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Of pangolins and PPE: Taipei and Prague mayors claim sister-city successes

Taipei City pledges pair of pangolins, 100,000 masks to Czech capital

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je  (left), Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je  (left), Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The mayors of Taipei and Prague appeared together Friday (Sept. 4) to announce the sister cities have reached an accord on projects large and small during the Czech delegation's landmark visit to Taiwan this week.

Visiting Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib and the mayor of Taipei, Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), held a joint press conference at 11 a.m. in the lobby of Taipei's Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel. There they presented a list of agreements made with the aim of strengthening their newly minted sister-city relationship.

The two last met in January when Ko visited the Czech capital to join Hrib in signing the sister-city accord. Its finalization came just months after Prague announced it was backing out of its sister city agreement with Beijing over the latter's insistence that the wording be changed to stress the Chinese Communist Party's interpretation of the "one China policy."

The mayors told reporters the cities will be sharing "best practices" and resources to aid each other in their respective fights against the coronavirus pandemic, with the Taiwanese capital pledging to donate 100,800 medical masks. Hrib welcomed the assistance, saying it is "very much needed help because there is an increase of cases" in the Central European nation.

Prague and Taipei have also inked agreements advancing educational exchanges. Ko said his city would offer two scholarships per year to students from Prague to come study Mandarin. The capital will also share the experience of Zhongzheng District's Taipei First Girls High School, which is launching a pilot program in digitized education.

Both mayors also pledged to promote cultural diplomacy. This will be manifested musically next fall through reciprocal concerts by the Prague Philarmonia and Taipei Chinese Orchestra.

Friday's conference also touched on plans for collaboration on rejuvenating tourism and elevating start-ups and smart city initiatives in the post-pandemic era. Taipei has welcomed Prague to take part in its Smart City Summit & Expo 2020 as well as InnoVex, which was rescheduled for next year due to the coronavirus.

The Czech mayor said he is pleased with the progress made on setting up a direct flight between the two cities next year.

As a token of intercity friendship, the Taipei Zoo has gifted its Czech counterpart with a pair of pangolins for breeding. It was announced that one of the Malayan tapirs the Prague Zoo sent Taipei two years ago is pregnant and the new calf is due any day now.

Of pangolins and PPE: Taipei and Prague mayors claim sister-city successes
Ko Wen-je and Zdenek Hrib announce forthcoming birth of tapir. (Taiwan News photo)

Hrib told the media that out of all his experiences during the current trip, he was most touched when he witnessed the pangolins with his own eyes on his visit to the zoo.

Responding to questions about the significance of his mission in relation to China, Hrib said he had come to act in the capacity of his office and that he had addressed the China question sufficiently earlier in the week. He pointed out that matters of state are the domain of the Czech foreign ministry.

Beijing earlier this week lambasted the delegation over its trip to Taiwan, which China claims is its territory. The Chinese foreign minister even threatened the group's leader, Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil, saying he had crossed a line and would "pay a heavy price." Vystrcil maintains the visit is a regular undertaking between two democracies, and Hrib has called the threat "completely unacceptable.

It's important that the Prague-Taipei deals were "non-political" and negotiated "based on mutual respect," said Hrib. The 89-member delegation was scheduled to fly back to Prague Friday afternoon.