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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on July 22, 2021
2021-07-22 20:49

CCTV: On the evening of July 21 Moscow time, the Russian Presidential Press Office said that President Putin had sent a message of condolence to President Xi Jinping on the severe flooding caused by heavy rainfall in Henan Province of China. Could I have China's comment on that?

Zhao Lijian: China-Russia relations stand at their historical best as the two sides celebrate the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation Between China and Russia. Upon learning of the severe flooding in Henan Province, President Putin immediately sent a message of condolence to President Xi Jinping, which fully embodies the connotation of China-Russia relations in the new era featuring mutual assistance and the close personal friendship between the two heads of state. China expresses sincere appreciation for this and stands ready to work with Russia for new progress in bilateral relations guided by the vision of ever-lasting friendship and the principles of a new type of international relations set out in the Treaty.

Macao Monthly: The Financial Times reported that scientists from two labs in Italy, including the cancer research centre Istituto Nazionale Tumori in Milan, wrote in a new paper published on July 19 that retesting of a small number of pre-pandemic blood samples had indicated the presence of antibodies normally observed after coronavirus infections. According to Washington Post, on July 20, in response to the statement of "lab leak" from the Wuhan Institute of Virology by Republican senator Rand Paul from Kentucky, Dr. Fauci shot back, "I totally resent that. And if anybody's lying here, senator, it is you." How do you comment on that?

Zhao Lijian: I'd like to share some information on the press conference about origin-tracing of COVID-19 held by the State Council Information Office (SCIO) this morning before I answer your question.

As to the WHO-China joint report, the Chinese side said that more and more scientific evidence shows that this report is a valuable and authoritative one that can stand the test of science and history. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has never designed, manufactured or leaked novel coronavirus, nor has it conducted any gain-of-function studies on coronavirus. So far, none of the staff and graduate students at the Wuhan Institute of Virology has contracted the novel coronavirus. As to the illness of miners in Mojiang County, Yunnan province, we did not detect bat coronavirus in the serum samples of the miners through nucleic acid, antibody and genome sequencing tests. This suggests that these cases are unrelated to COVID-19.

At the press conference, China once again clarified its position and attitude on the next phase of origin-tracing, that is, the work must be carried out in accordance with scientific principles and rules. China always supports the tracing of origin in a scientific manner and opposes politicizing of origins study. The second phase of origin-tracing should be extended on the basis of the first phase, guided by the relevant WHO resolutions, and carried out after full discussion and consultation among member states. The work that has already been done in the first phase should not be repeated, especially when a clear conclusion has been reached. Instead, we should promote origin-tracing on the basis of full and extensive consultations among member states, including search of early cases in various places and countries around the world.

With regard to your question, I want to stress that for some time, more and more reports have pointed to separate outbreaks in multiple places in the world in the latter half of 2019, and at least five states in the US alone had earlier COVID-19 infections before the first officially reported confirmed case. This again shows that origin-tracing of COVID-19 is a complex scientific matter, which calls for a global collaboration of scientists with a global perspective. However, what we can see is that some people in the US still ignore science and facts. Obsessed with political manipulation, they are hyping up the so-called "lab leak theory", advocating intelligence-led origins study, suppressing and threatening experts and scholars who are making an objective and rational voice, in an attempt to shift responsibility for their botched epidemic response by discrediting other countries. Some individuals in the US put politics above science and selfish political gain above people's lives and health, which in large part accounts for the poor epidemic response.

On the issue of origin-tracing, some people in the US may indeed have a guilty conscience. In June, Vanity Fair revealed an internal warning from the US government against an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus that could open a can of worms. In fact, the US has remained silent on the serious concerns raised by the international community about Fort Detrick and the more than 200 biological laboratories overseas. The US side must understand that the international community, including China, has every reason to raise questions about Fort Detrick, which has a poor track record and is notorious for breaches in lab and contaminant leak, and demand clarification and explanation from the US side and call on the WHO to conduct a thorough investigation into it. This requirement is not only for tracing the origin of COVID-19, but also for the safety of people in all countries. The questioning will not end until the US side gives a reasonable explanation.

People's Daily: Kim Hong-bin, a celebrated climber from the ROK went missing during his descent from Broad Peak in Pakistan after he had just scaled the mountain, and probably slipped and fell on the Chinese side of the mountain. The ROK foreign ministry says that the Chinese joint search and rescue team has reached the site, but isn't able to fly the helicopter due to bad weather, and that rescue work will start as soon as the weather improves. Could you confirm? How does China plan to carry out the search and rescue work?  

Zhao Lijian: China is very concerned about Mr. Kim Hong-bin's safety. Upon receiving the ROK's request for rescue, the Chinese side immediately deployed and carried out search and rescue operations. The government of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has set up a rescue command to plan for rescue work, which was made impossible due to bad weather. As the weather improves today, two helicopters carrying five search-and-rescue team members and equipment have arrived at the base camp at an altitude of 4,600 meters to begin the search and rescue operation. Going forward, China will continue to carry out follow-up work from a humanitarian perspective.

Bloomberg: US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will meet Wang Yi next week in Tianjin. We are wondering will it pave any way for future talks involving US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and possibly between President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden? We are also wondering why the city of Tianjin was chosen as the venue for the talks. Can you shed any light on that?

Zhao Lijian: As we made clear yesterday, the US side proposed to arrange a visit to China by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman soon to exchange views on China-US relations with the Chinese side. As agreed by both sides, Sherman will visit Tianjin on July 25 and 26. Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng, who is in charge of China-US relations, will hold talks with Sherman. Later, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will meet with Sherman. China will make clear to the US its principled position on developing China-US relations and its firm attitude in safeguarding its sovereignty, security and development interests, and demand the US to stop interfering in China's internal affairs and harming China's interests.

As for the specific question you asked, we arranged this visit in Tianjin mainly in consideration of the quarantine arrangements and the fact that Tianjin is close to Beijing.

Regarding the other questions you asked about the meeting between China and the US, I have no information to release at present.

CNR: It is reported that the Pegasus spyware has drawn much attention from the public globally. The software is reportedly being used to monitor the phones of politicians, business people and journalists in several countries. Some media commented that it is strange that the US, which has recently criticized China on the issue of cyber security, is silent on this issue. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: I noted relevant reports. If what is reported proves to be true, we strongly condemns it. This once again shows that cyber security threats such as eavesdropping is a common challenge for countries, which calls for joint response through dialogue and cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. Peculiarly, the US government has been reticent on this even though it keeps talking about upholding cuber security. The US is ganging up with some other countries to make unwarranted smearing and denigration against China on cyber security. This only gives away its guilty conscience.

Most cyber attacks in the world come from the US, which is an open secret. According to openly available material, the US National Security Agency has built cyber surveillance centers in eight cities including Washington D.C., New York City, San Francisco and Seattle, where the NSA intercepts and analyses flows of global telecommunication data, and monitors large amounts of emails, phone calls and online chats passing across US territory. Supported by its plentiful tools and hacker groups, the US has never stopped launching cyber attacks on others, exploiting loopholes to undermine nuclear reactor equipment and facilities, hacking power grids and implanting malicious codes, and attacking other countries' power grids which led to massive power outage and collapse of infrastructure facilities. The US has long been stealing information from other countries' important facilities and corporate systems, which led to great losses.

I have a question for the US: did the US throw Julian Assange in prison and hate Edward Snowden's guts because they revealed the dark history of the US practice of wiretapping and theft of secrets? We'd like to ask the US to provide evidence for accusing China of cyber attacks. Distorting facts does not help to whitewash the US itself, nor will it be accepted by the world.

Associated Press of Pakistan: The people and the government of Pakistan have expressed grief for the loss of life and property due to heavy flooding in Henan Province and offered their assistance if needed. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: China sincerely thanks Pakistan for its care and support. China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners and friends sharing weal and woe. We have always stood together and helped each other in times of difficulties. This year marks the 70th anniversary of China-Pakistan diplomatic relations. China is ready to take the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties as an opportunity to lift China-Pakistan relations to a new level and inject new impetus into the building of a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind.

Prasar Bharati: As international students from the ROK and the US are returning to China, what are the quarantine measures they have to follow upon entering China? Will the same measures be applicable to Indian students who are waiting for their returns to China?

Zhao Lijian: What I can tell you is that the Chinese government always attaches great importance to foreign students who want to come back to China. Under the precondition of ensuring safety amid the COVID-19 epidemic, China will study in a coordinated manner the matter of allowing foreign students to come to China.

Prasar Bharati: Are Chinese embassies in the ROK and the US issuing visas to these students for coming back to China? Can you confirm this, or do you deny that?

Zhao Lijian: I am not aware of the specific situation you mentioned. As to the issue of the return of foreign students to China, we will study the matter in a coordinated manner under the precondition of ensuring safety amid the COVID-19 epidemic. I want to reiterate that China will take prevention and control measures through scientific analysis in light of the evolving situation. On the basis of ensuring safety, China stands ready to work actively to foster healthy, safe and orderly personnel exchanges with other countries.

China Daily: On July 20, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan issued a press release on the bilateral meeting between Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Mori and US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. They criticized China on issues relating the East China Sea and the South China Sea, reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and expressed grave concern over the situation in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: China has lodged solemn representations here in Beijing and in the other side's capital to deplore and reject the negative moves by Japan and the US against China. I want to stress that issues relating to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang are China's internal affairs that allow no foreign interference. No one should underestimate the resolve, the will and the ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

With regard to maritime issues, China is firmly resolved in safeguarding national territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. In the meantime, we are ready to properly settle maritime disputes with countries concerned through consultation and negotiation. Attempts to meddle in the East China Sea and the South China Sea under all kinds of pretexts will only bring unnecessary disruptions to the peace and tranquility in the region, and run counter to the interests of regional countries.

Nihon Keizai Shimbun: The Tokyo Olympic Games will open tomorrow. China will not send senior officials this time, right?

Zhao Lijian: I can tell you that China supports Japan in hosting a successful Tokyo Olympic Games. The Chinese sports delegation for the Tokyo Olympics, led by the head of the General Administration of Sport of China Gou Zhongwen, has arrived in Japan.

CCTV: On July 20, the Sri Jayewardenepura University (USJ) released a report on the efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine. The study found that 95% of individuals developed antibodies following two doses and the vaccine induced neutralizing antibodies in 81.25% of recipients. The vaccine was found to be very effective for the Delta variant as well. On the same day, Malaysia's health director-general also said that some media hype-up of safety issues of the Sinovac vaccine is an exaggeration. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: I have noted relevant report. A growing number of voices based on science and reason have cleared name for Chinese vaccines and labeled them safe. This fully shows that Chinese vaccines are effective and safe.

China stands for deepening international cooperation to ensure the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in developing countries and make vaccines a global public good. So far, China has provided more than 500 million doses to over 100 countries and organizations. China has been supportive of and takes an active part in the COVAX program. Since Chinese vaccines have been granted approval for emergency use by the WHO, relevant Chinese manufacturers have exerted all-out efforts to ensure production and supply. They will provide 110 million doses to COVAX over the next four months, with options for additional doses. To date, more than 100 countries have approved the use of Chinese vaccines, and leaders of 30 countries have received Chinese vaccine jabs openly. Leaders of many countries spoke highly of the important contributions made by Chinese vaccines to the local epidemic response, and foreign citizens also voted in favor of Chinese vaccines, which they have been inoculated with.

China will continue to work with other countries to provide the world, especially developing countries, with more safe and effective vaccines, promote equitable distribution and use of vaccines around the world, and promote global cooperation in fighting the epidemic, so as to make positive contributions to realizing an early and complete victory over the epidemic.

Xinhua News Agency: According to reports, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai met with Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan on July 21. Tai noted that the US is closely monitoring the trade situation between Australia and China. She conveyed that the US stands with Australia to tackle this shared challenge and supports rules-based international trade to promote fair, market-oriented trade practices. Ambassador Tai reiterated the US' commitment to engaging its allies, including Australia, to address China's practices that harm their workers, businesses, and citizens. The two sides welcomed continuing senior-level discussions to address non-market practices, including economic coercion. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: The US remarks completely distort facts and confuse right with wrong.

The difficult situation in China-Australia relationship is the result of Australia's moves to grossly interfere in China's domestic affairs and undermine China's interests, and its discriminatory trade practice toward China. The responsibility does not rest with China.

China doesn't wantonly resort to bullying and sanctions, impose "long-arm jurisdiction", or suppress foreign companies. China always firmly supports multilateralism and the WTO-centered multilateral trading system, develops international economic and trade cooperation in accordance with the principle of equality and mutual benefit. The US is selective in applying the mechanisms and rules under the multilateral trading system. It wantonly started a trade war on China by wielding the stick of sanctions and abused the concept of national security to suppress China's hi-tech companies. It seeks decoupling and suspends supplies, cuts off industrial and supply chains that are formed in the market over years, and seriously violates market economy rules and WTO rules. Yet, it poses itself as a "victim". The labels of "unfairness" and "coercion" can never be pinned on China. The US had better save them for itself.

The US should reflect on itself, redress the mistakes, rather than making irresponsible remarks in disregard of facts.

Beijing Youth Daily: From July 19 to 20, Turkish President Erdogan reportedly visited "Northern Cyprus", and jointly announced with the leader of the latter further opening of Varosha resort which was previously blocked off from visitors. The Cyprus government has voiced strong protest, and the EU, the US, Russia, the UK and Greece have all voiced their concerns. Does China have any comment?  

Zhao Lijian: As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China supports a just and reasonable settlement of the Cyprus issue on the basis of relevant UN resolutions. We call on relevant parties to abide by relevant UN Security Council resolutions, act in ways conducive to regional peace and stability, and create conditions for an early, comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue.

Prasar Bharati: There are many media reports, including Chinese media and foreign media, saying that tens of thousands of ROK students have returned to China and their campuses, as well as students from the US. Are you dismissing those reports as false news?

Zhao Lijian: I have already fully stated China's position. In light of the evolving epidemic situation in the world, China is coordinating epidemic response and the issue of international students' return to China.

Prasar Bharati: So you are confirming that Chinese embassies in the ROK and the US have issued visas to students to come back to China?

Zhao Lijian: I just read about it in media reports.

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