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Respekt: Beijing makes Prague airport withdraw student exhibition

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Prague, Sept 29 (CTK) – The Prague international airport recently opened an exhibition of posters designed by students from Central Europe, but silently removed it after a few hours in reaction to complaints raised by the Chinese embassy and its Czech allies, writes the weekly Respekt out yesterday.
The exhibition, opened in the airport’s Terminal 2 building within the project of Plzen – European Capital of Culture 2015, offered dozens of large posters by students from the Czech universities of Plzen and Usti nad Labem, from Warsaw and Bratislava.
The posters “dealt with” various topics. One of them, for example, featured the words “War is over,” another one showed the peace dove carrying the letters of which the word Europe consists, and one presented a crossed Chinese flag, Respekt writes.
The exhibition was quite “moderate” in the context of modern European art, the magazine says.
That is also why no controversies or incidents accompanied the opening ceremony on September 14.
However, several hours later, on the same day, the airport staff dismantled the exhibition without the artists’ knowledge, Respekt writes.
In response to protests from the schools involved, the airport said some of the artifacts had offended the passengers passing by, which is why the whole exhibition was removed.
However, the truth lies elsewhere, the weekly writes.
“They called me from the airport and said the Chinese embassy addressed them and a big problem arose,” Josef Mistera, dean of the Plzen university’s Faculty of Arts and Design, is quoted as saying.
The Chinese minded the poster with a crossed Chinese flag, whose author, a Polish student, wanted to make it clear that Europe should not be indifferent to human rights being violated in China, Respekt writes.
The airport, which knew all the posters beforehand, found nothing controversial about any of them and gave consent to their being put on display. It changed its opinion in reaction to Chinese diplomats.
“We would not comment on it,” the airport’s communication department head Jakub Puchalsky told Respekt, when asked who of the Chinese officials protested and why the airport yielded to their pressure.
The Chinese embassy reacted in the same way, Respekt writes.
Apart from the diplomats, another person to have intervened against the exhibition was Jaroslav Tvrdik, former Czech defence minister who has promoted Chinese businesspeople’s interests on the Czech market in the past several years, the weekly continues.
Tvrdik says the exhibition at the airport was different from what had been approved beforehand.
Representatives of the airport dismiss it. “It was no cheat. We did not pay attention to the event’s preparation beforehand,” Puchalsky said.
Shortly after the exhibition opening, the ceremonial launch of a direct air line between the Czech Republic and China, a project which Tvrdik helped promote, was to take place at the airport. Tvrdik might have noticed the “controversial” poster and realise that it could negatively influence the forthcoming ceremony and his further business plans, Respekt writes.
“This is definitely not true,” Tvrdik is quoted as saying.
Most recently, the airport and the organisers agreed on reinstalling the exhibition – but without the poster challenged by the Chinese embassy, the weekly adds.

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