Transcript of Chinese Ambassador CHENG Jingye's Press Conference with Australian and Chinese media

On 19th Dec 2019, Ambassador Cheng Jingye hosted a press conference with Australian and Chinese media at the Chinese Embassy. The transcript, which has been lightly edited for content and clarity, is as follows:

Ambassador: Good morning everyone. It's a pleasure to have friends from the media come to the embassy and I am looking forward to have constructive dialogue with you, so as to increase mutual understanding. This year, 2019, is drawing to a close. This is a year which is important to China. We celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the people's Republic of China and the profound changes and tremendous progress that had been achieved. There are many reasons behind those successes, but fundamentally speaking, it is the result of hardworking of the entire Chinese people under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party along the socialist path with Chinese characteristics. This has made us more determined and confident to realise the two centenary goals.

As you may know, the recently concluded the Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee has made the important decision with regard to China's future development. The decision involves upholding and improving the socialist system with Chinese characteristics and to modernize China's system and capacity for governance which will lay an important, stronger institutional foundation for achieving the two centenary goals.

Another thing I want to touch is, tomorrow will be the 20th anniversary of the return of Macau to the motherland and Macau has undergone an extraordinary journey over the past two decades, which has fully demonstrated the strengths and the vitality of "One Country, Two Systems".

And you may also take note of the news of last week. That is the conclusion of the phase one trade deal between China and the United States which was reached on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

The last point I'd like to make is this Saturday will be the 47th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties between China and Australia. The engagement between the two countries in the past 47 years has been enormously beneficial to both sides. So we would like to see that this relationship will continue to grow based on mutual respect and mutual benefit through the joint efforts of both sides, including that of the media, which can play an important role.

So I just stop here. I'd like to take your questions. Thank you.


Moderator: Thank you Ambassador. So according to my list, the first one to raise the question is from Nine News.

Journalist: Ambassador, I am Jonathan Kearsley from the Nine News. First of all thank you very much for inviting us here today for an opportunity to speak with you. It is very much appreciated. Can I ask you though about the Australian academic Yang Hengjun detained in China since January. The Australian government has repeatedly said that it is concerned about his detention about his condition. I want to ask you, where is he? What has he been charged with? Will he be returned to Australia? And if a Chinese citizen had been detained in Australia in such a manner, would you want them returned back to China?

Ambassador: Thank you. I think we have stated our position on this case on different occasions both from our spokesperson and from the foreign ministry.

Mr. Yangjun was formally arrested last August with approval from the Chinese relevant prosecution authority for being suspected of engaging in espionage activities.

I understand it is now still in investigation, further investigations. In due course, he will be formally charged.

Journalist:So he still has not been charged by Chinese authorities?

Ambassador: Yeah, no. As I said it earlier, he is formally arrested for being suspected of engaging in espionage activities. So in due course, I understand after the further investigations he will be formally charged. In due time, you will know the details.

What I want to say at the moment is, the relevant Chinese security department will deal with the case in accordance with Chinese law and his lawful rights are protected. And we have provided assistance or assistance has been provided for the Australian embassy for regular consular visits.

Journalist: What condition is he in?

Ambassador: Well, as I understand, his health is in good condition and his rights have been protected and will be protected. Thank you.


Moderator:Next question from The Economic Daily.

Journalist: From Economic Daily. So we know the economic and trade cooperation and people to people exchange are very important for China Australia relationship. Can you give me some details about the progress we have made in these areas in particular thank you.

Ambassador: Thank you for your question.

Well with regard to, what we call pragmatic cooperation including trade, and economic cooperation, I can give you a long list of the engagement or collaboration and the positive results. I think economic and trade cooperation is an important part of our bilateral relations. China has been the largest trading partner of this country for over one decade. I understand from what I've heard, during the first 10 months of this year, the volume of the trading goods between the two countries reached 188 billion Australian dollars, an increase of about 20% year on year. Australia's exports to China during this period hit almost 124 billion Australian dollars, up 29.9%. And Australian trade surplus in goods with China, is about 59 billion Australian dollars, accounting for 98% of the total trading goods surplus of this country. And this year I think China has become the biggest importer of Australian wine and beef. I often heard a saying here in this country that one in five Australian jobs depend on trade. So if we take this theory, I think the Sino-Aussie trade helped create some 640,000 jobs in the country. I think The Australian recently reported that about 37% of Australian exports went to China over the past 12 months. And the Australian 33% increase in sales to China is largely responsible for the federal budget restoring to surplus ahead of schedule. So I still can say a lot of things. I just touch upon a few things. You refer to the people-to- people links. I think there are, this year there are230,000 Chinese students studying in this country. And I understand there are more and more Australian young students going to China to study, work under the New Colombo Plan. As for the tourist market, I understand last year, I mean, or in the year leading to last August, the Chinese tourists have made 1.4 million visits to this country and they consumed, I mean spent

12 billion Australian dollars while they were in the country. So I just stop here, but I just want to emphasize the importance of the pragmatic cooperation and exchanges between the two countries and it has brought a lot of benefits to both sides. I understand it is mutually beneficial. So as I said earlier, from my earlier words we'd like to see this to continue to grow. Thank you.


Moderator: Thank you Ambassador. Now Sky News.

Journalist: Thank you Ambassador. Trudy Macintosh from Sky News. Why hasn't Prime Minister Scott Morrison been invited to Beijing to meet with president Xi? And do you think an invite is forthcoming or would that be a good sign to help improve relations?

Ambassador: Thank you for the question.

Well as Ambassador I always believe high level exchanges and visits are important to the bilateral relations.

I think in the past year there has been some kind of exchanges, I mean the meetings between the Chinese Premier and Prime Minister Morrison. I understand they held the seventh premier annual meeting last month and also Vice President Wang Qishan had the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister and there were also meetings between the two foreign ministers at multilateral forums. I think the meeting between Premier Li and Prime Minister Morrison was constructive, where they have reached some important consensus over how we are going to move the relations forward, back on track and to be improved. As I said at the start China always values its relationship with Australia and we have many shared interests. We are in the same region. Our economies are highly complementary. We both support multilateralism, free trade and the open economy and potentials for continued cooperation are huge so we have every reason to have the relations continue to expand and deepen, and of course, recognise it's a fact that we have differences. That's normal. But the important thing is we handle them in a constructive way, in a way that will not make obstacles for the further development of the relations. I think that Premier Li said in his meeting with the Prime Minister and we're ready to work with the Australian side, to meet each other in the same direction and also to expand our common understanding and increase mutual trust so that we could further build this important relationship.

Journalist: But is there a reason why Scott Morrison hasn't been invited to meet president Xi in Beijing?

Ambassador: Well, I hope through the joint efforts between the two sides, there will be more high level exchanges and visits. As Ambassador, of course, I will do what I can to promote the bilateral relations, important relations. Thank you.


Moderator: Now the next turn is to Xinhua.

Journalist: My question is we know that China and US have reached phase one economic and trade agreement which is welcomed by the world, but we also noted that in Australia there are concerns that the interests of Australians could be affected. So how would you respond to such concerns? Thank you.

Ambassador: Thank you for your question. I think the phase one trade deal between the two countries will help both sides to manage, control and solve the differences in the economic and trade area. And it's also helpful to promote the steady development of economic and trade relations between China and America. Furthermore, I think it will boost the confidence of the global market and stabilize market expectations. While the deal between the two sides conforms with the WTO rules, market rules and business principles and we believe since China's domestic market is huge, China continues to welcome companies from every country to do business in China through fair competition. And we don't think the trade deal will affect the interests of other trading partners of China. Neither will it affect the mutual cooperation between China and other countries. Having said that, I just want to emphasize that China will continue to uphold WTO based multilateral trading systems and free trade and will continue to deepen the comprehensive reform and advance high level opening up. My main point is the deal is good for China and the US. it is also good for the rest of the world.


Moderator: Thank you, Ambassador. Now the next one is from ABC.

Journalist: Ambassador, Andrew Probyn from the ABC. Thank you very much for having us today. I note that you echoed the philosophy of Xi Jinping where you talked about the socialist system with Chinese characteristics. China is as you have talked about developing very, very quickly, very sizable global nation, great power. How is it make a country of your size, of your influence can lock up to a million people Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in areas in Xinjiang. What's justice has it there for and you understand why the rest of the world looks upon the treatment of the Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang province with horror.

Ambassador: Thank you. Firstly, I would say the allegations, well, the claims that you said 1 million Uighurs are in detention is utterly fake news. In the past 70 years, well, 65 years or more, thanks to China's policy, the government's policy, Xinjiang's economic and social development that have made huge progress that the freedom of religious belief and the rights of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang have been promoted and protected. Economically, I think in 2017 the GDP of the region for the first time, reached 1000 billion RMB, and further increased the next year, I mean in 2018 which reached 1,200 billion and in Xinjiang, you may know, I mean, I don't know whether you know it or not. There are more than 20,000 mosques and 29,000 Islamic clerical personnel. And there are also, more than 100 Islamic associations and 10 Islamic colleges. And in the past so far, in recent years more than 50,000 muslims went to Mecca in Saudi Arabia on the pilgrimages.

Journalist: I don't want to interrupt, but...

Ambassador: Let me finish. In 2018 there are more than 150 million visitors or tourists from both domestic and overseas. I think before I further go into the details, I'd like to invite you to watch a short video, five minutes about the violent situation, I mean in the area in the past, some 20 years ago. Thank you.

[video plays...]

Ambassador: Thank you for your watching.From this video, you could have a rough idea of what had happened.

Journalist: Confronting, ambassador. Um, but uh, can you explain why in confronting what you see and to um, terrorism so many people have been locked up and whether the people inside those camps, they look like camps, they've got walls, they, they could, they look like they're locked. What justification do you have for the mass detention of people?

Ambassador:Well, I'm sorry, you have drawn your own conclusion, which I think, is out of touch, totally wrong. I have said there are those allegations about so called detention camps in Xinjiang and there is none of what they are. I am going to give you further briefing on that as the video shows.

During the years from 1990 to 2016 several thousand violence or terrorist attacks occurred in Xinjiang mainly and also in other are asinstigated. The religious extremist or terrorists associated with international terrorism, including, the ETIM and those attacks and violence have brought, claimed large number of innocent people. And also brought huge damage to their property, the fortune of ordinary people and have seriously affected the life, the peace and security. This is something every country will take forceful actions, I mean to fight against. So the local government has taken tough measures to crack down on those terrorism, violence. At the same time, they have started to take measures to address the fundamental cause of these attacks. That includes to set up vocational training and education centers, which aim at de-radicalisation and to help people, to bring people, who are affected by those extremist ideology, get rid of those influence, at the same time to learn vocational skills, the legal knowledge and standard Chinese language. I think the number of trainees is dynamic. Some of them came in, some others went out. As I understand, because of those efforts, including this training and education centers, the efforts have made, there have been no single violence or terrorist cases in the past three years. And the spread of extremism has been effectively curbed and the public security has been notably improved in Xinjiang and people of all ethnic groups are able to live and work in peace. So that's the major outcome with our efforts to eradicate radicalization. So what has been done in Xinjiang has no difference with what the other countries, including Western countries to fight against terrorism. It's part and parcel of international campaign against terrorism.

What has happened, what has been done there has nothing to do with human rights, nothing to do with religion. It's about fighting terrorism and take preventive actions. I mean, to ensure the safety and security of the ordinary people and to ensure the smooth development and prosperity of the region. And now the trainees in the centers have all completed their studies. And they have with the assistance of the government, the local government, they have gradually or steadily found their jobs, improved their lives and lead normal life. Thank you.


Moderator: Next on my list is from The Australian.

Journalist: Just talking about the Uighur's situation. Marise Payne said that the treatment of Uighurs by China is disturbing. She's deeply concerned. She said that China must be held to account for human rights abuses. So the first part of my question is, does she believe in fake news? The second part of the question goes to the human rights dialogue with Australia and a partnership and official partnership that the government here canceled the orders. Uh, and we've done that because one information is that Uh, Beijing has basically stepped away or has stepped away from other Western nations as well. Um, will you try to reengage and talk more closely with Australia on human rights.

Ambassador: Thank you for your question. If I may, what's the first part of the question? Oh yeah, yeah. Well I think firstly the Xinjiang related matters, are internal affairs of China. Secondly, as I said earlier, what has happened here, what has been done by the government or the local government, I mean it's to combat terrorism, to de-radicalize those people who are affected by the extremist ideology. It has nothing to do with human rights and those efforts are just simply to protect the basic and primary human rights to life and that's what it is all about. We do not accept those allegations. We expect the Australian side to have an objective understanding of the situation there and the positive measures that China has taken. Secondly, I mean about the human rights dialogue, I understand there were dialogues. I think we have also similar dialogues with other countries as well. I think dialogue to discuss issues of mutual interests including human rights. It's helpful, it's useful and we always, as I understand are open to dialogue.

Journalist: We also get what's also on partnership program on the ground.

Ambassador: Yeah. There is a technical one. It was useful and productive and I hope to see personally that, I hope that with joint efforts of both sides, we could have those dialogues at appropriate time. Uh, I mean the reason why the dialogue couldn't go on is purely of some technical problems. I mean the two sides have different views as how to carry on the dialogue. So that's where we stand, where I understand the situation. Thank you.


Moderator: Next one is from SBS.

Journalist: Mr Ambassador, if the mass detention of Uighurs is fake news, who's behind this global conspiracy that seems to have infiltrated some of the world's leading human rights organizations and governments and let's just return to Dr Yang. The foreign minister has said that China's treatment of this Australian citizen is unacceptable. That he's been denied access to lawyers whose family has been interrogated daily while shackled. How is this acceptable behavior from a country that demands mutual respect and trust, Yet according to our foreign minister, it hasn't been even explained to the Australian government the charges this man is facing.

Ambassador: Well, I think we have made it clear we do not accept the allegations made by the Australian side and as I said earlier, I mean, I don't accept the allegations. As I said earlier the lawful rights of the person in question are well protected.

Journalist: So he is not shackled while he's interrogated?

Ambassador: Well that's, I think I have given you answer. I expect that the Australian side to respect China's judicial sovereignty.

Journalist: China will explain these charges and with the greatest respect, Mr. Ambassador?

Ambassador: Well, as I said earlier, once the investigation concludes, the formal charges, the details of the charges, will be made known. What you will have, I mean people will have a better understanding of what has to be.

Journalist: The investigation is continuing. You had said today that he will be charged.

Ambassador: Yeah, of course. After the investigation he may be charged or he may not be charged.

Journalist: So he may not be charged.

Ambassador: No. Yeah, that's, that's possible. But I understand the relevant Chinese state security authority, they have got the approval from the prosecution authority to have him formally arrested.

Journalist: Can you perhaps explain some of the evidence against him because the foreign minister says that Australia...

Ambassador: Once the investigation concluded, there will be further information. Of course he is under investigation. So that's normal. You haven't concluded investigation, how could you, I mean, have the details?

Journalist: Just to be very clear on the earlier question, you're saying that he has not been denied access to his lawyers. He has not been denied access to his family. He's not been shackled while he's been interrogated.

Ambassador: Well as I said earlier his lawful rights are protected and his health condition, his health is in good condition. And as for the first part of the question, I think I've already answered that question earlier. I mean through my briefing and explanation.


Moderator: The next question is from China News Service.

Journalist: There have been negative reports on Chinese community in Australia. Ambassador, my question is what do think of the Chinese community here?

Ambassador: Thank you. Well I understand, there are 1.2 million Austrian Chinese in the country, which I think is important part of multi-culture, the Australian Chinese or the Chinese community as I understand, over the years have made positive contributions to the local economic, social, cultural progress. Last year I think was the 200 anniversary of the arriving of the first Chinese here in this country. And they have, as I said, they have made valuable contributions to the diversity as well. Also because of their background, because of the connections, links or their advantage living and working in this country, they have played unique role, I mean in promoting the bilateral relations between the two countries. So by and large, as I see it, the Chinese community here is a, it's the valuable assets of both countries. They should be cherished. And I have taken note of this year on different occasions, I mean, the senior government officials and others have acknowledged on many occasions, I mean the contributions that the Australian Chinese have made over the years and also their contribution to the bilateral relations. At the same time I have also taken note of some media coverage alleging that the Chinese government try to use some Chinese nationals, Chinese Australians here to interfere in the political process here, which as I think as I believe are not well founded and it also has caused concerns amongst some Chinese communities. Well, I hope it's important we all know the past lessons before the 1970s. I think any irresponsible and unconstructive accusations without the facts against some of the Australian Chinese here, it wouldn't be good for the multiculturalism that this country is so proud of. Thank you. I just stop here.


Moderater: We'll have limited time. So the next turn is from The Western Australian.

Journalist: Thank you again for speaking, Ambassador, we appreciate it. This morning has shown that there are some sticky points. Obviously some disagreements between interpretations between our media and the Chinese Communist Party beyond the human rights abuses or lack thereof. There's also been a range of different challenges and things that have happened this year. You've seen politicians banned from going to a country like Andrew Hastie and Patterson we've seen while I have seen that our PM say China should be a developed nation. Do you think 2019 is a problematic year between these two countries? Do you think it's going to improve next year? If so, how?

Ambassador: Well, thank you. Thank you for your question. Uh, I think 2019 is a mixed year for the bilateral relations. It could have been better. But obviously there were some, there have been some difficulties. We're looking forward to new year. I mean, the next year, 2020, as I said earlier in my remarks, we expect the relationship willbe back to normal, with the joint efforts of both sides. We hope both sides could meet halfway, and it's important to handle the differences in the proper or in a constructive way.

Journalist: What can Australia do particularly in your view?

Ambassador:Well, I think, including from my contacts or discussions here, I think it's important for both sides to look at each other's development in an objective way and that is to say to look at each other's development as an opportunity rather than a threat, which I think it's very important for increasing the mutual trust. And also it is important for both sides to respect each other's development path or social model. Just now some people touch upon the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. Here I want to say in the past 70, seven decades we have created two miracles. One is economic social development. The other is the by and large the social stability. Without a strong and effective leadership as the Chinese Communist Party, you cannot imagine how we've come such a long way. The leadership of the Communist Party in China is the choice of the people and the choice of history. It led the Chinese people stood up after one century's foreign bully or aggression. It has led the Chinese people, I mean to develop the country from a once backward, poor country into the second largest economy. Looking to the future as I said, we're aiming to achieve the two Centenary Goals. There are more challenges and risks and difficulties. And the first and paramount important thing is for China to have continued leadership of the Communist Party. And in the west, you always say every road lead to Rome and what we have done, I mean in the past years, in recent years, decades demonstrate that there is more than one way to modernization. So on that point I come back to the point that I made earlier. I hope, people in this country, including media we'll have a better understanding of China's history and China's difficulties we have had and the achievements that we have made so far. And we hope that some of the media often make a lot of, to say the least inaccurate report about China, about China system, about China's situation, about China's policy. I hope they will look at China, not through tinted glasses, not through ideological mentality and not through, a sense of Western, the superiority of the Western civilization. Well, what I want to add is, over the past several decades, the achievements that we have made or the progress that we have made also benefit from our engagement and cooperation with the rest of the world. So that's why we continue this process. We'll continue to work with other countries. I mean for a continued peaceful development and win-win outcome. And of course the third point I want to make is we hope, as I said earlier, the economic and trade relationship and the partnership would further grow and the people to people links and connections would be further strengthened. And in that regard I mean, the points that I made, I think the media can have a constructive role to play. Thank you.


Moderator: Thank you, Ambassador. I think Ambassador has other engagements. So we have almost exhausted the list here, although we still have some, especially from Chinese media who still want to ask questions on my list. But we think we have opportunities in the future. If you have more questions, you can write to us and your questions will be received well. So shall I announce the end of today's meeting between Ambassador and the media friends. And thank you all for coming and thank you, Ambassador.

Ambassador: Thank you.

Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Commonwealth of Australia
Address: 15 Coronation Drive, Yarralumla, ACT 2600
Tel: 0061-2-62283999, Fax: 0061-2-62283836
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Commonwealth of Australia All Rights Reserved