Prague Monitor: Universities raise Tibetan flag during Dalai Lama's visit

Prague, Oct 19 (CTK) - Several Czech universities hung out Tibetan flags at noon yesterday in reaction to an official statement on good Czech-Chinese relations that the country's four supreme constitutional officials issued after some politicians met the Dalai Lama on Tuesday.

The hoisting of flags was initiated by Masaryk University Rector Mikulas Bek.

Bek said the statement issued on Tuesday was similar to the behaviour of the Czechoslovak wartime government towards Berlin and the Czechoslovak communist government towards Moscow. Such a communication style is not common in relations between a sovereign state and a foreign power, he said after hoisting the Tibetan flag on Wednesday.

"A great part of the university public has been taken aback by the tone of the statement. Like many independent commentators, many academics believe that it goes beyond the standard borders of diplomatic protocol," Bek said.

He said the Tibetan flag wants to trigger a discussion and reflection on how the interests of the Czech Republic are represented among the students and possibly also the broad public.

The Tibetan flag is likely to fly outside the rector's office of Masaryk University in Brno until Friday.

After a group of Christian Democrat (junior government KDU-CSL) politicians met the Dalai Lama on Tuesday, President Milos Zeman, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and the heads of both houses of parliament said the meetings meant no change in the country's official policy towards China. They said the Czech Republic respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.

Tibetan flags have been raised at Charles University in Prague, Palacky University in Olomouc, the West Bohemian University in Plzen and the Hradec Kralove University, among others.

Charles University Vice Rector Martin Kovar said the university wanted to express support for humanistic values that the Dalai Lama represents.

Palacky University Rector Jaroslav Miller said on Facebook that the flag symbolises the strong belief that people can meet anybody, the Dalai Lama including, and talk to them, irrespective of any political and economic interests.

"Preferring economic affairs to human rights is dangerous even for human rights in the Czech Republic," said the Pardubice University that has also raised the flag. It said it was especially unfortunate at the time of celebrations of the 80th birth anniversary of the late president Vaclav Havel.

"We want to show our students that universities advocate principles of an open democratic society that has high esteem for spiritual values and is not afraid of defending them," West Bohemian University Rector Miroslav Holecek said.

Rector Zdenek Kus said the Technical University Liberec that he heads did not raise the Tibetan flag because it never hoists flags of any country and does not want to connect the academic world with politics.

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