By: Lukas Valasek and Helena Truchla
Transitions editor’s note: The Czech news website Aktualne.cz recently ran a story in which it unraveled a “news tip” from a Swiss organization with links to mainland China about a prominent Czech politician’s recent trip to Taiwan. The article is introduced with a note from Sinopsis, a Czech site of news and analysis on China.
]Sinopsis note: A Swiss-based entity contacted Aktualne.cz suggesting they publish accusations that Milos Vystrcil, the president of the Czech Senate, had received millions from Taiwan in exchange for his recent visit to the country. The obscure entity was in fact well-known to Sinopsis: a forthcoming Sinopsis report by Swiss researcher Ralph Weber explores its links to Chinese “united front” groups, notably the United Front Work Department’s propaganda arm; its Czech contacts are referenced in Filip Jirous’s research. This proved fatal to the smear attempt. Aktualne reacted by exposing the organization’s links and noting fresh intelligence warnings on Chinese Communist Party-linked attempts to influence media in the country.
Although the organization’s “tip” was ostensibly spontaneous and disinterested, it happened to match CCP propaganda goals and talking points about the Senate head and his Taiwan visit. The timing was serendipitous: it came as Vystrcil stood for reelection (he won unopposed). A favorite CCP interlocutor, local Communist leader Vojtech Filip, was recently told by the head of the CCP International Liaison Department to “draw a clear line” to ostracize Vystrcil. Another CCP-friendly figure, Czech President Milos Zeman, drew that line: he announced he would no longer invite Vystrcil to official foreign policy meetings. The Chinese foreign minister warned Vystrcil would “pay a heavy price” for daring to make the trip to Taiwan. [FULL STORY]