|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Regular Press Conference on April 22, 2020|
China News Service: The COVID-19 situation outside China is still severe, with a surge of confirmed and fatal cases in some countries. Many overseas Chinese citizens have encountered various difficulties and are worried about their health and whether they can continue with their work and study business-as-usual. What kind of help has the Chinese government and overseas diplomatic missions provided to them and have their concerns been effectively addressed ?
Geng Shuang: The global spread of COVID-19 poses a sustaining threat to the health and safety of Chinese citizens overseas. The Party and Government in China always put all Chinese compatriots' safety and health in the first place. President Xi Jinping has on many occasions made instructions to strengthen guidance and support for Chinese citizens abroad in epidemic prevention and control and convey the solicitude of the Party and Government.
Since the outbreak began, President Xi Jinping has spoken by phone 40 times with 32 leaders of countries and heads of international organizations, and Premier Li Keqiang has spoken by phone 12 times with 11 leaders of countries and heads of international organizations, and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has spoken by phone 66 times with 46 foreign ministers and heads of three international organizations. During these calls, the Chinese leaders urged the foreign sides to take effective measures to protect the health, safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens and offer them necessary convenience with regard to their stay and everyday life.
The foreign ministry and diplomatic missions overseas have firmly and fully implemented the CPC Central Committee's decisions and instructions, drawing on various resources we have access to offer timely help and support for Chinese citizens abroad. Our efforts can be summarized in the following aspects:
First, we have been in close contact with the host countries' governments and departments in charge of diplomacy, health, education, police and immigration to facilitate visa extension and medical diagnosis and treatment for Chinese citizens and ensure their safety.
Second, we have upgraded information services and made them more readily available to overseas Chinese citizens by setting up new consular protection hotline and creating WeChat groups. In the past two months or so, the 12308 consular protection hotline of the Foreign Ministry has received nearly 170,000 calls, three times the number for the same period last year.
Third, we have assisted Chinese citizens who have been confirmed with or suspected of infections in getting timely medical help and followed up with their conditions while urging host countries to spare no effort in their treatment. We have raised urgently-needed epidemic prevention materials in a short time and distributed them via different channels to Chinese citizens abroad, taking the heat out of their pressing situation. Embassies and consulates in the US, the UK, Russia, Japan, Germany and other countries arranged for heads of mission or organized Chinese medical experts to conduct virtual exchanges with Chinese people living, working and studying there, offering professional medical advice and psychological counseling and recommending domestic online health consulting services to them.
Fourth, for those Chinese citizens in severely affected countries who are in real difficulty and in urgent need of returning home, the Foreign Ministry and other involved departments, with coordinated efforts and resources, sent out temporary flights to bring them home in a gradual and orderly way.
Fifth, we have given priority to overseas students. We look after these students as if they were our own children. By early April, the foreign ministry has coordinated with various departments to raise, allocate and distribute more than 500,000 health kits to overseas Chinese students. A number of Chinese embassies and consulates have set up hotlines for parents who are in China and reached out to underage students to address their practical difficulties.
These measures effectively alleviated the anxiety of overseas compatriots and played a stabilizing, encouraging and positive role in their lives and their response to the pandemic. The mutual help and warmth and love from overseas embassies and consulates have won high recognition and universal praise from our compatriots at home and abroad, which has further aroused their patriotism and inspired all diplomatic personnel to do a better job. In accordance with the requirements and instructions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on the normalization of epidemic prevention and control, we will continue to coordinate with relevant parties to actively implement anti-epidemic measures, provide more help and support to Chinese compatriots overseas in a timely manner, and make joint efforts to achieve the final victory over the pandemic.
TASS News Agency: Attorney General Eric Schmitt of the State of Missouri filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Chinese government in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri over the coronavirus, alleging that Chinese officials are "responsible for the enormous death, suffering, and economic losses they inflicted on the world, including Missourians". Does the Chinese Foreign Ministry have any comments on this allegation?
Geng Shuang: This kind of "lawsuit" has no factual or legal basis. It only invites ridicule.
Since the outbreak began, the Chinese government has been nothing but open, transparent and responsible in timely informing the WHO and relevant countries and regions including the US of pandemic-related information. We have shared the genome sequence of the virus, actively responded to the concerns of all parties and strengthened cooperation with the international community. Recently, we used a timeline to detail our exchange of information with the US. Since January 3, China has been regularly updating all countries including the US on the latest development of the situation. The US has unfettered access to information and data from China. China has made significant contributions to the global fight against the pandemic. The international community bears witness to and highly commends this.
Such lawsuit is nothing short of frivolous litigation which defies the basic theory of the law. Based on the principle of sovereign equality prescribed by international law, US courts have no jurisdiction over the sovereign actions taken by Chinese governments of all levels in response to the epidemic.
Such frivolous litigation will not help the US with its epidemic response, nor will it contribute to the global cooperation in this regard. The right course of action for the US side is to dismiss this abusive lawsuit.
AFP: According to a study released yesterday from the Pew Research Center, 66 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of China. What's your comment?
Geng Shuang: A friendly China-US relationship is the aspiration of people in both countries and serves the two sides' common interests. It is our consistent belief that China and the US stand to gain from cooperation, which is the only right choice, and lose from confrontation. We hope the US will work with China for the same goal, manage differences on the basis of mutual respect, expand mutually-beneficial cooperation and jointly advance a bilateral relationship featuring coordination, cooperation and stability.
CCTV: On April 17, Jack Ma sat down with News 1+1 for an interview. When asked how to respond to criticism on his donations to foreign countries, he said that probably in any country, 99 percent are good people and 1 percent are brain-damaged, and if we focus too much on the 1 percent and lose sight of the 99 percent, it would be too sad. What is your comment? And could you update us on the assistance China has offered to the world?
Geng Shuang: Mr. Jack Ma was being very candid and straightforward. As a foreign ministry spokesperson, I'd like to say that in the face of major disasters and plagues, selfishness, hatred or acrimony is never the right choice. It is good conscience, mutual assistance and gratitude that gives us strength.
We will never forget the sincere help and strong support we received from the international community after the outbreak of COVID-19. Despite the high pressure of guarding against domestic resurgence and imported cases, China has been offering assistance to others as its ability permits.
According to statistics on hand, the Chinese government has provided or is providing urgently-needed medical supplies to more than 150 countries and international organizations. We are also facilitating other countries' commercial purchase in China. At the same time, many Chinese enterprises, civil organizations and localities including the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation have also been extending a helping hand to foreign countries.
These acts of kindness embody the traditional Chinese virtue of reciprocating kindness as well as the Chinese people's big heart and humanitarian spirit. It is also a vivid illustration and good practice of the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind that demonstrates China's sense of global responsibility as a major country.
The virus is a common enemy of all human beings. We can only win this global fight by pulling together. China will continue to do the right thing, provide assistance to others as its capacity permits, and work with the international community to secure the final victory against the pandemic.
Beijing Media Network: On the night of April 19, medical supplies purchased from and donated by China were delivered via Russian military aircraft from Shanghai to Chisinau, Moldova. In a press interview at the airport, the Moldovan President Dodon thanked Russia and China for their help, saying it's the best Easter present for the Moldovan people. I wonder if you have any comment?
Geng Shuang: China-Moldova friendly cooperation has been developing with a good momentum in recent years. After the COVID-19 broke out, Moldova gave China support. President Dodon sent President Xi a letter of sympathies at the earliest time possible. In return, China has also provided support to Moldova to the best of its ability. The practice of mutual assistance demonstrates deep friendship between our two peoples.
China and Russia, as comprehensive strategic partners of coordination for a new era, have been closely cooperating to fight COVID-19 and promoting concerted international response. Upholding the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, China will continue cooperating with all countries to jointly safeguard global public health security.
Shenzhen TV: Australian reports say that an Australian plane carrying aid to cyclone-struck Vanuatu was unable to land as scheduled on April 12 as a Chinese plane with medical supplies for Vanuatu was on the tarmac of Port Vila Airport for too long. Could you confirm this? Australian foreign minister Marise Payne said in an interview that Australia had raised concern with the Chinese side over the regrettable delay of its humanitarian aid shipment. What's your comment?
Geng Shuang: The reports you cited were not accurate. We regret and disapprove the false expressions used by the Australian side. An Australian civil aviation expert believed technical reasons led to the delayed unloading of supplies from the Chinese cargo plane, as a result of which the Australian aircraft was unable to land. The expert also said this is very common in small airports and called on Australian media to reject conspiracy theories. These views are objective and just.
I want to stress that China relates to the difficulties and challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to Pacific island countries and will continue to join the international community in offering assistance to them, including Vanuatu. We also stand ready to step up cooperation with Australia on this. As China helps Pacific island countries combat the virus, Australian media should not resort to malicious hype-up with political calculations, and certain Australian politicians should not aid and abet such attempts with ulterior motives. We hope certain individuals in Australia will discard the zero-sum game mindset, help island countries' pandemic response, and work to enhance mutual trust and cooperation between China and Australia.
Reuters: I have a question about the fast-tracking entry into China for foreign nationals. The electronics firm Samsung has confirmed its engineers from South Korea are traveling today to Xi'an. I want to ask are these workers subject to quarantine in China? Or does the fast track agreement with South Korea and indeed potentially with other countries allow such workers to skip quarantine if they meet certain conditions?
Geng Shuang: Yesterday I shared information on China's discussion with relevant countries regarding the establishment of fast tracks for urgent essential travels including for business and technical purposes. The aim is to stabilize important economic and trade cooperation while guaranteeing epidemic prevention and control, and to ensure safe and smooth operation of the international industrial and supply chains.
As I also said, China and the ROK have reached principled consensus on this. As to the specific incident you mentioned, including with regard to the Samsung engineers to Xi'an, I'm not aware of it and can only update you later.
China Daily: Recently some US Republican lawmakers including Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, Marsha Blackburn, Ted Cruz, Jason Smith introduced successive bills accusing China of covering up the COVID-19 pandemic and calling for investigation and compensation. What's your comment?
Geng Shuang: A handful of US politicians, in a bid to find a scapegoat for their inefficient response, disregard facts to denigrate and smear China and even resort to tireless political maneuvering. At a crucial moment when solidarity is needed, they are disrupting China-US cooperation. This defies people's wishes and cannot make the situation in the US any better.
We advise them to focus on fighting COVID-19 and saving American lives, instead of preoccupying themselves with deflecting attention and shifting the blame.
Please stop spreading political viruses on top of the novel coronavirus that we are already doing all we can to fight.
AFP: Yesterday Canadian Prime Minister said that two planes sent to China to pick up shipments of medical supplies were forced to return to Canada empty. He said it was because of China's ground time limit for charter flights. Can you confirm this news and do you have any comment on that?
Geng Shuang: Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China and Canada have been offering each other support and assistance and conducting anti-pandemic cooperation. Recently, the Canadian side has purchased medical supplies through various channels in China and sent charter flights to Shanghai to bring them home. China has been assisting and facilitating the Canadian side in its purchase, customs clearance and charter flight permits. The Canadian side has also expressed thanks for this on various occasions.
As to the incident involving two Canadian flights returning empty, we have checked with the competent department and found relevant reports to be inaccurate. Relevant airports and civil aviation authorities place no limit on the ground time of chartered cargo planes.
The Paper: On April 21, White House National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, when pressed to answer how the US plans to hold China accountable, said that the US has many tools at its disposal, including lawsuits in the US against China, and also China has enormous assets around the world, so let's see what comes out of that. What is your comment?
Geng Shuang: I already responded to a question about such litigation and won't repeat myself.
I will just stress that the virus knows no borders and this pandemic is the common enemy of mankind. It is pretty clear now that some people are deflecting their responsibility mainly to cover up their own problems. They'd better invest more time and efforts on their own business and take good care of their people with concrete actions.