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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on April 13, 2021
2021/04/13

CCTV: On April 11, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview that in the early stages of COVID-19, China "didn't do what it needed to do, which was to, in real time, give access to international experts, in real time to share information, in real time to provide real transparency". What is your comment on his remarks?

Zhao Lijian: In the face of the sudden onslaught of the epidemic caused by an unknown virus, the Chinese government, putting people and life first, took the most rigorous control measures and shared our experience with other countries without any reservation. China served as a crucial line of defense for the world and bought precious time for the global fight against the virus. The four keywords for China's response are openness, transparency, science and responsibility. What about the US? Its moves can be summarized as scapegoating, blame-shifting, stigmatization and politicization. It is immoral and irresponsible that some in the US always make an issue out of China whenever the topic of COVID-19 is brought up. China will never accept that.

Since January 3, China has been providing timely updates on the epidemic on a regular basis. On January 4, heads of Chinese and American centers for disease control and prevention spoke on the phone about the epidemic situation. WHO experts visited China three times for exchanges on issues including origin studies. The experts spoke highly of China's openness and transparency. One can never wake up a person who pretends to be asleep. Some in the US don't care about facts or truth. What they are pursuing is political manipulation and stigmatization against China. The international community sees through this crystal-clear.

In the US, there are over 30 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 560,000 deaths, which are 300 times and over 110 times that of China respectively. The number of people who died of COVID-19 in the US already exceeds the deaths of the US military in WWI, WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined. The US response to the epidemic is nothing short of a mess and total failure. In contrast, China secured major strategic outcomes in fighting the virus. I wonder where certain US politicians got the confidence to brazenly brag about US-style human rights and criticize China's epidemic response?

I also want to ask the US: What has it done to whistle-blowers like Dr. Helen Y. Chu, Dr. Rick Bright and Captain Brett Crozier? How does it respond to clues that may move the timeline earlier provided by the mayor of Belleville in New Jersey and health officials of Santa Clara County in California? Is there any explanation on doubts raised by the international community about Fort Detrick? When will the US invite WHO experts to do origin-tracing investigations in the US? Will the US do "what it needs to do" and take questions that it needs to answer? It's time for the US to give an answer.

HRTN: The foreign ministry held a special promotion event for Hubei Province yesterday, the largest of its kind with the most foreign envoys and representatives in attendance. How do you comment on the event and what does the foreign ministry plan to do in order to help the province further go global?

Zhao Lijian: The Special Promotion Event for Hubei Province is the first such event the foreign ministry has held since the outbreak of the epidemic. It was attended by 122 ambassadors or charges d'affaires ad interim in China.

The promotion event shows the world that under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, the heroic people in Wuhan and Hubei have made enormous sacrifices for a national victory over COVID-19 and contributed significantly to the global COVID-19 response. It presents the achievements Hubei has made from realizing post-COVID recovery to achieving steady socioeconomic development, and from effectively tackling poverty to securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. The event demonstrates China's firm commitment to joining hands with other countries to defeat COVID-19, boost world economic recovery and build a community with a shared future for mankind.

Diplomatic envoys attending the event extended warm congratulations on what Hubei and Wuhan have achieved in anti-epidemic response and economic recovery. They highly commended the philosophy of putting people's life front and center and everybody lending a helping hand in times of difficulty, and expressed the hope to further deepen exchanges and cooperation with Hubei and Wuhan in areas of economy, trade, science and technology, education, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

As a follow-up to the special promotion event, the foreign ministry will invite diplomatic missions and foreign correspondents in China to visit Hubei and conduct interviews, so as to further deepen the international community's understanding of Hubei and Wuhan, tap into opportunities for cooperation, and offer a platform for further opening-up and development of Hubei.

Global Times: It is reported that Gao Fu, Director-General of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the National Vaccines and Health Conference that Chinese vaccines don't have very high rates of protection, adding that we should consider using different vaccines from different technical lines of the immunization process. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: We noticed that Director-General Gao Fu of China CDC has already made responses to this, saying that relevant media reports are a complete misunderstanding. Vaccines should be used to fight the virus and save lives. When conducting reports, media organizations should follow a science-based and objective approach, rather than taking words out of context or even intentionally distort people's remarks just to attract attention. Otherwise, they risk seriously misleading the public and even costing lives.

Shenzhen TV: The website of the Government of Canada updated its travel advice for China, adding security risk content in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It claims that Chinese authorities are detaining ethnic and Muslim minorities in the region without due process and that some Canadian citizens'  family members with Chinese citizenship have been detained. It warns Canadian citizens that they may be at risk of arbitrary detention if they travel to Xinjiang. Do you have a comment?

Zhao Lijian: The Canadian travel advice is groundless.

We've refuted time and again the lies on Xinjiang fabricated by some institutions and individuals in the US and other Western countries. At present, Xinjiang enjoys social harmony and stability, sustained economic development and notably improved living standards. People of all ethnic groups enjoy fully their rights including the right to subsistence and the right to development.

China is a country with rule of law where everything is handled in strict accordance with law. Foreign citizens in China, including Canadian nationals, have absolutely nothing to worry as long as they abide by laws and regulations. In recent years, Xinjiang has set new records in the number of domestic and international tourists it has received. In 2019, over 200 million visits were paid to the region. We hope more people from foreign countries will go to Xinjiang and see the true picture there. When confronted with facts and truth, lies and disinformation will crumble by themselves.

AFP: According to a report, hackers operating in Russia and China targeted France's homeschooling platform last week at the start of a nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19. Is China aware of this incident? Does the foreign ministry have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: We note relevant reports. China stands against all forms of cyber attacks. The tracing of cyber attacks is a highly complicated technical matter. More often than not, the source of attack is not where the attack is initiated. We've noted that the report says it's not entirely certain that China initiated the attack. If the French side needs to conduct an investigation and provide relevant data, the Chinese side stands ready to cooperate with it on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, so as to jointly deal with the threat posed by hackers.

CRI: On April 8, the 29th Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul rejected China's request to extradite Abduqadir Yapchan, a criminal suspect of ETIM terrorist activities. The court also lifted judicial control and travel restrictions on him. Do you have any comment? How will the Chinese side respond to that?

Zhao Lijian: The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is a terrorist organization listed by the UN Security Council and is recognized as such by Turkey. Abduqadir Yapchan is a founder of the ETIM and masterminded multiple violent terrorist activities in China, and the evidence is irrefutable. China deplores and rejects the court verdict, urge the relevant Turkish side to see the violent terrorist nature of Abduqadir Yapchan as it is, reverse its wrong verdict, lest the case should have a severe negative impact on China-Turkey relations.

Kyodo News: US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry is reported to be travelling to China soon for a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua. When is the visit and what are items on agenda? The US has invited President Xi Jinping to attend the global climate change summit on April 22. Will President Xi attend the event?

Zhao Lijian: On your two questions, I have nothing to offer at this moment.

Beijing Daily: The British government has recently announced a £43 million package to support Hong Kong families following the BNO visa route to settle in the country by helping with employment, housing and children's education. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: We noticed the announcement. China has elaborated on its position many times. The UK side's move to repeatedly hype up the issue and seek political manipulation is hypocritical and doomed to fail.

Xinhua News Agency: According to preliminary results, the turnout of the referendum on new constitution in Kyrgyzstan on April 11 is above the 30 percent threshold required to make the referendum valid. Nearly 80 percent of the voters voted in favor of the new constitution. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: China and Kyrgyzstan are friendly neighbors and comprehensive strategic partners. We congratulate Kyrgyzstan on the smooth process of the referendum on the new constitution. China always respects the development path chosen by the Kyrgyz people in light of their national conditions and opposes interference by any external forces in Kyrgyzstan's internal affairs under any pretext.

As a good neighbor, friend and partner, China sincerely hopes that Kyrgyzstan can achieve stability and development. We believe that under the leadership of President Sadyr Japarov, the Kyrgyz people will surely score new achievements in national development and rejuvenation. China is ready to work with Kyrgyzstan to further consolidate political mutual trust, deepen BRI cooperation and strive for greater outcomes in our comprehensive strategic partnership for the benefit of the two peoples.

Bloomberg: The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs summoned the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines on Monday to express displeasure on the presence of Chinese vessels near Whitsun Reef. In addition, the Philippines has deployed extra patrol vessels to the South China Sea. Does the foreign ministry have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: China's position on the South China Sea issue is consistent and clear. China firmly safeguards its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. We stand ready to properly resolve the relevant dispute with the Philippines through friendly consultations and jointly uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea.

We have noticed that President Duterte recently said that the Philippines will continue to resolve the issue peacefully through diplomatic channel. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi reached consensus with Foreign Secretary Locsin on the proper settlement of the relevant dispute during the latter's visit to China recently. We hope certain Philippine officials can stop hying up the issue and avoid producing a negative impact on bilateral relations and peace and stability in the South China Sea.

CNR: The Japanese government today formally decided to discharge nuclear wastewater from Fukushima nuclear plant accident into the sea. We know China has expressed concern in two statements. I wonder if you have a comment on the formal decision by the Japanese side?

Zhao Lijian: On April 13, the Japanese government decided to dispose of the nuclear wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant accident by discharging it into the sea. As a close neighbor and stakeholder, the Chinese side expresses grave concern over this.

The Fukushima nuclear accident is one of the most serious in world history. The leak of large amounts of radioactive materials has had far-reaching implications on the marine environment, food safety and human health. Despite doubts and opposition from home and abroad, Japan has unilaterally decided to release the Fukushima nuclear wastewater into the sea before exhausting all safe ways of disposal and without fully consulting with neighboring countries and the international community. This is highly irresponsible and will severely affect human health and the immediate interests of people in neighboring countries.

The oceans are mankind's shared property. How the wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant is handled is not merely a domestic issue for Japan. We strongly urge the Japanese side to face up to its responsibility, follow the science, fulfill its international obligations and duly respond to the serious concerns of the international community, neighboring countries and its own people. It should reevaluate the issue and refrain from wantonly discharging the wastewater before reaching consensus with all stakeholders and the IAEA through full consultations. China will continue to watch closely the developments of the matter together with the international community and reserves the right to make further reactions.

CNR: The US State Department issued a statement on the Japanese government's decision to dispose of the treated wastewater by discharging it into the sea on April 12 local time saying the latter "has been transparent about its decision, and appears to have adopted an approach in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards". Does China have a comment?

Zhao Lijian: The disposal of wastewater from Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant accident concerns international marine environment, food safety and human health. As as been pointed out by authoritative institutions and experts, if the wastewater containing tritium from the Fukushima nuclear plant is discharged into the sea, it will affect the marine environment and people's health of neighboring countries and that the treated wastewater needs to be further purified to remove other radionuclides.

The US always attaches high importance to environmental issues. We hope it will remain objective on this matter, or its commitment to environmental protection may be questioned.

NHK: Also a question on the Fukushima wastewater disposal. Nuclear facilities produce tritium during normal operation, which is diluted based on national standards before discharge into the sea and air. Such discharge has been reported in the ROK, in Europe and the US. In China, 42 trillion becquerels of tritium was released by the Dayawan nuclear power plant in 2002. The Japanese government's plan is to dilute the wastewater to one seventh of the WHO standard before discharge. So the opposition in Japan is not based on health impact, but on worries of economic losses. I personally believe that this issue calls for science-based and objective judgment. Do you have a comment?

Zhao Lijian: The wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station after the highest-level nuclear accident is entirely different from the wastewater produced from the normal operation of nuclear power plants. Otherwise it would not have been necessary for Japan to seal the wastewater in tanks for the past years. No comparison can be drawn between the two.

An earlier review report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expert team points out that if the wastewater containing tritium from the Fukushima nuclear plant is discharged into the sea, it will affect the marine environment and people's health of neighboring countries and that the treated wastewater needs to be further purified to remove other radionuclides. A report by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) also believes that the impact of the wastewater on the marine ecological environment requires continued monitoring. According to a German marine scientific research institute, with the world's strongest currents along the coast of Fukushima, radioactive materials could spread to most of the Pacific Ocean within 57 days from the date of discharge, and reach all oceans of the globe in a decade. Greenpeace nuclear experts say the level of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 in the wastewater will remain hazardous for thousands of years with the potential to cause genetic damage. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on April 12 that the IAEA had taken note of the concerns of relevant parties with mounting global attention to this matter, and will actively advance its work on the assessment and monitoring activities in an impartial, objective and scientific-based manner. The agency will enhance communication with all relevant stakeholders to forestall further harm to environmental protection, food safety and human health.

The Japanese side should respond with honesty to these views from authoritative institutions and experts instead of turning a deaf ear. Still less should it disregard global public interests and simply dump the contaminated water from Fukushima into the sea and be done with it.

Reuters: Canadian Security Intelligent Service said recently that foreign spying and interference in Canada increased significantly last year, and singled out Russia and China as particular causes for concern. Do you have any comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: I'm afraid Canada is playing the old trick of a thief crying "stop the thief". Does it have any evidence? No one should slander with impunity.

SCMP: Montenegro recently said that it faces difficulties repaying China's debt of one billion euros. The European Commission said on Monday that it won't help Montenegro repay the debt. Montenegro's Deputy Prime Minister said earlier that the EU should help the country refinance the loan to protect the EU candidate from becoming dependent on China. What's your response? Have you talked about this with Montenegro or the EU?

Zhao Lijian: We've noticed reports on that. China and Montenegro enjoy traditional friendship. In recent years, our relations have grown smoothly with fruitful practical cooperation in areas including infrastructure. The highway project you mentioned is of major significance to local people's livelihood and the country's socioeconomic development. China places great emphasis on growing relations with Montenegro and hopes to work together with it to further deepen mutually-beneficial cooperation to deliver benefits to the two peoples.

Beijing Youth Daily: On April 11, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US will bring the world together in speaking with one voice in condemning China's actions and will take actions to make sure that none of the companies are providing China with things that they can use to repress minority groups. Does China have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: The US has been repeating the lie of the century that there is genocide in Xinjiang. Its obsession with smearing and slandering China only reveals its three-fold conspiracy.

First, disrupting Xinjiang to contain China. Xinjiang, a vast region with an important geographical location, is at the center of the Silk Road Economic Belt and a gateway for China's opening-up on the west. On Xinjiang-related issues, some in the US are truly in a league of their own with their feverish minds and sinister means. The US committed genocide on native Indians, traded and enslaved black people, and wantonly invaded and interfered in sovereign countries. There is solid evidence for its numerous crimes. Some in the US concocted the lies of "detention camps", "genocide", "forced labor" and "systemic sexual abuse" on Xinjiang-related issues out of thin air. They also keep up a constant effort to refurbish their lies. Now they even attempt to target snow-white cotton in Xinjiang. The accusations they place on China are better left to the US itself. The last thing those in the US care about is facts and truth. Their true intention is to deal a heavy blow to Xinjiang's cotton textile industry, disrupt prosperity and stability in the region and hold back China's development.

Second, sowing discord between China and Muslim countries. We would like to remind the US that 64 countries, including Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Iran, Syria and Pakistan, spoke with one voice at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council to support China on Xinjiang-related issues. Not long ago, SCO Secretary-General and ambassadors and other diplomats posted in China by 21 countries went to visit Xinjiang. After seeing the region as it is, they came to the conclusion that slanders against China by anti-China elements are groundless. They understand and support Xinjiang's counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts, and commend its stability, prosperity and unprecedented development achievements. As the fact has shown, the vicious US conspiracy to sow discord has no effect whatsoever on Muslim countries and visionary people of the international community. Instead of caring about the human rights of people in Xinjiang, some in the US are taking advantage of the religious sentiments of Muslims to drive wedges between China and Muslim countries.

Third, covering up its own deplorable record on the treatment of Muslims. Since 2001, the US has launched military operations in over 80 countries in the name of fighting terrorism, taking more than 800,000 lives, including 330,000 civilians. By citing a test tube of laundry powder and a staged video, the US blatantly invaded sovereign countries including Iraq and Syria, causing tens of thousands of civilian casualties and making tens of millions homeless. Is this how the US cares for the Muslims? Why does the US "worry itself sick" over Muslims in Xinjiang only? Muslims around the world have long been suffering from untold misery inflicted by the US that does not care about Muslims at all and is just trying to divert the Muslim community's anger toward itself.

If the US is bent on repeating lies 1,000 times, we will reiterate the truth 10,000 times. Whether the US chooses to see and believe it or not, facts and truth about Xinjiang will stay unshakable like the towering mountain of Tianshan and clear like the crystal lake of Tianchi. Prosperity, stability and ethnic harmony in Xinjiang are the source of our confidence. The US lies on Xinjiang will collapse and its attempt to contain China is doomed to fail.

Bloomberg: I have a question regarding the RMB. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will decline to name China as a currency manipulator in her first semiannual foreign-exchange report, according to people familiar with the matter. Does the foreign ministry have any comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: China has not used currency exchange rate as a tool to deal with external disruptions like trade disputes.

China News Service: US State Department spokesperson said in a statement on April 9 that following a review as set forth in the Taiwan Assurance Act, the State Department has issued new guidelines to liberalize guidance on contacts with Taiwan and encourage U.S. government engagement with Taiwan that reflects its deepening unofficial relationship. Do you have any response?

Zhao Lijian: The one-China principle is the political foundation of China-US relations. As the China-US Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations clearly stipulates, "The people of the United States will maintain cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan." This is the premise for China and the US to develop bilateral relations over the past four decades or so. The so-called guidelines for U.S. government interaction with Taiwan counterparts blatantly encourages U.S. government engagement with Taiwan, which severely violates the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués and runs counter to the serious political commitment the US has made to China on the Taiwan question.

The Taiwan question concerns China's sovereignty, territorial integrity and core interests. There is zero room for compromise and not an inch to give. We urge the U.S. side to grasp the situation, earnestly abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, refrain from playing with fire, immediately stop official contact with Taiwan in any form, prudently and properly handle Taiwan-related issues, and avoid sending any wrong signals to the "Taiwan independence" forces, lest it should shake the foundation of China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

The Paper: According to reports, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov delivered a speech on April 12 in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of mankind's first manned space mission, calling for a ban on arms race in space and for peaceful use of space for the welfare of all humanity. He also called for maintaining stability and order in space based on the 2014 draft by China and Russia. Does China have any comment on the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's successful space trip? Would you like to respond to Foreign Minister Lavrov's appeal for the peaceful use of outer space?

Zhao Lijian: Space exploration is a dream shared by mankind. On April 12, 60 years ago, Yuri Gagarin became the first human being in space after a successful flight, which marked the beginning of manned space missions. This year marks the 60th anniversary of Gagarin's mission and the 65th anniversary of the launch of China's space endeavor. For over half a century, China and Russia have had productive cooperation in this field, forging a deep bond of friendship and setting an example of cooperation. On this special occasion, we would like to pay tribute to all astronauts in the world who dedicate themselves to the scientific cause of exploring the vast universe for the welfare of all human beings.

The issue of space security is a challenge to us all. No country can keep itself away from it. To ensure the peaceful use of outer space and prevent weaponization and arms race in space is in the interests of all countries and also a shared responsibility. China has been calling actively for the prevention of arms race in outer space. Together with Russia, we have been promoting negotiation on a legally-binding international instrument on outer space arms control to provide a fundamental solution to the issue of security in outer space. In 2008, we jointly submitted a draft treaty on prevention of arms race in outer space to the Conference on Disarmament, which was later updated in 2014. It is getting more and more support internationally. We call on the international community to start negotiation using it as a basis at an early date to conclude a treaty on outer space arms control to underpin space security.

In 2021, China will continue its broad cooperation with Russia in the space sector. We also look forward to working together with all sides to contribute to maintaining lasting peace and common security in space, advancing mankind's peaceful exploration and use of space, and building a community with a shared future for mankind.

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