Sister city agreements formalize relationships between cities and often provide mutual benefits, such as special commercial or educational exchanges.
The Prague-Taipei agreement was a rebuff to China, which considers the autonomous island of Taiwan as part of its territory and rejects any suggestion to the contrary.
Prague has “seriously interfered with China’s internal affairs and has openly challenged the One China principle,” the statement said, referring to China’s position that Taiwan is part of China. “The Shanghai municipal government and citizens strongly condemn and solemnly protest!”
How the Prague-China relationship grew sour
The Prague movement is only the last of a series of steps that it has recently taken to move away from China.
“In my opinion, this means that we clearly cannot speak of an association,” said Hrib.
“I believe that cooperation (with Taipei) will be beneficial and will not be fraught with political clauses, as was the case with the treaty with Beijing, which was terminated,” said Jiri Pospisil, a Czech member of the European Parliament, in the press release. “Taiwan is an investor several times larger in the Czech Republic than the People’s Republic of China, and also respects the principles of freedom and democracy.”
Mayor Hrib also praised “Taiwan’s respect for fundamental human rights and cultural freedoms” in the press release, although he did not explicitly mention China.
However, Czech lawmaker Jan Cizinsky was less subtle and added that “sister contracts should never be subject to extortion or threats.”
Shanghai’s brief statement did not respond to any of these accusations, but urged the Prague government to “recognize the mistakes … and return to the beginning of China.”
What is the China-Taiwan conflict?
The Prague movement is unusual as it is one of the few places that has severed a diplomatic relationship with China in favor of one with Taiwan. It also occurs amid growing political debate in the Czech Republic about the country’s relationship with China.
China’s communist leadership refuses to maintain diplomatic ties with any country that recognizes Taiwan, a democratic island of some 23 million people.
Taiwan and mainland China have ruled separately since the end of a bloody civil war in 1949. Since then, Beijing and Taipei have competed for economic opportunities and diplomatic support from governments around the world.
“The results of these elections have an additional meaning because they have shown that when our sovereignty and democracy are threatened, the Taiwanese people will shout our determination even louder,” Tsai said after his victory.
CNN’s Ben Westcott and James Griffiths contributed reports.