Prague, May 12 (CTK) – President Milos Zeman, who left for a one-week official visit to China last week, plans to rebuke Czech Ambassador to Beijing Bedrich Kopecky for having signed an appeal for human rights observance in China, daily Lidove noviny (LN) wrote on Friday.
Along with Kopecky, Deputy Foreign Minister Ivo Sramek, who approved the ambassador’s signature on the letter, has fallen into Zeman’s disfavour and his future diplomatic career is threatened, LN writes.
Kopecky, who replaced Libor Secka in Beijing last February, was “a strifeless candidate” who has worked with the Foreign Ministry since 1976. He was ambassador to Uzbekistan, Poland and Kazakhstan and an adviser to Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka in the past.
The post of ambassador to China was the culmination of his career until he signed a letter of 11 diplomats from EU countries, Australia, Canada, Japan and Switzerland calling for human rights observance in China three months ago. It was addressed to Chinese Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun, LN writes.
As this was not a public letter, the Czech embassy has not informed anyone officially about it. However, it was released to the media after an irritated reaction by Chinese diplomacy that called reports on detained lawyers in China “fake news” spread by Western journalists, LN says.
Zeman expressed surprise at the fact that he had not known about Kopecky’s signature though he had relations with China in control otherwise, LN adds.
The appeal challenging human rights observance in China was in contradiction with a letter of the four supreme constitutional officials that Zeman initiated last October, in which the Czech Republic pledged not to interfere in China’s internal affairs. Along with him, it was supported by PM Sobotka and the heads of the two houses of Czech parliament, LN writes.
According to LN sources, Zeman was outraged by Kopecky’s step.
“He said in his first reaction that such a person had nothing to do in an important post in Beijing,” a source from the circle of Zeman’s aides, told LN, adding that Kopecky’s dismissal was being considered.
LN writes that Kopecky’s position was probably “saved” by another diplomatic scandal in which Zeman dismissed Czech Ambassador to Switzerland Karel Boruvka due to his wife’s abusive comments on Twitter.
However, Zeman wanted to look into who else knew about Kopecky’s signature on the anti-Chinese appeal and he found out that the Foreign Ministry was aware of it, in particular, Sramek, head of the security and multilateral section.
LN writes that Sramek is also an experienced diplomat who has worked with the Foreign Ministry since the 1980s and represented the Czech Republic in its permanent missions to the U.N., NATO and EU and as an ambassador to Brussels in the past.
LN sources say Sramek is to become ambassador to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), seated in Vienna, in the summer, for which he needs Zeman’s signature, however.
“Sramek’s nomination has made it through the government, but Zeman is apparently hesitating to add his signature,” a source from the Foreign Ministry, told LN. He indicated that Zeman’s revenge for Sramek’s consent to the appeal challenging the Chinese regime might be behind it.
The Foreign Ministry has not commented on the case officially, LN says.
It writes that this is not the first case of Zeman blocking the appointment of ambassadors for personal reasons.
The sharpest conflict erupted four years ago between Zeman and foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09), who was Zeman’s rival candidate in the 2013 presidential election.
Zeman pushed for the first Czechoslovak cosmonaut and MEP for the Communists (KSCM) Vladimir Remek to be ambassador to Russia and he also proposed Livia Klausova, wife of his predecessor Vaclav Klaus, for ambassador to Slovakia. Schwarzenberg was opposed to the nominations. The dispute blocked the appointment of new ambassadors for several months.
The stalemate was only resolved after the fall of Petr Necas’s government in June 2013. New foreign minister Jan Kohout in the caretaker government agreed with Zeman ́s proposals and Remek and Klausova were appointed.