|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on March 9, 2021|
China Daily: A recent foreign commentary claims that some countries along the route of the BRI choose to stay silent on China's human rights issues to secure investment and infrastructure projects. It also accuses China of pursuing trade interests while disregarding values including human rights. Do you have a comment?
Zhao Lijian: This is purely a smear against China and BRI partner countries.
The right to subsistence and development is the primary basic human rights. We can trace the roots of many of the problems, conflicts and crises in our world today to inadequate and unbalanced development. The founding purpose of the BRI is to advance China's cooperation with partner countries following the principle of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, to help them develop the economy and shake off poverty, which is a human right they need more than any other. Take the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for example, it has added over $25 billion in FDI to Pakistan and created more than 70,000 direct job positions locally. In pursuing international cooperation to fight COVID-19 including through vaccination, China has provided much-needed assistance to BRI countries and made significant contributions to protecting local people's right to life and health.
As a matter of fact, the broad consensus of the vast majority of countries is that China, through BRI cooperation with various countries, has contributed its solutions and wisdom to global development and the human rights cause. What BRI has brought to partner countries is mutually-beneficial cooperation and development opportunities. China stands ready to work with cooperative partners to turn the BRI into a road of cooperation, health, growth and recovery, contribute greater strength into the global fight against the pandemic, and facilitate economic recovery and growth.
RTE: My question is, a group of international scientists have recently published an open letter calling for a full and unrestricted international investigation into the origins of COVID-19 in China, suggesting that the WHO joint mission fell short and was not sufficiently independent in their view. Do you agree that there should be a more independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19 in China?
Zhao Lijian: First of all, I need to correct you on one point. What China and the WHO have conducted is a joint study on origin-tracing, not investigation. The open letter published by the so-called scientists you mentioned is completely an ill-intentioned defamation against the relevant joint research by the WHO and China.
Now that you mentioned the WHO-China joint study, I would like to take this opportunity to elaborate on China's position.
First, the list of international experts on the WHO mission was formulated solely by the WHO. They are independent as scientists and highly representative as they are from more than ten countries and international institutions such as the WHO, the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Second, the Chinese government has done a lot of administrative, technical, logistic and supporting work. In support of this joint research, the Chinese side, at the request of the WHO and the international team, arranged top Chinese experts in relevant fields to take part, and assembled a large number of technical personnel to support the joint mission in collecting data and documents. The experts on the mission made their own decisions independently as to where they would like to visit, who they would like to talk to and what they would like to talk about as the field work proceeded. The report is also drafted by the mission independently.
Third, the cooperation on origin-tracing is a scientific task carried out by the joint mission of both Chinese and foreign experts based on scientific research and facts. The experts of the two sides had full and candid exchanges, and the conclusion reflected the consensus of both sides, which is objective, scientific and authoritative. In disregard of scientific facts, these so-called scientists you mentioned have politicized the issue of origin-tracing, misinterpreted the scientific conclusion and report of the joint mission, and kept instigating an investigation with presumption of guilt against a specific country. Such a behavior is not conducive to international anti-epidemic cooperation. These signatories can deceive no one, as to whether their so-called "open letter of scientists" is a true proposal for scientific and professional origin-tracing or pursuit of political agenda with presumption of guilt.
Fourth, since there have been more reports worldwide on the coronavirus appearing in various places around the world in the latter half of 2019, it is getting increasingly urgent and necessary to conduct similar visits to other countries and regions. We hope that relevant parties will demonstrate the same science-based and cooperative attitude as China does in coordinating with WHO on origin-tracing work. China will continue to work with the WHO and the international community on origin-tracing in an open and transparent manner, so that humanity can achieve an early victory over the pandemic and be better prepared to future public health emergencies.
Bloomberg: Just like to ask a question about reports of the lawsuit or several lawsuits against Adrian Zenz by companies and individuals. So these lawsuits have been taken by companies and individuals in Xinjiang who are saying that they have suffered damage, economic damage as a result of his reports. My question is basically, doesn't the facts that these lawsuits are happening demonstrate that Mr. Zenz's reports are actually having an impact? And secondly, will these lawsuits draw even more attention to his work? My question to the foreign ministry is: What's your position on these lawsuits against Mr. Zenz and whether they will be effective or counterproductive?
Zhao Lijian: We note relevant reports. The name Adrian Zenz, a so-called German academic, has frequently come up at our press conferences. Hiding behind the banner of academic research, he has been busy cooking up anti-China rumors, with Xinjiang as his particular obsession. His so-called reports, with zero credibility and academic integrity, have long been proven to be disinformation. It's interesting that despite not having been to Xinjiang or anywhere else in China for many years, Zenz gained overnight fame as an expert on Xinjiang. The whole thing reeks of political manipulation by forces with ulterior motives who aim to attack and malign China by hyping up issues relating to Xinjiang.
China is a country with rule of law. Many companies and residents in Xinjiang suffered heavy losses after Zenz's rumor of "forced labor" came out of nowhere. They detest and abhor such malicious smearing acts. Their decision to seek legal redress against Zenz reflects a stronger awareness among the Chinese citizens to safeguard their rights through the law. We support this.
Actually, Zenz's rumors on Xinjiang doesn't stop with "forced labor". He also concocted even more sensational lies including "forced sterilization", "eradication of the culture of ethnic minorities" and "genocide". Some politicians and legislators in western countries, in total disregard of facts and common sense, choose to rely on the one-sided story woven by Zenz to wantonly criticize China, even pushing so-called motions on Xinjiang in parliament. Such frivolous and preposterous farces aimed to discredit and smear China will only end up undercutting their own reputation as a laughing stock. The day will surely come when Adrian Zenz and the evil forces behind him have to face the condemnation of conscience and the reckoning of justice.
NHK: First question, the White House spokesman said on March 8 that the United States would continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability. What's China's comment on this? Second question, Japan's Defense Minister voiced concern over China's Coast Guard Law, which Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said was fully in line with international law, saying that it was vague in terms of scope of application and extent of authority for the use of weapons, and questioned its consistency with international law. What's China's comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, China's position on the Taiwan question is consistent and clear. There is but one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory. China remains resolutely determined to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and opposes Taiwan independence and external interference.
The root cause of the current tension and turbulence in cross-strait relations is that the DPP authorities refuse to recognize the 1992 Consensus embodying the one-China principle, collude with external forces, and constantly seek independence. We are willing to carry out dialogue and consultation with all parties, groups and personages in Taiwan on cross-strait political issues and issues related to promoting the process of peaceful reunification of the motherland on the political basis of adhering to the 1992 Consensus and opposing Taiwan independence, so as to build up consensus and resolve differences.
We urge the U.S. side to earnestly abide by the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-U.S. joint communiques, stop official interactions with and arms sales to Taiwan, handle Taiwan related issues prudently and properly, and avoid sending any erroneous signals to the Taiwan independence forces, lest it should damage China-U.S. relations as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
On your second question, State Councilor Wang Yi has clarified China's position on this issue. The Coast Guard Law is just a routine piece of domestic legislation. It is not targeted at any specific country. And it is totally in line with international law and international practice. In fact, many countries, including Japan, have enacted similar laws and regulations long before China. Settling maritime disputes through friendly consultation and without the use or threat of force is the consistent position of the Chinese government. It is also a long-established common understanding between China and its neighbors. It is hoped that the Japanese side will abide by the spirit of four-point principled consensus between China and Japan, move in the same direction, and avoid words and deeds that could complicate the situation.
RTE: Chinese officials have called for an investigation into the laboratory in the United States at Fort Detrick. Do you think research on dangerous pathogens at laboratories like this poses potential treat to public health and should laboratory like this around the world be open to more external scrutiny.
Zhao Lijian: We hope relevant country will cooperate with WHO on origin-tracing as China does. China has sets a good example and we hope they will do the same.
AFP: The UK regulator Ofcom has fined CGTN over complaints that the channel aired a forced confession as well as programs about Hong Kong that had allegedly failed to remain impartial. What's the foreign ministry's response to this?
Zhao Lijian: We are concerned about these decisions by Ofcom. We firmly oppose Ofcom intentionally and repeatedly obstructing CGTN's normal news reporting in the UK, and once again urge it to revoke its wrong decisions.
CGTN always adheres to the principle of objective and fair reporting. When Ofcom wrongfully and arbitrarily withdrew the license for CGTN to broadcast in the UK, China made clear its firm opposition and has since repeatedly stated that position. Now, Ofcom has decided to make another wrong move to fine CGTN for no reasons at all. Altogether, they reveal the strong ideological prejudice that Ofcom and certain people in the UK hold against China and that these preposterous moves are outright political repression. What Ofcom should do is to investigate and confront those British media that have long conducted false reporting on China and Hong Kong. The Chinese side reserves the right to make legitimate and necessary response.
British citizen Peter Humphrey was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison by Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court on August 8, 2014 for illegally obtaining citizens' personal information. The facts of Peter Humphrey's crimes are very clear. He secretly carried out so-called investigations on behalf of nearly a thousand companies and individuals, mainly through purchasing the detailed personal data or stalking and taking sneak shots of his targets. He then compiled illegally obtained data into reports and sold them to his clients, raking in tens of millions yuan. He himself confessed to his crimes. During his imprisonment, all his lawful rights and interests were protected. Peter Humphrey should have repented and started life anew. Trying to play an innocent victim here will not undo the crimes he committed, and he will continue to feel the weight of his crimes and a guilty conscience.
Prasar Bharati: Yesterday you talked about the facilitating the insurance of visas and making cross border travels and people-to-people exchanges easier. As I understand, e-health certificate does not apply to foreigners as of now. In that case, can we still expect that at least international students can return to China to resume their study? They have already lost more than a year. Or they still need to wait for more time?
Zhao Lijian: I have noticed that you raised the issue of the resumption of study for international students on different occasions. Thank you for caring for them.
I want to emphasize that the Chinese version of the health certificate for international travelers is a document issued to Chinese personnel who have conducted nucleic acid tests or got inoculated with Chinese vaccines. Mutual recognition means mutual confirmation of the effectiveness of the tests or vaccination. On this basis, the two sides can provide convenience for relevant personnel. For some other related matters, they were covered in the press conference yesterday.
Regarding the foreign students' return to China for their studies, my principled response is that the Chinese government attaches high importance to protecting the rights and interests of foreign students in China. Academic institutions in China are required to keep in close contact with those students abroad, make good arrangements for online courses, and properly address their legitimate concerns and appeals. On the precondition of observing containment protocols, the Chinese authorities will study this matter in a coordinated manner and keep in communication with relevant parties.
NHK: Myanmar's Military Council announced it has revoked the licenses of five media companies. China voiced firm opposition when the UK revoked CGTN's broadcasting license in the country. What is your comment on this development in Myanmar?
Zhao Lijian: I see no connections between these two cases. We have given our response many times on the British side's decision to revoke CGTN's license.
As for the situation in Myanmar, I would like to repeat that as a friendly neighbor to Myanmar, China hopes that the relevant parties in Myanmar will keep calm and exercise restraint, act in the fundamental interests of the people, address their differences through dialogue and consultation within the constitutional and legal framework, and continue to advance the democratic transition.
Bloomberg: A question about the bipartisan group of lawmakers. From both chambers of congress, they say that the changes announced to the Hong Kong electoral system will continue to advance Beijing's ever tightening grip on Hong Kong's autonomy, basic freedom and human rights. This bipartisan group in the US bipartisan group have called on President Biden to support the people of Hong Kong. My question is, what's the foreign ministry's comment on this call from the bipartisan group in the US for Biden to support the people of Hong Kong given these changes to the electoral system?
Zhao Lijian: Their statement is groundless. It is a clear move to interfere in China's internal affairs, including Hong Kong's affairs.
The National People's Congress's move to improve Hong Kong's electoral system at the national level is a constitutional power and responsibility of the NPC, which will help advance the One Country, Two Systems and maintain long-term stability in Hong Kong, and is totally constitutional, lawful and justified. Improving Hong Kong's electoral system is to remedy the drawbacks of the existing electoral system, which will guarantee a better realization of democratic rights and freedom for Hong Kong residents.
I would like to stress once again that Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Hong Kong's electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is China's local electoral system. How it is designed, developed and improved is entirely China's internal affair where there's no place for other country to interfere.