Chinese rule.
Czech public television also showed police dealing with several brief skirmishes between activists and those welcoming the president.
During his three -day trip, Xi is scheduled to sign an agreement on a strategic partnership between the two countries and back a series of business deals.