TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In an homage to President John F. Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech and amid threats from China, Czech Senate President Czech Senate speaker Milos Vystrcil on Tuesday (Sept. 1) defiantly declared in the Legislative Yuan "I am a Taiwanese" in Mandarin.
On Sunday (Aug. 30), Vystrcil, along with his 89-member delegation, began a five-day tour of Taiwan, making him the highest-level Czech official to ever visit the country. On Monday (Aug. 31), China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs cited Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) as saying “The Chinese government and Chinese people won’t take a laissez-faire attitude or sit idly by, and will make him [Vystrcil] pay a heavy price for his short-sighted behavior and political opportunism."
During a speech delivered at the Legislative Yuan on Tuesday, Vystrcil said that he regards the Senate as the most democratic and liberal institution in the Czech Republic and that he is proud to point out that his visit to Taiwan enjoys great support among members of the governing body. He pointed out that the Czech Parliament has upper and lower houses, while Taiwan has a unicameral legislative body, showing that different countries can implement different systems of democracy.
He asserted that a single overarching democratic framework for all countries does not exist, as people all over the world have different traditions, customs, and histories. The implementation of democracy does not depend on the number of members of parliament or the size of the legislature but on whether the democracy is substantive, he said.
Vystrcil emphasized that in a free and democratic world, "People and their lives must have the highest value!" In a possible jab at the draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing, he said laws should protect those who pursue democracy and freedom rather than restricting people and controlling the way they think or act.
The Czech leader said laws should likewise not restrict people’s initiative or desire for freedom. Instead, laws should provide people with security and ensure that their rights are not infringed upon.
Vystrcil added that laws should protect people's health and living environment. He also emphasized that they should take into account both the elderly and young people to create an environment in which people can gain access to education and information as well as support for those who need extra care.
Vystrcil stressed that every legislator should bear in mind that every law is an objective description of "how we want society to function," and that "Democracy is a democratic operation and totalitarianism is a totalitarian operation." Apart from passing laws, the main figures of democratic legislatures around the world must also defend democratic principles, which is equivalent to defending social freedoms and democracy, according to the Czech leader.
At the end of his speech, Vystrcil quoted the famous speech delivered by Kennedy in West Berlin at the height of the Cold War. He said Kennedy clearly opposed the use of communism to oppress people and that the former president expressed support for the value of freedom with the words "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner).
The Czech leader then said, "Please allow me to express my support to Taiwan in the same way. I want to end my speech with this sentence: I am Taiwanese!" As soon as made this declaration in Mandarin (我是台灣人), legislators began clapping.
After his translator finished reading his speech, including the expanded version — "I am a Taiwanese" (我是一個台灣人) — legislators began clapping, then cheering. Soon every member of the Legislative Yuan rose to give Vystrcil a standing ovation.
The Czech Senate speaker closed by wishing them all "a free and just future."