|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on September 10, 2020|
CCTV: China yesterday announced a virtual China-Germany-EU Leaders' Meeting on September 14. Could you share with us the background of holding this virtual China-Germany-EU leaders' meeting at this moment, items on the agenda and China's expectations?
Zhao Lijian: It will be an important meeting between China and the European side where President Xi Jinping is to hold in-depth exchange on China-EU relations and issues of shared concern with German and EU leaders.
As this year marks the 45th anniversary of China-EU diplomatic ties, we are seeing major opportunities to further develop our relations. China and the EU represent two major forces, markets and civilizations. Under current circumstances, closer high-level communication between the two sides on this relationship and issues of mutual interest can help strengthen political mutual trust, promote practical cooperation and advance China-EU relations. We hope this meeting will send out a positive signal of China and the EU committed to enhance communication and cooperation, jointly defend multilateralism and free trade, and safeguard world peace, stability and prosperity. It will be like a shot in the arm for the world economy in the post-COVID-19 era. We also look forward to strengthening coordination with the EU on major diplomatic agenda coming up. China stands ready to work together with Germany and the EU on relevant preparations for a successful meeting.
Xinhua News Agency: We noted that the Position Paper of the People's Republic of China on the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations has been published on the official website of the Foreign Ministry. Could you give us more details about this?
Zhao Lijian: This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the UN. The Foreign Ministry published the Position Paper of the People's Republic of China on the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations on September 10, which states China's position and proposition on the role of the UN, international landscape, sustainable development, COVID-19 cooperation and other issues.
The position paper points out that taking the 75th anniversary of the UN as an opportunity, countries should jointly uphold the outcome of World Anti-Fascist War, reject unilateralism, hegemony and power politics. We must champion multilateralism, safeguard the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, defend the UN-centered international system and the international order underpinned by international law. China will work with countries around the world to build a community with a shared future for mankind.
People's Daily: US Secretary of State Pompeo posted the following tweet today: "The Chinese Communist Party complains about a lack of fair and reciprocal treatment with the US. At the same time the CCP refused to run Ambassador Branstad's op-ed in the People's Daily, while their ambassador is free to publish in any U.S. media outlet." Just now the People's Daily spokesperson strongly protested against Pompeo's wrong remarks. I wonder if you have a response?
Zhao Lijian: First I want to state very clearly that the Chinese ambassador to the US is dedicated to promoting friendly exchange and cooperation between the two countries and peoples. He never spreads rumors targeting the US, never attacks or vilifies the US system, and never interferes with American domestic affairs. Decisions to interview Ambassador Cui Tiankai or run his articles are made independently and voluntarily by American media through communication based on equality and mutual respect.
As for the fallacy by Pompeo, the spokesperson of People's Daily has already made a response to lay out the facts and truth. On August 26, the US embassy in China contacted People's Daily with a proposed op-ed by Ambassador Branstad, stressing the particular importance that the article be printed in full and without any edits before September 4 and asking for a reply by the very next day, August 27. The article is full of loopholes and seriously inconsistent with facts and wantonly attacks and smears China. Curiously, on August 27, as People's Daily was still considering the matter, US Assistant Secretary Stilwell for East Asian and Pacific Affairs lodged representations with the Chinese embassy in Washington D.C. and expressed his concern.
Now I would like to ask foreign journalists here to put yourselves in that position. If like the US, the Chinese side sent you an article filled with lies and malicious smears targeting your own country and demanded that you reply by tomorrow and pledge to publish it without any revision, can you possibly agree to it? The US move is apparently irrelevant to freedom of the press. Clearly it is carefully choreographed to find fault with China. The proposed op-ed is just a decoy to trap China.
As a matter of fact, according to the People's Daily spokesperson, People's Daily in the past ran signed articles by former US ambassadors to China Max Baucus and Jon Huntsman and actively supported its affiliated Global Times in publishing two articles by Ambassador Branstad. When Mr. Branstad was governor of Iowa, People's Daily published an op-ed by him. A few US politicians, on the one hand, claim that the People's Daily and other Chinese media are the CPC's "propaganda machines", and on the other hand, demand that the "propaganda machines" in their eyes do "propaganda" for the US and attack the Chinese government, which is illogical, overbearing and unreasonable.
I want to stress that like media in other countries including the US, People's Daily is fully entitled to decide if and when it will run an article submitted, fully entitled to make necessary changes and edits, and fully entitled to refuse publishing an article with obvious factual mistakes and bias. This is in line with the professional practice of the journalism industry, as well as international norms. We urge the US to stop creating rumors and lies, reject bullying, and respect freedom of the press with concrete actions.
CNR: According to the latest data yesterday, the trips made by China-Europe freight trains and the shipment volume registered growth, up by over 60% compared with a year earlier. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: International transportation has been severely impacted amid COVID-19 since this year. The China-Europe freight train service has played a pivotal role in land transportation, serving as a channel of life and bond connecting all. In August this year, the China-Europe freight trains have maintained strong growth. The trips made and the volume of goods delivered were 1247 and 110,000 TEUs respectively, up by 62 percent and 66 percent year on year, and the fully loaded container ratio reached 98.5 percent, hitting a new record.
The COVID-19 pandemic further highlights the win-win nature of the China-Europe freight train service as well as the Belt and Road cooperation's feature of shared benefits through joint consultation and contribution. The China-Europe freight trains have not only kept sending urgently needed anti-epidemic supplies and industrial goods and daily-use products to Europe, but also delivered a large number of quality products to China. They help countries along the route to resume production and work and reopen economy, provide strong driving forces for stabilizing global industrial and supply chain and bring new opportunities for global economic recovery and development.
The growth of China-Europe freight train service once again indicates that economic globalization is an irreversible trend of the times as countries are economically interdependent with unprecedented integration of interests. China stands ready to work with the European side to improve the capacity and effectiveness of China-Europe freight trains, continue to expand logistics cooperation between China and the European side and other countries along the route and make new contribution to global COVID-19 cooperation and high quality BRI cooperation.
Global Times: The Sydney Morning Herald reported that senior Australian government sources said Australian intelligence agency's questioning of Chinese journalists was normal procedure and it shouldn't be compared with the treatment of Smith and Birtles who had been forced out of China. The Australian side also accused China of resorting to extreme means of hostage diplomacy. Besides, The Australian's China correspondent, Will Glasgow, was originally due to return to Beijing this Sunday, but the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) told him to put it off for one week for now. Does China have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: The Australian side describes its "questioning" of Chinese journalists as normal procedure, but accuses the Chinese side of engaging in "hostage diplomacy". It fully revealed some Australians' unfounded sense of superiority, hypocrisy and double standards.
As I recounted yesterday, one early morning in late June this year, Australian security and intelligence staff raided, searched and questioned four Australia-based journalists working for the Xinhua News Agency, China Media Group and China News Service on the ground of possible violation of foreign interference laws, seizing their working computers and mobile phones, and even educational tablets and electronic toys for children. The Chinese journalists were threatened, intimidated and not allowed to contact the local China's consulate-general. It caused serious damage to the physical and mental health of the journalists and their families. The Australian side has not yet provided reasonable explanation for searching these journalists or returned all seized items. Is this "normal questioning" that the Australian side claims?
As for the two Australian journalists, the relevant departments in China, during their investigation of a case, questioned the two journalists in accordance with law. These were normal law enforcement activities. Allegation of "hostage diplomacy" is totally groundless.
With regard to the allegation that the two Australian journalists were "forced out of China", can they tell us who, from which Chinese department, at what time forced them out? According to Australian media reports and public account by one of the two journalists, it is the Australian embassy that asked them to leave China as soon as possible and arranged their stay in the Australian diplomatic premises after Chinese authorities asked for their cooperation in investigation. These went above and beyond the scope of consular protection. In essence, they amount to disruption in the Chinese side's lawful investigation and interference in China's domestic affairs and judicial sovereignty. Australian foreign minister Payne already said publicly that the Australian government assisted the two journalists' return to Australia. The Australian side must come clean with what roles DFAT and the Australian embassy in China played in this process.
As for the Australian journalist Will Glasgow's return to China, this is what happened. Back in June, he contacted my colleagues, saying that he needed to go back to Australia for vacation and hoped to return to China very soon after attending to his personal matters. He handed his visa applications for his return in August and the Chinese side made special arrangements and smoothed things out for his and his family members' return. He was planning to fly back to China this weekend. It was the Australian side that asked him to delay his travel.
I want to stress that the Australian side arbitrarily searched the Chinese media journalists stationed in Australia without providing any evidence to justify their doing so, which has severely disrupted the normal reporting activities of these Chinese media in Australia, grossly violated the legitimate and lawful rights and interests of these journalists, and fully exposed the hypocrisy of those people in Australia who have the audacity to assert that they are for "press freedom" and "respect and protection of human rights". The Australian Embassy in China wantonly obstructed and disrupted the normal law enforcement activities of the Chinese side by sheltering and helping the relevant journalists evading China's investigations. Such an action is incompatible with the status and functions of the mission.
We urge the Australian side to respect basic facts, stop using whatever excuses to harass and suppress Chinese staff in Australia, stop getting in the way of relevant Chinese departments and their law enforcement activities, and stop undermining bilateral people-to-people and cultural exchanges and damaging mutual trust.
China News Service: Recently Pompeo and other US politicians are "very concerned" about Chinese fishing boats' activities on the high seas near the Galapagos Islands, accusing them of disabling tracking systems, leaving marine debris and over-fishing. Do you have a comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: The remarks of Pompeo disregard facts and confuse right and wrong. It was a vicious attempt to mislead the public and sow discord between China and other friendly countries.
The fact is, the high seas of the southeast Pacific Ocean are traditional fishing grounds for various countries. In addition to China, fishing vessels from other countries are also operating in the region. As a responsible major country in fishing, China has always attached great importance to the protection of the marine environment and resources, and has exercised the strictest management and control measures over fishing vessels operating overseas. It has been verified that all Chinese fishing vessels are operating normally in accordance with law, using the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) recognized by the regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), which reports the position every hour. They haven't entered the exclusive economic zones of littoral countries, and have disposed ship waste in accordance with relevant regulations. There is not a single Chinese fishing vessel on the list of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing vessels published by the relevant RFMOs. To conserve fishery resources, on June 1 this year, China announced that starting this year, it would implement voluntary fishing moratorium on some high seas in the southwest Atlantic from July to September and in the southeast Pacific from September to November each year. The move has been recognized by neighboring countries including Ecuador and relevant RFMOs.
Over some time, China and Ecuador have maintained close communication on fishery cooperation in the spirit of mutual respect and friendly consultation. We have agreed to establish a communication and liaison mechanism, enhance information sharing, dispel misunderstanding in a timely manner, promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and jointly maintain the order of fisheries production and the marine environment in relevant waters. China-Ecuador relations will not be disturbed or undermined by any third party.
We strongly urge US officials to stop fabricating rumors, spreading disinformation and sowing discord among countries, otherwise they will only invite humiliation and further erode their image.
AFP: The US has revoked recently visas of more than 1,000 Chinese students and researchers. The US president is accusing some of these Chinese nationals of spying. Does China plan on any countermeasures?
Zhao Lijian: For some time, the US negative words and deeds in the field of cultural and people-to-people exchange have run counter to its self-proclaimed openness and freedom, to the public opinion of the two countries and to the trend of international personnel exchange today. They have caused serious negative impacts to the normal cultural and people-to-people exchange between the two sides and severely damaged the social basis of the bilateral relations. The measures taken by the US government blatantly harm the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese students in the US, which are outright political persecution and racial discrimination and seriously violate the human rights of these Chinese students.
The US side should immediately stop its unreasonable restrictions and suppression of Chinese students in the US under various excuses. We support the Chinese students in safeguarding their legitimate and legal rights and interests in accordance with law. China reserves the right to make further reaction.
CCTV: Afghanistan's First Vice President Amrullah Saleh sustained minor injuries Wednesday when his convoy was targeted in Kabul in a roadside bomb attack, which killed at least ten civilians and injured more than 30. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: China noted this bomb attack in Kabul targeting First Vice President Amrullah Saleh's convoy, which caused heavy casualties. We strongly condemn this attack, deeply mourn for the victims and wish those injured a speedy recovery.
The Afghan peace and reconciliation process is at a crucial stage, which calls for earnest efforts from all parties. As friendly neighbor and sincere friend of Afghanistan, China firmly supports the Afghan peace and reconciliation process, supports the Afghan government and people in combating terrorism and upholding national stability and people's safety, and hopes that Afghanistan will achieve peace, stability, development and prosperity at an early date.
Phoenix TV: According to reports, China and the Vatican are in negotiations on renewing the 2018 interim agreement on the appointment of bishops. It is hopeful that the deal will be extended for two more years in the next few weeks. Can you confirm this?
Zhao Lijian: With the concerted efforts from both sides, the interim agreement on the appointment of bishops between China and the Vatican has been implemented successfully since it was signed nearly two years ago. Since the beginning of this year, the two sides have lent mutual support to each other amid COVID-19 pandemic, stayed committed to upholding global public health security, and accumulated greater mutual trust and consensuses through a series of positive interactions. The two sides will continue to maintain close communication and consultation and improve bilateral relations.
Beijing Daily: Sudanese authorities on September 5 declared a three-month national state of emergency after record-breaking floods that have displaced around 500,000 people, damaged 100,000 houses and killed over 100 people so far. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: China expresses sincere condolences to the Sudanese side and deeply mourn for the victims. China and Sudan enjoy traditional friendship. We sympathize with the Sudanese people in flood-hit region and stand ready to provide humanitarian assistance to the best of our capacity. We believe the Sudanese government and people will prevail over the floods and rebuild their homeland.
Reuters: According to reports, Australia has revoked the visas of two visiting Chinese academics out of "national security concerns". Do you have any information on this or any comment?
Zhao Lijian: I am not aware of the specific situation you just mention. I believe you should ask the Australian side to learn more about it.