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The Wild Swan, Alexander Pope, 1900, De Young Museum. Wmpearl, Wikimeda Commons.

The Death of the Swans

The three day visit (March 28-30, 2016) to Prague by Chinese President Xi Jinping was revealing in the worst manner. The visit - set up previously by current PM Bohuslav Sobotka and choreographed by current Czech president Miloš Zeman, has drawn criticism in the Czech Republic.

First, the signed Chinese investments overwhelmingly favour a single Czech company – Petr Kellner’s notoriously non-transparent PPF. The benefit to the citizens of the Czech Republic is much less clear, especially in light of failed Chinese investments in the past.

More notably though, during the visit, the police turned Prague into a police state, banning any form of organized protest in strategic locations while bursting into educational institutions as well as private dwellings to make the inhabitants remove flags of Tibet in the windows. Then there was the complete first-ever closure of the entire Prague Castle to not only the general voting public, but to opposition members of parliament as well, so as to shield the Jinping from any possible direct contact with democracy. And finally there was the evening gala affair, a monstrous firework display directly above Charles bridge in the center of Prague (which Jinping never even saw), which killed the swans in the river below. The same display – traditionally on New Year’s day – was moved last year to another location so as to spare the swans. Not this time. The next day, a group of citizens laid the dead swans at the door of the Czech-Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

After the departure of Jinping, the protests started. But not enough to speak of. Zeman, who hosted Jinping wearing a bright red sweater and toting a frothy beer in his hand, still has a 62% popularity rating in a nation that favours beer, alibism and cowtowing to the highest bidder, while ignoring not only the swans in the Donau river, but the character of its soul as well.

 

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