- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 30, 2016

PRAGUE (AP) - China’s president wrapped up his trip to the Czech Republic on Wednesday by overseeing the signing of 30 business deals that could bring almost $4 billion of Chinese investment this year.

The deals were inked a day after Xi Jinping signed a strategic partnership with the country that was once a critic of China’s human rights record.

Xi’s visit is a result of a more business-oriented Czech approach to China than the one that prevailed under the late President Vaclav Havel, a prominent proponent of human rights.

The deals focus on tourism, banking, energy and car making.

Among them, China’s Ping An Bank will link up with the Czech-Slovak J&T Finance Group to set up an investment fund with 5 billion euros ($5.7 billion) to invest in the energy and finance sectors and industry.

China CEFC Energy Company and Hengfeng Bank Company will create a fund with 1.1 billion euros ($1.25 billion) to invest in industrial firms in the Czech Republic together with Slovakia’s Zeleziarne Podbrezova. They also agreed to acquire two machinery companies, Zdas Zdar and TS Machinery Plzen, from the Slovak company in a 72 million euro ($81.5 million) deal.

CEFC, which acquired a majority stake in the Czech Slavia Prague football club last year, is to buy its stadium for 49.6 million euros ($56.2 million).

It will also pay 420 million euros ($475.6 million) to increase its stake in the J&T Finance Group to 50 percent.

The Czech presidential office said the deals will bring another 5.1 billion euros ($5.8 billion) in the 2016-20 period.

Meanwhile, Czech car maker Skoda Auto, which is owned by Germany’s Volkswagen AG, will invest 2.1 billion euros ($2.4 billion) in its business in China, and Czech plane maker Aircraft Industries will deliver 20 of its L 410 aircraft to China for 111 million euros ($126 million).

Xi’s three-day visit prompted a number of protests. Prague archbishop Dominik Duka called on Xi to respect human rights in China during a gala dinner at the Prague Castle.

For three days, police had to deal with numerous skirmishes between peaceful protesters and what appeared to be well organized groups of supporters of the Chinese leader.

Police said a total of 23 people were detained from both camps.

The visit to Prague is the only stopover in Europe for Xi, who is travelling on to the United States for a nuclear security summit.

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