Czech confiscation of 101,600 masks from Chinese donation a 'misunderstanding'

By GT staff reporters Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/20 23:39:06


 The Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic decided to return a batch of 101,600 masks, which were donated from China to Italy but mistakenly intercepted by customs officers in Czech Republic, an insider who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Friday. 

The association of overseas Chinese in Lishui, East China's Zhejiang Province, released an article on its WeChat account on Thursday, citing the Prague Chinese Times as saying that customs officers in Usti, Czech Republic, "took over" the masks donated by Qingtian county and Lishui city of Zhejiang that were supposed to be sent to Italy via Czech Republic. The article has drawn attention from many Chinese netizens. 

The Prague Chinese Times said that due to flight cancelations in many European countries, this batch of materials were transported via the China-Europe Freight train and arrived at a warehouse in Usti, waiting to be transferred to Chinese people in Europe. The newspaper noted that some Czech media reports wrongly claimed Chinese merchants stored the materials to sell them at higher prices. 

The anonymous insider told the Global Times that there were two batches of medical supplies stored in the warehouse in Usti - 101,600 masks donated by Qingtian Red Cross Society to Chinese in Italy; and the other batch of 680,000 masks and 28,000 respirators, which were imported by a Czech company to be sold to the Czech government.

Customs officers in Usti found the two batches of masks. Although the donated batch had posters saying "Donated by Qingtian Red Cross Society for Italy" and Italian national flags, people who were in charge of customs clearance failed to offer materials at the site to prove they were donations. So the customs officials took both batches of the materials together. 

After the Chinese Embassy to the Czech Republic paid a lot of attention to the incident and started to work on it with the Czech government, the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic decided to return the donated masks to a local association of Qingtian people, according to the insider.  

China and the Czech Republic have worked together in fighting against COVID-19. Czech President Milos Zeman on Thursday night thanked China for its support in his country's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I would therefore like to thank the People's Republic of China, which was the only country that has helped us deliver these supplies," he said.

Czech Republic has sent seven aircraft to China to source medical supplies. The first shipment of 150,000 COVID-19 test kits has returned to Czech Republic from China on Wednesday. Another package of medical equipment will arrive on Friday, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

As of 18:00 local time on Thursday, there were 694 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Czech Republic, with 122 new cases on Thursday, according to the Ministry of Health.


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