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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on May 19, 2020
2020-05-19 22:31

CCTV: President Xi Jinping delivered a speech via videolink at the opening ceremony of the 73rd World Health Assembly yesterday. Could you tell us what messages were sent out to the international community?

Zhao Lijian: Yesterday President Xi Jinping delivered a speech via videolink at the opening ceremony of the 73rd World Health Assembly. Championing the vision of building a global community of health for all, President Xi expounded China's response to COVID-19 and put forward a series of important proposals and measures, demonstrating very practical and far-reaching significance in boosting global confidence, promoting international cooperation and outlining future global governance system. Here I'd like to emphasize three points.

First, we need to focus on fighting the pandemic and work together. The global situation remains complex and grave, and fighting the pandemic is a top priority. All countries should put people's lives first and stem the global spread of the virus as soon as possible. China calls on upholding WHO's leadership role. To support WHO is to support international cooperation, to support saving lives and to support multilateralism. We are ready to continue working with the international community to step up support for WHO and strengthen international cooperation in the fight against COVID-19 until the final victory is achieved.

Second, we need to assist each other in a humanitarian spirit. With an open, transparent and responsible attitude and the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, China takes it as its responsibility to safeguard not just the life and health of its own citizens, but also global public health. At the opening ceremony, China announced five important measures to strengthen global cooperation against COVID-19, including providing US$2 billion of international aid in the next two years, working with the UN to set up a global humanitarian response depot and hub in China, establishing a cooperation mechanism for its hospitals to pair up with 30 African hospitals and accelerating the building of the Africa CDC headquarters, making China's COVID-19 vaccine development and deployment, when available, a global public good, and working with other G20 members to implement the Debt Service Suspension Initiative for the poorest countries. China is also ready to work with the international community to bolster support for the hardest-hit countries under the greatest strain so that they could tide over the current difficulties, which showcases that China acts responsibly as a major country.

Third, we need to take the long view and prepare for a rainy day. We human beings will eventually prevail over the coronavirus. Yet this may not be the last time a major public health emergency comes unexpectedly. Based on the preconditions of a scientific and professional attitude, WHO-led efforts and the principle of objectivity and impartiality, China supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to COVID-19 to sum up experience and address deficiencies after it is brought under control. While containing the virus, countries where conditions permit may reopen businesses and schools in an orderly fashion following WHO's professional recommendations. International macroeconomic policy coordination should be stepped up and the global industrial and supply chains be kept stable and unclogged if we are to restore world economic growth.

At present, the international community is at a critical juncture in the fight against the pandemic. China is ready to continue to work with the international community to support WHO's leadership in the global response, promote solidarity and cooperation among the international community, safeguard planet Earth, our common home, and build a global community of health for all.

The Paper: The European Union, Russia, Japan, India, Brazil and Australia, among over 120 countries, proposed a draft resolution at the WHA. What is China's position on this draft resolution? Is China a co-sponsor?

Zhao Lijian: I stated China's position on this issue yesterday. I want to reiterate that China, along with other parties, has actively participated in the consultations on the draft resolution. The text of the current draft resolution unequivocally affirms and supports WHO's leading role and calls on member states to take necessary measures to prevent discrimination and stigmatization, combat misinformation and disinformation, strengthen cooperation in the development of diagnostic tools, treatment methods, drugs and vaccines, and in discovering the animal sources of the virus, and evaluate the WHO's response to the outbreak at the appropriate moment. All these are in line with China's position and meet the shared aspiration of the overwhelming majority of countries in the international community. In light of these facts, China is a co-sponsor of the above-mentioned draft resolution. We hope it will be adopted at the 73rd WHA by consensus and followed through upon in a comprehensive and accurate manner.

Xinhua News Agency: According to reports, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce decided to levy anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on barley imports from Australia at the rate of 73.6% and 6.9% starting from May 19. Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia is deeply disappointed with China's decision. They will assess the details of the findings and reserve all rights to appeal this matter. What's China's response? Does China's decision have anything to do with the "independent international inquiry" proposed by Australia?

Zhao Lijian: The Chinese Ministry of Commerce published announcements on May 18, deciding to levy anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on barley imports from Australia. I want to stress that China has been strictly following Chinese laws, regulations and WTO rules in conducting investigations and making the final rulings. I'd refer you to the competent authorities for the specifics.

China has made clear its position on the so-called independent international inquiry proposed by Australia. We firmly oppose any political maneuvering under the pretext of COVID-19. Facts have proven that such a move is inappropriate, unpopular and doomed to fail.

China Daily: Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on May 18 that the input of so many parties in the EU-sponsored COVID-19 draft resolution at the WHA is a real signal of the importance of the call for an independent, international review proposed by Australia. It's a win for the international community, and Australia, as a strong and active part of that international community, would certainly see it that way. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: First and foremost, China supports a comprehensive evaluation of global COVID-19 response to sum up experience and address deficiencies after the pandemic is brought under control. This should be led by WHO and conducted in a science-based, professional, objective and impartial manner. China has been consistent and clear about this all along. The draft resolution on COVID-19 being discussed at this year's WHA is consistent with China's position and reflects the widespread consensus of other countries. China, along with other parties, has actively participated in the consultations on the draft resolution and co-sponsored the draft resolution.

Second, the above-mentioned draft resolution is entirely different from what Australia called "independent international review". For example, the draft resolution proposes to initiate at the appropriate moment an evaluation rather than to launch an "independent international review" instantly. This confirms WHO's leading role instead of adopting another mechanism. The draft resolution calls for an evaluation of experience gained and lessons learnt from the WHO-coordinated international health response, rather than an inquiry based on the presumption of guilt targeting any country. We hope Australia will read the text carefully instead of making conclusions based on assumptions.

Lastly, I want to stress that we welcome it if Australia changes its course, completely gives up its political maneuver and returns to the broad consensus of the international community following the relevant WHA resolution.

The Paper: The President of the 73rd WHA announced that the proposal submitted by Taiwan's "diplomatic allies" to invite the region to participate in the WHA as an observer will not be discussed at this meeting, and relevant issues will be left for discussion at the Assembly's resumed session in the second half of this year. What is China's comment?

Zhao Lijian: On May 18, the President of the 73rd WHA announced that the meeting would not discuss the proposal put forward by some countries to "invite Taiwan to participate in the WHA as an observer". The Taiwan authorities and some countries failed to promote the Taiwan-related proposal at the WHA. This once again shows that seeking "Taiwan independence" is like walking into a blind alley; it goes against the will of the people to hype up Taiwan-related proposals at the WHA.

In the context of the ongoing global spread of COVID-19, focusing on international cooperation against the pandemic is the common expectation of the majority of WHO member states for this meeting. Against the strong will of the vast majority of WHO member states, the DPP authorities and some countries are bent on pushing the Taiwan-related proposal in an attempt to disrupt the proceedings of the assembly and undermine international cooperation against the pandemic. It fully exposes their true intention of putting political considerations above international public health security.

The vast majority of WHO member states uphold the authority of the UNGA Resolution 2758 and WHA Resolution 25.1 and adhere to impartiality and justice. China highly commends that.

The people in the Taiwan region are our compatriots. The Central Government of China takes all necessary measures to ensure the health and well-being of our Taiwan compatriots. After COVID-19 broke out, we invited health experts from the Taiwan region, before inviting anyone else outside the mainland, to visit Wuhan, Hubei province to see the situation on the ground, and we have given the Taiwan region 152 updates about the COVID-19 outbreak. Based on the one-China principle, the Central Government of China has made appropriate arrangements for Taiwan's participation in global health affairs. There are no obstacles for Taiwan experts to participate in WHO's technical activities. Since 2019, a total of 24 health experts in 16 groups have participated in WHO's technical activities. There is an International Health Regulations Contact Point in the Taiwan region so it can obtain timely information on global public health emergencies released by the WHO and report its public health emergency information to the WHO in a timely manner as well. All channels of information on epidemic prevention and control are unimpeded and effective, a guarantee for the Taiwan region to respond in a timely and effective manner to public health incidents on the island or elsewhere in the world. The so-called "international epidemic prevention gap" is just an excuse for the DPP authorities to seek independence under the pretext of the epidemics, which has already been seen through by the international community long ago.

We urge the DPP authorities to acknowledge the facts and not go further down the wrong path of seeking independence. Thinking that relying on some external forces will improve their odds of breaking the universally-recognized one-China principle is just a pipe dream. We also urge some countries not to misjudge China's determination and ability to safeguard its core interests and national reunification. They should immediately change course and stop any action that challenges the one-China principle.

Reuters: US President Trump tweeted a letter to the WHO in which he threatened to pull funding and potentially withdraw the US from the WHO permanently if WHO doesn't demonstrate strict independence from China. What's China's response?

Zhao Lijian: We talked about the detailed timeline of China's COVID-19 prevention and control efforts on many occasions. The WHO also made clarifications on some obvious mistakes in the US accusations. The US leader's letter was full of such ambiguous wordings as "indicating", "probably" and "likely", trying to mislead the public, smear China's efforts and shift the blame of US incompetence to others, but this attempt will not succeed. As the pandemic is still spreading in the US and many other places in the world, the most pressing task is still pulling together to save lives and seek economic recovery. We urge a small number of US politicians to stop pinning the blame on others and enhance international cooperation to defeat the virus together.

The scale and standards of the assessed contributions to WHO are jointly decided by its member states rather than dictated by the US alone. It is a due obligation for the US, as a WHO member, to pay assessed contributions timely and in full. This is non-negotiable. The US arbitrary suspension of funds and contributions to an international organization is a unilateral act that violates its international obligation.

As the international fight against the pandemic is now at a crucial stage, supporting WHO means supporting the purposes and principles of multilateralism, supporting international cooperation against COVID-19 and saving lives. China has always strictly observed WHO rules and regulations to pay assessed contributions on time and in full, and provided voluntary contributions to WHO as its capacity allows. Since the outbreak began, China has donated a total of US$50 million to WHO, set up RMB 2 billion of special funds on COVID-19 cooperation, sent out 24 medical teams, and provided enormous amounts of material assistance to WHO and various countries. Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged at the WHA that China will provide US$2 billion in the next two years to help with COVID-19 response and with economic and social development in affected countries, especially developing countries. COVID-19 vaccine development and deployment in China, when available, will be made a global public good. This will be China's contribution to enhancing vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.

China will consistently endorse WHO's leading role in the global cooperation against the pandemic and will continue supporting the work of WHO in various ways. China calls on the international community to increase political and financial support for WHO so as to mobilize resources worldwide to defeat the virus.

Picking on China while shirking and bargaining over its own international obligations to WHO, the US has obviously miscalculated the situation and made a mistargeted move.

Beijing Youth Daily: It is reported that the Special Representatives on Afghanistan of Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan held a virtual meeting on May 18 to discuss the Afghan issue and issued a joint statement. Can you brief us on that?

Zhao Lijian: On May 18, Special Envoy on Afghan affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Liu Jian, Russian Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, Iranian Foreign Ministry's Special Envoy for Afghanistan Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian, and Additional Secretary of the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan Safdar Hayat held a video conference on May 18 and had an in-depth exchange of views on the current situation in Afghanistan and the peace and reconciliation process. The meeting was hosted by the Russian side. The four parties issued a joint statement afterwards.

The joint statement welcomes the signing of the political agreement by the two major Afghan political leaders and calls on all parties in Afghanistan to seize the opportunity to launch intra-Afghan talks and realize comprehensive and sustainable peace at an early date. It calls on foreign troops to withdraw in an orderly and responsible manner to ensure a smooth transition. It expresses hope that relevant UN Security Council resolutions will be observed and implemented, and urges all parties in Afghanistan to resolutely combat international terrorist organizations. It reaffirms support for Afghanistan in the fight against COVID-19.

At present, the situation in Afghanistan is at a critical stage. As Afghanistan's traditional friendly neighbor, China respects the Afghan people's independent decision on their own future and development path, and will do its best to support Afghanistan's peaceful reconstruction. China firmly supports the "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned" peace and reconciliation process and hopes that intra-Afghan talks will start and yield positive results at an early date. China will continue strengthening communication and coordination with relevant parties in Afghanistan and making constructive efforts with the international community for the political settlement of the Afghan issue.

China Review News: The Chinese consulate-general in New York recently published two notices on delaying a temporary flight. I wonder if you could give us more details about that?

Zhao Lijian: Chinese airlines are arranging temporary flights to take back overseas Chinese students who are in difficulties and in urgent need of going home. It is regretful that the temporary flights are compelled to be delayed as the US hasn't approved the flight plans.

Among the Chinese students, those who don't live in the cities of departure already moved out of their dorms or rentals in order to catch the flights. The delay certainly has brought a lot of trouble for these young students. Our diplomatic missions in the US are working hard for proper arrangement and resolution to this matter.

Out of humanitarian spirit, we hope the US can finish all procedures for the flights as soon as possible to facilitate our students' return.

Shenzhen TV: Reports say that India has built a road in the Kalapani region, an area that is under dispute between India and Nepal. The Government of Nepal has raised objection, calling on India to stop infringing on Nepal's territorial sovereignty. Last week, Indian Army Chief General Naravane said during a webinar organized by the Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) that there may be external forces involved in the territorial disputes. What is your comment?

Zhao Lijian: The issue of Kalapani is between Nepal and India. We hope the two countries will resolve their differences properly through friendly consultations and refrain from taking any unilateral action that may complicate the situation.

Beijing Daily: Lea Gabrielle, head of the US State Department's Global Engagement Center (GEC), recently said that the Chinese government is using Twitter and other new media platforms to push disinformation and propaganda around COVID-19, as they are seeing a bot network created with the intent to amplify narratives and a major surge in the number of Chinese diplomatic Twitter accounts. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: The US official's allegation is baseless and out of ill-intentions. We noted Twitter's response to this matter, saying that the preliminary review result of the so-called "suspicious accounts" doesn't support the US allegation.

At previous press conferences we talked about the growing number of Chinese diplomatic Twitter accounts. Just like other countries' diplomatic missions and diplomats, we opened accounts at social media platforms to do a better job in telling the story of China, with its realities and policies, to the world. We'd like to facilitate cultural exchange and promote mutual understanding through various means.

I want to point out that under the pretext of the pandemic, certain US politicians have been busy shifting the blame to China, stigmatizing China and spreading disinformation against China. US media recently revealed a 57-page memo that the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent to electoral campaigns, asking the candidates to "aggressively attack China" to address the coronavirus crisis, the essence of which is to assault China whenever the virus is mentioned. However, people are sharp-eyed. The US and the larger international community knows only too well who has been the initiator of "disinformation campaigns" all along.

RIA Novosti: US Attorney General William Barr said yesterday that tech company Apple is working with the governments of Russia and China to relocate data centers and boost surveillance capabilities of Beijing and Moscow. I wonder if you have any comments on his remarks?

Zhao Lijian: As attested by existing records, it is exactly the US that has been engaging the largest-scale cyber surveillance and cyber theft activities all over the world. To address this matter, the UN has adopted a resolution on the "right to privacy in the digital age" put forward by European countries. The US is truly the biggest safe haven for hackers. We call on the US to abide by relevant UN resolutions and immediately stop its large-scale surveillance activities across the globe. We also urge certain US politicians to stop fabricating groundless lies and blaming China for what they themselves have done.


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