The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has begun a two-day state visit to the Czech Republic. Mr. Xi's official programme began on Monday with a meeting with Czech President Miloš Zeman at the Lány presidential retreat near Prague; the two planted a tree in the Lány grounds and were expected to have dinner together. On Tuesday the Chinese leader will be welcomed at Prague Castle with military honours. After further talks with Mr. Zeman he will meet other senior Czech officials, including Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. A number of bilateral memoranda and trade deals are due to be signed during Mr. Xi's stay, which is the first by a Chinese president to the Czech Republic.
Scuffles broke out between Chinese people and Czech critics of China’s treatment of Tibet at a park on the road from Prague Airport on Monday, Lidovky.cz reported. As Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s motorcade was passing a billboard featuring a photo of Václav Havel and the Dalai Lama mounted on a truck in the park a group of around 50 Chinese carrying large Chinese and Czech flags attempted to shield the image. This sparked a fight between the two sides, who were separated by riot police. One person was detained though the police did not reveal their nationality.
A number of Czech politicians have criticised President Miloš Zeman for saying the previous government headed by Petr Nečas had succumbed to pressure from the US and the EU, preventing positive relations with China. The country is in the EU and the US is its partner within the framework of NATO, meaning the president’s views are at odds with Czech foreign policy, TOP 09’s Miroslav Kalousek told the Czech News Agency. Mr. Nečas, a former leader of the Civic Democrats, said it was his government that had begun a change towards more positive relations with China, not the current one as Mr. Zeman suggested. Communist leader Vojtěch Filip took a rather different view, asserting that the Nečas government had relied completely on orders from Washington.
Prague police on Monday intervened against activists who were attempting to replace Chinese flags on the road from the airport to the centre with Tibetan ones. Twelve arrests were made. The placing of pairs of Czech and Chinese flags along the route to be taken by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who arrived in the city on Monday, had sparked anger in some quarters and several dozen Chinese flags were sprayed with dark paint on Friday night. There were clashes between Chinese people and supporters of Tibet surrounding Mr. Xi’s arrival in the Czech capital at the start of a two-day state visit.
The previous Czech government succumbed to pressure from the United States and the European Union but the current cabinet has managed to extricate itself from such influences, the Czech president, Miloš Zeman, said in an interview for Chinese television station CCTV quoted by the Czech News Agency on Monday. Mr. Zeman said this made the Czech Republic an independent state and allowed for a new beginning in relations between his country and China, whose president, Xi Jinping, is beginning a state visit to Prague.
Many Czechs will be observing folk traditions on Easter Monday. Particularly in rural areas and smaller towns, people will sing Easter carols and symbolically "whip" girls and women with willow switches, a custom said to ensure fertility. Easter Monday also signals the end of Lent and traditional foods with symbolic meaning are consumed.
The highly popular Czech actor and screenwriter Zdeněk Svěrák turned 80 on Monday. Mr. Svěrák, who is known for his gentle humour and also writes songs for children, has starred in many of the country's most popular comedies and for several decades has been a mainstay of the Jára Cimrmann Theatre. In the mid 1990s he wrote and starred in the movie Kolya, which was directed by his son Jan Svěrák and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
Over 350,000 Chinese tourists could visit the Czech Republic in 2016, according to the state agency CzechTourism. Last year the figure was 285,000. Most visitors from China enter this country from another European state. However, the number arriving by air last year reached 50,000, a year-on-year jump of nearly 50 percent that followed the introduction of direct flights between the two countries.
Czech and Chinese flags placed on the route from Prague Airport ahead of a visit Monday by China's President Xi Yingpin have been taken down. Around 50 Chinese flags were vandalised on Friday night and former minister Jaroslav Tvrdík of the Czech-Chinese Mixed Chamber for Mutual Cooperation, which is behind them, said the flags had been removed for repair and would be put back up, iDnes.cz reported on Sunday. The spokesman of Czech President Miloš Zeman said on Saturday that political and moral responsibility for the damage lay with the TOP 09 major of Prague 6, who said he sympathised with such actions.
The average age of inhabitants of the Czech Republic has risen by five years and seven months to 42 since 1990, the year after the fall of communism, according to figures just released by the Czech Statistics Office. While in 1990 there were 1.3 million people in what is now the Czech Republic aged 65 or more, last year that figure was 1.9 million. There are also fewer children in the country: last year there were 1.6 million, compared to 2.2 million a quarter of a century ago.
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