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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on July 23, 2021
2021/07/23

At the invitation of State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the Maltese Minister for Foreign and European Affairs Evarist Bartolo, Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmmod Hussain Qureshi, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto and Mongolian Foreign Minister Battsetseg Batmunkh will pay official visits to China from July 22 to 28. State Councilor Wang Yi will receive the foreign ministers of Malta, Pakistan and Finland in Chengdu, and foreign minister of Mongolia in Tianjin.

CCTV: We have noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently arranged trips for foreign envoys and representatives of international organizations in China to Guizhou and Fujian separately. Can you give us more details?

Zhao Lijian: From July 11 to 17, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs arranged separate trips for foreign envoys and representatives of international organizations in China to visit Guizhou and Fujian provinces. Through field trips, seminars and discussions, the envoys deepened their understanding of China and the Communist Party of China (CPC), and found more opportunities for synergizing the cooperation between their respective countries and China.

The journey helps participants to understand the magnificent century-old history of the CPC. After visiting the sites of Zunyi Meeting, Gouba Meeting and Gutian Meeting, the envoys commended the CPC for its strong leadership in the success of China's revolution. They said that to understand China, one must understand the CPC. Throughout its 100 years of history, what remains unchanged is the CPC's vision, perseverance and the founding mission of seeking happiness for the Chinese people.

The journey showcases the tremendous changes and development potential of the Chinese society. From the first poverty alleviation village in the Ningde city and the demonstration site of the housing project for residents who used to live on boats in Xiaqi Village in Fujian Province to the Haohuahong village of Buyi minority ethnic group and the poverty elimination demonstration village of Huamao in Guizhou Province, the envoys saw the remarkable changes China's poverty elimination efforts have brought to the people's lives. From the national big data comprehensive pilot zone and the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST, also known as China's Tianyan) in Guizhou to the high-tech microelectronics enterprises in Xiamen, the envoys marveled at the booming development of scientific and technological innovation in China. From the China Tea Expo in Guizhou to the Yundang Lake in Xiamen, the envoys have gained helpful experience from China's ecological and environmental governance.

The journey offers opportunities to learn about the profound Chinese culture. In Fujian, the envoys visited the Quanzhou Maritime Museum, where they appreciated the inclusiveness and historical charm of Quanzhou, the starting point of the ancient Maritime Silk Road that preceded the Belt and Road Initiative. They also visited the museum of Hakka family precepts in Tulou or earthen buildings in Yongding District, Longyan City, and experienced the historical inheritance of the fine family values of the Chinese nation.

During the visits, the envoys spoke highly of China's achievements in poverty alleviation, scientific and technological innovation, ecological progress and cultural heritage protection, and expressed their expectation to strengthen exchanges and carry out more mutually beneficial cooperation with Guizhou and Fujian. We will, as always, welcome foreign envoys in China and others to visit various parts of China and get a panoramic and multidimensional view of China as it is.

Xinhua News Agency: US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the other day that the China-US relationship is fundamentally competitive at its core. There are elements of this relationship that are adversarial, but there are also going to be elements where our interests are aligned. As for Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman's upcoming visit to China, Price said that the US hopes this visit will help to advance US interests and values and allow it to responsibly manage the bilateral relationship. He said the US will continue to engage with China from "a position of strength" and there should be guardrails to ensure and to see to it that competition doesn't spill over into conflict. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: The so-called "competition, cooperation and confrontation" approach for dealing with China by the US side is in essence defining China as a competitor, stoking confrontation and containing and suppressing China's development. This approach does not distinguish between the major aspect and minor aspect of China-US relations. It is not in line with the facts, the fundamental interests of the two peoples or the trend of the times. It fundamentally originates from a zero-sum mentality.

I would like to stress that the US has repeatedly claimed to talk to China from "a position of strength", which reflects its arrogance and bullying. As China has pointed out many times, the US is in no position to lecture or point fingers at China, or to deal with China from "a position of strength". We didn't buy that in Anchorage, and we certainly won't buy that in Tianjin.

China always believes that China-US relations should be based on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, rather than one side taking the benefit only. The development of China-US relations needs a "guardrail", but it cannot be defined by the US unilaterally. The US should stop interfering in China's internal affairs, stop smearing China and harming China's interests. This is the "guard rail" for the bilateral ties in a real sense.

During Deputy Secretary Sherman's visit to China, we will continue to elaborate on China's principled position on developing China-US relations and firmly safeguard sovereignty, security and development interests.

CRI: Wendy Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State of the US, will visit China on July 25 and 26. Who will be the principal Chinese official to hold talks with her? Will State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meet with her?

Zhao Lijian: Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng, who is in charge of China-US relations at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will be the principal official to hold talks with Deputy Secretary Sherman. The US side repeatedly expressed the hope of meeting with Chinese leaders. By convention, China considers the arrangement of a meeting between State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Deputy Secretary Sherman after her talks with Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng.

Hubei Media Group: The Australian Human Rights Commission recently released its Sharing the Stories of Australian Muslims Report 2021. It outlined widespread discrimination against Australian Muslims and the increasing risk of violent and terrorist acts by extremists targeting Muslims. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: We've also noted the report. It pointed out that Australian Muslims suffer from widespread discrimination, with 80% of respondents saying they "experienced some form of unfavorable treatment based on their religion, race or ethnicity" in public spaces like shopping centres and prayer spaces. One in four felt unable to speak up or act when faced with discrimination. According to the report, a study by the Australian National University found that job seekers in Australia with Middle Eastern names need to submit over 50% more applications to be granted the same opportunities as an applicant with an Anglo-sounding name. Many respondents say they experienced increasing harassment from extremists, which has taken a toll on their sense of safety. It also pointed out that some right-wing politicians in Australia, driven by personal political gains, often make irresponsible remarks on the Muslim community, misleading public perception and leading directly to the increase of violent and terrorist incidents targeting Australian Muslims.

The facts revealed by the report once again exposed Australia's hypocrisy and double standards on human rights. For some time, certain Australian politicians, based on lies and bias, have wantonly criticized the human rights conditions of Muslims in China's Xinjiang region and blatantly smeared and maligned China. This is beyond preposterous. They are in no position to do this. We urge some people in Australia to take off the hypocritical mask of "human rights lecturer", have self-reflection and earnestly tackle the human rights issues of Australian Muslims, rather than slander other countries under the cover of concern for Muslims' human rights.

AFP: Since the Pakistani Foreign Minister is here, are there any updates about the investigation into the recent bus blast that killed several Chinese nationals? Is it an act of terrorism? And if so, who is behind it?

Zhao Lijian: China and Pakistan are still conducting investigation into the terrorist attack. I have nothing to add for the moment.

Beijing Daily: On July 22, the US Treasury Department announced imposition of sanctions on Cuba's Minister of Revolutionary Armed Forces and other officials and institutions under the so-called Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, citing the so-called "repression of protests in Cuba". The US also said in a statement that it would "continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people". Separately, it's said that the US is trying to garner support among other countries to either sign a joint statement or issue a statement in national capacity in condemning Cuba. What is China's comment on that?

Zhao Lijian: China firmly supports the efforts of the Cuban government and people to maintain social stability. We resolutely reject any external interference in other countries' internal affairs, imposition of unilateral sanctions, and attempt to gang up on other countries under the pretext of "freedom", "democracy" and "human rights". As Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla suggests, the US "should rather apply unto itself the Magnitsky Global Act for systematic repression and police brutality that took the lives of 1021 persons in 2020". The US should first and foremost examine its own human rights issues, instead of wielding the big stick of sanctions, grossly interfering in other's internal affairs and creating division or confrontation.

China maintains that mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation are the right way to conduct state-to-state relations. At present, Cuba is at a critical moment in its fight against COVID-19 and in its efforts to alleviate people's suffering. The US must immediately and completely lift unilateral sanctions against Cuba in compliance with the purposes of the UN Charter and basic norms governing international relations, and do more to improve US-Cuba relations and contribute to international and regional stability.

Shenzhen TV: The WHO Secretariat notified its member states of its work plan on the second-phase origins study on July 16 and asked them to give feedback before July 23. Has China submitted its feedback to the WHO? Will China participate in the second phase of origins study?

Zhao Lijian: At the briefing with WHO member states on July 16, China and some other countries already made clear their basic positions on WHO's work plan on the second-phase origins study proposed by the WHO Secretariat. The Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva has also further stated its view and proposition in written form. We will continue to put forward China's proposal. I'd like to stress the following points:

First, this work plan is inconsistent with the requirements of the resolution of the 73rd WHA. The resolution clearly stipulates that the WHO Secretary-General will continue to work closely with member states to identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population. This means that the formulation of the next-phase origin tracing work plan need to be led by WHO member states, and the WHO has to reach consensus with its members states after full consultation.

Second, this work plan is inconsistent with the conclusions and recommendations of the WHO-China joint mission report. The report was compiled by a joint team of experts from WHO and China, which is the China Part of the WHO-convened global study of origins of SARS-CoV-2. The authoritative conclusions and scientific recommendations in the report should serve as the important foundation for next-phase global origins study.

China, as well as many other WHO member states, noted with regret that the work plan was heavily disrupted by politicization and was a document that lost scientific principles and lacked a spirit of cooperation. Let me give you an example. The WHO-China joint mission report clearly concluded that lab leak is extremely unlikely, and there is broad consensus in the international scientific community on this. However, this work plan still lists the hypothesis that "a Chinese violation of laboratory protocols had caused the virus to leak during research" as a research priority, and deliberately ignores important research directions including the early cases globally and cold-chain transmission of the virus. One cannot help but think that this work plan is made to echo the "lab leak theory" advocated by certain countries such as the United States. And the lack of transparency in the drafting process also added to the suspicion that the work plan is the product of political manipulation.

To conclude, I want to stress that China always attaches great importance to the issue of origin-tracing and will continue to advance its own research in this respect. At the same time, as a leading country in cooperation with WHO on origins study, China will continue to actively participate in the next phase of global origin-tracing cooperation. We hope that the WHO will uphold the spirit of science, professionalism and objectivity, work with the international community to safeguard the scientific nature and seriousness of the origins study, resist the retrogressive trend of politicizing the issue of origin-tracing, and jointly maintain a sound atmosphere for global anti-epidemic cooperation.

Global Times: In response to a question concerning WHO's plan of phase two origin tracing at a briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said "We are deeply disappointed (at the Chinese side). Their position is irresponsible and, frankly, dangerous...we continue to call for China to provide the needed access to data and samples. This is about saving lives in the future, and it's not a time to be stonewalling." What's your comment?

Zhao Lijian: The slander and denigration against China by some individuals in the US are disregarding common sense and defying science. China categorically rejects that.

In the face of the sudden onslaught of COVID-19, China contained the rising spread of the virus in little more than a single month; in around two months, the daily increase in domestic coronavirus cases was reduced to single digits; and in approximately three months, a major strategic outcome was secured in the battle against the epidemic. China has not only taken the lead in bringing the epidemic under control at home, but also provided more than 300 billion masks, 3.7 billion protective gears, 4.8 billion testing kits and other anti-epidemic supplies to more than 200 countries and regions, and over 600 million doses of vaccines to other countries, making an important contribution to the global fight against the epidemic. China's fight against COVID-19 can stand the test of history and the scrutiny of the people.

It is what the US has done that deeply disappoints its own people and the international community. Up to now, over 34 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 and over 600,000 already lost their lives to the virus. Core indicators of the epidemic, such as daily new confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths, are all on the rebound. Compared to the white people, racial minorities in the US have a much higher risk of infection, hospitalization and death but a far lower rate of vaccination, with unevenly distributed medical resources. The US has fallen into the quagmire of "deterioration-mitigation-resurgence", but certain individuals still puts their selfish political gains above science. What they did is called extremely irresponsible, which has failed its own people and disappointed the world.

China has been open and transparent on the issue of origin-tracing and invited WHO experts to China twice. The experts went to every place they asked to see, and met everyone they wanted to meet. However, the US has yet to respond to the reports that there may have been COVID-19 cases earlier than had initially been reported. The National Institutes of Health found evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infections which was present in five states in the US as far back as December 2019. In Florida, 171 patients had coronavirus symptoms before any cases were announced to the public. The mayor of Belleville, New Jersey was sick with the virus in November 2019, over two months earlier than the first confirmed case in the US. Patients of the EVALI outbreak in July 2019 in several states in the US have symptoms highly similar to that of COVID-19. Donated blood check-ups in nine US states found that 106 blood samples, ranging from December 13, 2019 to January 17, 2020, tested positive for coronavirus antibodies. And what's on this list also includes Fort Detrick lab and the over 200 bio labs of the US overseas repeatedly questioned by the public. The US has all along clammed up and turned a deaf ear to the doubts and concerns of media and the public, which is more than dangerous.

The virus is a common enemy of mankind. Both prevention and treatment require a united response. Origin-tracing is a major and complex scientific issue, and it requires the collaboration of scientists around the world, as well as the joint efforts and cooperation of governments and people of all countries. Only by following the path of science and conducting science-based origins study with firm confidence, scientific attitude, scientific method and scientific facts can we finally uncover the truth. The act of politicizing the origins study and stigmatizing the epidemic will only be met with a public outcry and firm opposition from the international community and is doomed to fail.

CCTV: On July 20, a group of US lawmakers proposed the Taiwan Partnership Act, urging the US National Guard to establish a partnership programme with the Taiwan military to ensure a well-integrated defense force capable of fast deployment during a crisis. Separately, the US Senate Armed Services Committee passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 (NDAA), saying that the US should "maintain the ability to deter China from using military force to unilaterally change the status quo with Taiwan", and increase "defense cooperation with Taiwan". What is China's response?

Zhao Lijian: There is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. This is a historical and legal fact that cannot be altered by anyone or any force in any way. The US should earnestly abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiques, act prudently on Taiwan question, stop advancing the Taiwan-related bill, delete the articles concerning Taiwan, stop clamoring for military interactions between the US and Taiwan, and stop sending wrong signals to the "Taiwan independence" separatist forces.

AFP: The US Justice Department has charged two Chinese nationals linked to the "Operation Fox Hunt" that aims to repatriate alleged Chinese fugitives living in the US. US officials say "Operation Fox Hunt" involves extrajudicial repatriation squads that use intimidation and even blackmail to force individuals to return to China. What are your reactions to this? Are these unfounded claims?

Zhao Lijian: Fighting cross-border crimes, repatriating corrupt fugitives and recovering illegal proceeds are a just cause to uphold and promote rule of law. It is a practice widely recognized by the international community. When conducting law enforcement cooperation with other countries, the Chinese law enforcement authorities strictly observe international law, fully respect foreign laws and judicial sovereignty, and guarantee the legitimate rights and interests of suspects. Such operations are beyond reproach. The US turns a blind eye to basic facts and smears Chinese efforts to repatriate corrupt fugitives and recover illegal proceeds. China firmly opposes this.

The US has the largest number of Chinese fugitives suspected of corruption and economic crime. In recent years, the US has been inactive in responding to China's requests for cooperation on repatriating fugitives. This is against the spirit of the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and the UN Convention against Corruption. We urge the US to correct its mistakes, actively facilitate China's efforts to repatriate corrupt fugitives and recover illegal proceeds, faithfully fulfill its obligations and commitments, and avoid degenerating into a safe haven for criminals.

Associated Press of Pakistan: You announced the visit of Foreign Minister Qureshi to China. Can you share some details of the visit? What topics will come under discussion during the visit?

Zhao Lijian: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Pakistan. During Foreign Minister Qureshi's visit to China, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will hold the third China-Pakistan Foreign Ministers' Strategic Dialogue with him to enhance strategic coordination on bilateral cooperation and international and regional issues of common concern.

China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners. The two countries not only support each other for mutually beneficial cooperation and common development at the bilateral level, but also jointly safeguard international fairness and justice on the international stage and firmly uphold the international system with the United Nations at its core and the international order based on international law, which inject positive energy to world peace, stability and development. Under the current complex international and regional situation, China is ready to take the opportunity of Foreign Minister Qureshi's visit to enhance strategic cooperation, deepen practical cooperation in various fields, elevate China-Pakistan relations to a new level, and make positive contributions to the Belt and Road cooperation and the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. The two foreign ministers will also exchange views on deepening counter-terrorism and security cooperation and ensuring the security of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects in Pakistan.

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