President of Czech Senate announces plans to visit Taiwan

Czech Republic's Senate President Miloš Vystrčil (center) / Image captured from the broadcast of a June 9 press briefing

TAIPEI (CNA) — Czech Senate President Miloš Vystrčil will lead a delegation of political, business and scientific leaders to Taiwan later this year, traveling on a government aircraft in keeping with the protocol of an official visit, Czech media reported Tuesday.

The visit is planned for Aug. 30 to Sept. 5, Vystrčil announced at a press conference Tuesday, saying the country needs to stand up for Taiwanese sovereignty and democratic values in the face of political pressure and threats by Beijing, according to Czech broadcaster CT24zive.

In practical terms, Vystrčil said, the visit will serve as a means to strengthen economic, educational, scientific and cultural ties between the two sides, the TV station reported.

Vystrčil’s predecessor Jaroslav Kubera, who died of a heart attack in January, was a long-time supporter of Taiwan and was planning to visit the country in February.

At the time, Czech media reported that the Chinese embassy had sent a letter threatening repercussions on Czech businesses if Kubera went through with the trip. His family later said the letter contributed to his death.

In response to Vystrčil’s announcement Tuesday, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) issued a statement welcoming his decision, and said it would arrange for him to visit the Legislative Yuan.

As Senate president, Vystrčil has supported Taiwan’s bid to participate in the World Health Organization and has brought attention to Taiwan’s successful epidemic prevention efforts, MOFA said, adding that the Czech Senate voted 50-1 in May in favor of Vystrčil’s visit to Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Taiwan Legislative Speaker You Si-kun (游錫堃) said in a Facebook post that he welcomed Vystrčil’s decision, which came on the heels of an invitation by You for the Senate leader to visit the Legislature.

“I have the deepest respect for Vystrčil’s courage and commitment to independence and democracy…and I would welcome his visit,” You wrote.

In the Czech Republic, the president of the Senate is the second-highest ranking official, after the head of state.