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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on February 25, 2020
2020-02-25 22:03

At the invitation of State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dačić will pay an official visit to China from February 26 to 27.

Before we begin the Q&A session, I'd like to share some figures with you. According to the NHC update this morning, February 24 saw 2,589 patients cured and discharged from hospital in China's mainland, bringing the total number of cured cases to 27,323 as of 24:00, February 24.

Q: You just announced the visit of Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Can you talk a little more about the visit and your views on China-Serbia bilateral relations?

A: A good question. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will hold talks with First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Dačić. This visit, paid after a three-year interval, comes at an unusual time as the Chinese government and people are making all-out efforts to fight against the COVID-19. It demonstrates the strong friendship and support that the Serbian government and people have towards China. We believe this visit will be important for China and Serbia to implement important consensus between our leaders, deepen political mutual trust, and advance practical cooperation in various fields.

China and Serbia enjoy profound traditional friendship. Serbia was the first central and eastern European country to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership with China. Recent years have seen frequent high-level exchanges, stronger political mutual trust, fruitful practical cooperation and close people-to-people and sub-national exchanges between us. China stands ready to promote sustained and sound development of China-Serbia relations under the Belt and Road Initiative and the China-CEEC cooperation framework.

Q: Yesterday Gui Minhai was sentenced to prison for illegally providing information to overseas. Can you share more details about what kind of information he had access to and illegally provided to overseas? Also can you comment on the fact that the Swedish government has not received any message from him that he doesn't want to be a Swedish citizen any more, and that he's become a Chinese citizen again?

A: On February 24, on the charge of illegally supplying intelligence for entities outside the territory of China, the Ningbo Intermediate People's Court sentenced Gui Minhai to 10 years in jail. He's also stripped of political rights for 5 years.

Illegally providing intelligence to overseas is an act that seriously undermines China's national security and interests. China is a country ruled by law. Our judicial organ dealt with the case strictly in accordance with law, passed the ruling and has fully protected Gui Minhai's legitimate rights and interests. China firmly opposes interference in its internal affairs and judicial sovereignty in any form by anyone, any organization or any country.

Ningbo is Gui Minhai's ancestral hometown. In 1996, Gui obtained Sweden citizenship. In 2018, Gui voluntarily applied to China's public security organs for restoration of Chinese citizenship, and the application was lawfully approved. According to China's Nationality Law, our country don't recognize dual nationality for any Chinese national, and a person whose application for reinstatement as a Chinese national has been approved shall not retain foreign nationality. As such, after Gui restored his Chinese nationality, according to law, he is recognized as a Chinese citizen only.

I believe this answers your question.

Q: The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is going to elect its director-general in Geneva next Wednesday. The organization's current Deputy Director General Wang Binying was nominated by China as its candidate. Reports say that the US is trying every means to obstruct her election. US Secretary of State Pompeo's team said it's absurd to allow China, a country accused of IP theft, to lead an organization specialized in helping formulating cross-border intellectual property policies. White House trade adviser Navarro said in a Financial Times article that the world shouldn't give China control of WIPO. What's your comment?

A: China is a leading country in global innovation and intellectual property. China's candidate nomination shows its readiness to contribute to international IP cooperation and development.

The Chinese candidate, Ms. Wang Binying, is an outstanding international IP expert, who has been serving WIPO for nearly three decades and enjoys high esteem both inside the organization and in the realm of international intellectual property. She is considered the most competent, competitive and experienced among the candidates, whose nomination also meets the aspiration for stronger female leadership in international bodies to achieve gender equality in the international community.

However, as witnessed by the world, in order to oppress China, the US is doing all it can to pressure other countries to give up their support for the Chinese candidate under the slogan of "Anyone But Chinese". They've even tried to threaten and blackmail those countries by cutting aids and other disgraceful means. As China is making all-out efforts to fight the COVID-19 epidemic, the US colludes with some other countries to sabotage the Chinese candidate's election. It is morally unacceptable to take advantage of others' difficulties.

All elections must follow the principle of fair competition and go by rules. But the US, in disregard of rules and out of its own political agenda, has wantonly smeared and oppressed China. I wonder, what right does the US have to turn a professional election into a political game?

All sovereign countries have the right to independently cast their vote based on their own considerations and interests. The US has no candidate of its own, but only the right to decide its own vote. I wonder, what right does the US have to dictate and impose its will on others?

Western countries, including the US, stand for the principle of competency-first and women-first in international organizations. I wonder, why the US just tears off its cloak of hypocrisy and abandons its principles and standards when it comes to China?

We are fully confident in Ms. Wang Binying's competence. We also respect the candidates of the other five countries and would like to see a fair and friendly competition. We believe countries that champion justice and principles will firmly reject the immoral behavior of the US and defend a fair and impartial election.

Q: On February 22 in a video speech at an emergency ministerial meeting on COVID-19 organized by the African Union, Director-General Tedros said the WHO still has concerns that this virus could spread to countries with weaker health systems, and he called on the international community to support those countries that are most vulnerable. Will China provide help to African countries?

A: We noted Director-General Tedros' remarks. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the Chinese government and people have been making all-out efforts to counter it. The most stringent and thorough measures have been taken and relevant efforts are showing their effects. As the Director-General pointed out, it was because of China's strong measures that cross-border spread of the epidemic has been effectively contained and global preparedness has been allowed time for.

During China's fight against the virus, many developing countries including African countries gave us valuable support and help at the earliest time possible despite their limited resources. The 36th Ordinary Session of the AU Executive Council and the latest AU Peace and Security Council meeting issued communiques not long ago, in which African countries expressed their solidarity with China in the efforts against COVID-19. During the recently concluded emergency AU meeting of African health ministers, countries also lauded China's epidemic control measures. African countries standing with China in times of adversity is a perfect demonstration of a community with a shared future for mankind.

"Receiving drips of water when in need, and I shall return the kindness with a spring." Reciprocating an act of kindness is our nation's fine tradition. We will remember the friendship and assistance we received, continue to implement the FOCAC Beijing Summit outcomes and act on the vision of building a community with a shared future, support those countries with weaker health systems as much as we can to help them defeat the virus, and safeguard regional and global public health security.

Q: Some officials from the US Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health said recently that China uses the expertise of US universities to enhance its military and technological competitiveness. They also accused China of stealing US scientific achievements by recruiting top US researchers, entrepreneurs and experts to China. What is China's comment?

A: I have noted relevant reports and want to stress the following points:

First, China's scientific and technological achievements are not made through theft or robbery. The Chinese people, including our intellectuals, made such achievements with our talent and hard work. Statistics show that between 2009 and 2019, Chinese scientists published 2.6 million papers in international journals, ranking the second in the world.

Second, the strengthening of science and technology exchange and cooperation between China and the US serves the common interests of both sides. Certain US officials, under the pretext of national security, have ulterior motives in cooking up so-called China's theft of US scientific & research outcomes. Some US university principals also believe those officials' concerns about national security are over-exaggerated and discriminatory, saying that cooperation with China is crucial to science and technology progress.

Third, cross-border flow of talent has advanced scientific and technological development across the world. All countries are actively engaging in talent exchange and cooperation, and the US especially so. The relevant measures taken by the Chinese side are aimed to facilitate the flow of talent between China and other countries and encourage international scientific and technological cooperation. It doesn't have any substantive difference from what other countries in the world have been doing.

We urge certain US officials to abandon the obsolete Cold War mindset and zero-sum game mentality. Instead, they should fairly view and uphold China-US exchanges and cooperation in science, technology and people-to-people interaction. They need to do more to enhance mutual trust and cooperation between the two countries.

Q: First question, what would you recommend to countries which are now suffering a lot of cases of the coronavirus like Italy, the ROK and Iran? Second question, yesterday it was announced that in Wuhan the residents could perhaps go out of the city under some special circumstances. After that this announcement was revoked. When could it be possible for foreigners in Wuhan to leave the city?

A: Thank you for the questions.

On your first question, China has been following the developments of the COVID-19 situation in the ROK, Italy, Iran and other countries. We certainly relate to what they are going through.

Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the Chinese people have received valuable support and help from the governments and people of those countries. We are deeply grateful for that. They are all our friends and partners, and it's natural for us to enhance cooperation. While fighting against the virus at home, China is ready to share information and experience with those countries and help them to the best of our ability based on their needs.

To answer your second question, I refer you to the local authorities for more information.

Q: There has been a growing number of confirmed cases in Japan and the ROK. The situation there has become increasingly severe. Will China place restrictions on people entering from these two countries?

A: China has been following the developments of the COVID-19 epidemic in Japan and the ROK. We certainly relate to what they are going through. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the Chinese people have received valuable support and help from the governments and people of Japan and the ROK. We are deeply grateful for that. As close neighbors, it is natural for China, Japan and the ROK to cooperate with and help each other during difficult times. Though China is still fighting hard against the virus at home, we are ready to share information and experience with the relevant countries and help them to the best of our ability and in accordance with their needs.

Facing the epidemic, it is every country's responsibility to ensure the safety and health of its citizens and safeguard regional and global public health security. We will remain in close communication and coordination with all relevant countries including Japan and the ROK, discuss how to jointly carry out prevention and control work, and take concerted, appropriate and necessary measures to stem the cross-border spread of the virus and ensure regional and global public health security.

Q: According to media reports, the US is considering punishing Chinese journalists in the US as retaliation for China expelling Wall Street Journal correspondents. Did China talk to the US about this issue? If yes, did you warn them not to use such an option?

A: I answered quite a few questions on WSJ yesterday. In response to your question, I'd like to make clear the following points:

First, "the sick man of Asia" is an extremely insulting phrase as it is associated with a certain period of the Chinese history. Using such a blatantly racist title, the WSJ has triggered great indignation among the Chinese people as it has challenged the bottom line of our dignity and injured our feelings. Those US officials should read the co-signed email by 53 WSJ employees in China. They wrote, "this is not about editorial independence or the divide between news and opinion. It is about the mistaken choice of a headline that was deeply offensive to many people, not just in China". Anyone with conscience and moral standards will oppose and resist such mistaken words and wrongdoings instead of making wrong judgment and considering to embolden a media agency that refuses to assume responsibility and apologize.

Second, I want to ask those US officials who cannot open their mouth without talking about freedom of speech and press, if a media agency publishes racist content in America, how will it be punished? The international community knows very well how the US administration treats press and journalists: my way or the highway. Is that what freedom of press means in the US? Have the American officials forgotten how they treated CNN? And can they explain why the US has denied or delayed issuing visas to Chinese media under various excuses for the last couple of years?

Third, China welcomes foreign media to conduct comprehensive and objective coverage of China. We have been supporting and facilitating their coverage and reporting activities in accordance with international customary practices, domestic laws and regulations. Meanwhile, we oppose the practices that viciously slander China and violate China's dignity under the pretext of freedom of speech. Permanent offices of foreign media and foreign journalists in China must abide by Chinese laws, regulations and decrees and observe their professional ethics. This is the same everywhere in the world.

We urge the US side to drop their bias against China, stop making irresponsible remarks and groundless accusations, and contribute to mutual trust and cooperation between the two sides.

Q: I saw in the news that China decided to delay the "two sessions", and the dates are yet to be determined. The Chinese and Japanese governments had been preparing for President Xi's visit to Japan in April. Do you think his visit will be affected due to the delay of the "two sessions"?

A: Thank you for your interest in President Xi's visit to Japan. In fact, China and Japan are both dealing with the epidemic, and we both believe concerted efforts should still be made to prepare for and advance major diplomatic agenda items in the next phase. We will update you if there's new information. Please stay tuned.

Q: What's the situation currently of Chao Deng, the WSJ reporter in Wuhan for whom you've revoked press credentials? Will the government help her leave the city?

A: About Chao Deng, her press card is revoked and she is currently in Wuhan. Out of humanitarian considerations, we will allow her to stay in Wuhan without permission of press coverage. Once the lock-down is lifted there, she should leave as soon as possible.

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