|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on July 19, 2021|
The Paper: State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid a visit to Syria on July 17. Could you share more information on it, including the outcomes reached?
Zhao Lijian: Syria was the first stop on State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi's Middle East trip. During the visit, he met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and held talks with Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad, with whom he also attended the signing ceremony of bilateral cooperation documents.
As State Councilor Wang Yi pointed out, China firmly supports Syria in safeguarding sovereignty, territorial integrity and national dignity, opposes any attempt at regime change in Syria, and supports Syria in seeking a development path suited to its national conditions. China stands firmly with the Syrian people. The key to fully resolving the Syrian issue, China believes, lies in implementing the "Syrian-led, Syrian-owned" principle established by the UN Security Council, which will galvanize efforts from all sides for concrete progress. To this end, China proposed four points. First, respect Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity and allow the Syrian people to decide their nation's future independently. Second, put people's wellbeing first, accelerate reconstruction and immediately lift all unilateral sanctions and economic blockade on Syria. Third, effectively combat terrorism, reject double standards, and oppose manipulation towards national division in the name of counter-terrorism. Fourth, adhere to the direction of inclusive political resolution with reconciliation and bridge differences through dialogue and consultation.
Since the establishment of diplomatic ties 65 years ago, the friendship between China and Syria has withstood the test of the changing international and regional landscape, and has grown stronger with new vitality as time goes by. With mutual trust and support, the two sides have defended the legitimate rights and interests of both countries and also safeguarded international fairness and justice. Going forward, China will further strengthen cooperation with Syria in such areas as COVID-19 response, counter-terrorism, agriculture, economy, trade and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China stands ready to work together with Syria to act on the strategic guidance of our two heads of state, carry forward the traditional friendship and promote mutually beneficial cooperation for the benefit of the two peoples.
Xinhua News Agency: According to media reports, the Cuban government organized mass public rallies in Havana on July 17 to reaffirm the revolution and defend socialism. Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Republic, delivered important remarks, calling on the entire nation to stand in solidarity against external interference, defend revolution outcomes and condemn US blockade on Cuba. Does China have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: It is China's consistent belief that every country's right to independently choose their social system and development path should be respected. China firmly supports Cuba's exploration for a development path consistent with its national realities, opposes external interference in Cuba's internal affairs, supports Cuba in fighting COVID-19, improving people's livelihood and maintaining stability, and remains committed to deepening China-Cuba friendship.
China stands for upholding the international order based on international law, defending international fairness and justice, and opposing unilateral coercive measures by military, political, economic or other means. According to statistics from the Cuban side, US embargo over the past 60 years or so has caused over $144.1 billion in accumulative losses to Cuba. Not long ago, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted the resolution called "Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba" for the 29th consecutive year, which reflects the shared voice of the international community. We urge the US to immediately and fully lift its embargo against Cuba and hope it will improve relations with Cuba in accordance with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and basic norms governing international relations. This is in line with the common interests of the people in both countries as well as peace and stability in the entire Americas.
Beijing Daily: Australian Prime Minister Morrison spoke at the APEC Informal Leaders' Retreat on July 16, saying that to achieve economic recovery, it's important to respect the rule of law, maintain regional stability and security, respect the law of the sea, respect human rights, and ensure that no country can be subject to economic coercion. I wonder if China has any comment?
Zhao Lijian: APEC is a forum for discussing economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. The theme of this meeting is to collaborate to accelerate economic recovery amid the COVID-19 epidemic. To introduce a topic unrelated to the theme of the meeting is obviously irrelevant, and runs counter to the spirit of promoting regional economic integration and openness and cooperation that APEC stands for. We hope certain economy can proceed from the common interests of the Asia-Pacific region, participate in APEC cooperation with a constructive attitude, and make positive contributions to meeting the challenges posed by the epidemic and promoting prosperity and development in the region.
Regarding maritime issues, human rights issues and so-called "economic coercion", I have made clear China's position on many occasions. Certain country should reflect on itself, rather than being all talk and no action.
CCTV: Another question on APEC. At the recent APEC Informal Leaders' Retreat, some APEC members, including the US, Japan and Australia, beat the drum for "Indo-Pacific" in their speeches. What is China's comment?
Zhao Lijian: As the name implies, APEC is a forum for discussing economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. At present, there are many problems in the Asia-Pacific region that need to be solved through cooperation. All parties should focus on finding solutions rather than play with words, uphold the spirit of openness and inclusiveness rather than seek enclosed small cliques targeting a third party for geopolitical gains. China will work with all parties concerned to uphold the vision of an Asia-Pacific community with a shared future, and build it into a region for mutually beneficial cooperation that serves the interest of people in the region.
Reuters: The World Health Organization on Friday proposed a second phase study into the origin of the coronavirus in China, including all the laboratories and markets in Wuhan. And they called for transparency from the Chinese authorities. Will China permit this second phase specifically? If so, does it have a timeline? Will it make an audit on the laboratories as part of this second phase?
Zhao Lijian: The work plan on the second phase origins study proposed by the WHO Secretariat is at odds with the position of China and many other countries on the issue. At the briefing of WHO member states on July 16, China and many other countries have elaborated their views on this issue. Here, I would like to stress the following points:
First, a resolution of the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly clearly requests the WHO Director-General to continue to work closely with countries to identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population. The next phase of origins study should comply with this request and be led by member states. We hope that the WHO will have full communication and consultation with member states, listen to and take the advice of all parties, and ensure that the drafting process of the work plan is open and transparent.
Second, in January this year, international experts from the WHO and Chinese experts formed a joint team and conducted joint research for 28 days in China. On March 30, the WHO issued a joint report, which came to clear conclusions and provided science-based recommendations for the next-phase global origins study. It concluded that lab leak is extremely unlikely, and recommended conducting further research around earlier cases globally and further understanding the role of cold chains and frozen foods in the transmission of the virus. The conclusions and recommendations of the report should be respected and upheld, and fully reflected in the work of the next-phase origins study. The joint letter of 54 countries to the WHO Director-General the other day also stressed this point.
Last but not least, origins study is a serious scientific issue that requires cooperation of global scientists. We are concerned about certain countries' politicization of the issue. We hope the WHO can adhere to the spirit of science, professionalism and objectivity and work with the international community to jointly uphold the scientific integrity of origins study, resist the headwind of politicization and safeguard the sound atmosphere of global anti-epidemic cooperation.
HRTN: Could you offer more information about State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi's official visit to Egypt on July 18?
Zhao Lijian: During his visit to Egypt, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and held talks with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. The two foreign ministers signed an agreement on establishing the China-Egypt inter-governmental cooperation committee and attended an online ceremony marking the joint production of one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
State Councilor Wang Yi stated China's firm support for Egypt's continued exploration for a development path in keeping with its national realities as well as China's readiness to further dovetail the BRI with Egypt Vision 2030. China will support Egypt's local vaccine production, seek greater synergy between the two sides' development strategies and expand cooperation in the fields of industrial capacity, infrastructure, new energy, space and aviation, and cutting-edge technology to break new ground in our mutually beneficial cooperation. China looks forward to working together with Egypt to act on the important consensus reached by the two heads of state, build on the momentum of the 65th anniversary of diplomatic ties to elevate relations to a new height, strive to forge a China-Egypt community with a shared future, and build this relationship into a prototype of China-Arab and China-Africa community with a shared future.
The Egyptian side said it firmly opposes foreign interference in China's internal affairs under the pretext of issues relating to Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan and Tibet, appreciates China's help in producing vaccines, supports China on the origins study, and is ready to enhance cooperation and exchanges with China in such areas as economy and trade, industries, science and technology, and people-to-people and cultural ties under the Belt and Road framework.
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi also had in-depth exchanges with Foreign Minister Shoukry on the Palestinian question.
State Councilor Wang Yi put forward three proposals for the implementation of the two-state solution. First, the authority of the Palestinian National Authority should be enhanced, and it should be authorized to exercise sovereign functions in security, finance and other areas, so as to gain effective control over the autonomous and occupied territories. Second, the Palestinian factions should be supported for greater unity, whereby they can achieve internal reconciliation through consultation and dialogue, and come to a unified position on talks for the settlement of the Palestinian question. Third, Palestine and Israel should be encouraged to resume peace talks based on the two-state solution. China calls for the holding of an international peace conference led by the UN with the participation of the permanent members of the UN Security Council and all stakeholders in the Middle East peace process.
Egypt agreed with the proposals put forward by China. China and Egypt agreed to work together to offer 500,000 doses of vaccines to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip to address the urgent needs of the local people.
During his visit to Egypt, State Councilor Wang Yi also met with Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Ahmed Aboul Gheit and had an in-depth exchange of views with him on China-Arab states relations as well as regional and international issues. The two sides issued a joint statement, stressing that they will strengthen China-Arab states long-term cooperation, prepare for the first China-Arab states summit and strive to build a China-Arab community with a shared future. In the joint statement, the two sides also stressed the need to adhere to the principle of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs, uphold multilateralism, oppose politicizing human rights issues, oppose unilateralism, and promote the building of a new type of international relations. They stressed the importance of a just, comprehensive and durable solution to the Palestinian question on the basis of the two-state solution, supported all efforts aimed at preventing the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and advocated more robust counter-terrorism efforts and the eradication of the root causes of terrorism.
Reuters: I just want to ask a follow-up question on the World Health Organization second phase. You said China's position was inconsistent with that brought up by the World Health Organization on the second phase investigation. Are you saying China feels that the second phase investigation should not take place in China but should fall in other places globally, or are you saying that China would permit in some form of a second phase investigation in China?
Zhao Lijian: I have just elaborated on China's position. As for the work plan on the second-phase origins study proposed by WHO, relevant experts on the Chinese side are studying it carefully.
Bloomberg: The US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has expressed doubts about the trade deal that China and the US signed, saying it didn't address fundamental problems that the US had with China. Does the foreign ministry have a comment on this? Second question, do you have any information to offer about negotiations for Wendy Sherman, the US Deputy Secretary of State, to visit China later this week?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, China-US trade relations are mutually beneficial in nature. A trade war will only lead to a lose-lose situation. We hope that the US side can grasp the trend of the times, follow its domestic public opinion, and work with China in the spirit of mutual respect and equal-footed consultation to properly handle problems in bilateral trade and ensure its sound and steady development.
On your second question, I have no information to share at this point.
China Daily: US Congresswoman and African-American activist Cori Bush wrote on the US Independence Day, "When they say that the 4th of July is about American freedom, remember this: the freedom they're referring to is for white people. This land is stolen land and Black people still aren't free". In response, Fox News co-host Jesse Watters said, "This land wasn't stolen...We won that territory on the battlefield. It was an ugly, brutal battle, but we won it. We're not just gonna give everything back to the indigenous people of this country". Watters' comments have drawn widespread criticism in the US, with Native Americans and African Americans denouncing them as blatant and outrageous reference to the country's looting history. What is China's comment?
Zhao Lijian: Indigenous lives matter, and so do black lives. What you mentioned reflects a profound fact that the ethnic and cultural identity of indigenous people are still being systematically erased in the US society. As a result, the indigenous people are gradually becoming the "invisible" community and a disappearing minority.
The US history is a record of blood and tears of the indigenous people. The US pursued the Westward Expansion policy, threatened or induced indigenous people to sign unequal land transfer agreements, issued executive orders to force them out of the land, and used force to slaughter and expel them. Through these disgraceful means, the US government snatched six million square kilometers of land, or two thirds of the US territory, from the indigenous people. Today, the land that used to belong to the indigenous people is no where to be found on the vast American territory. What is left is just some scattered Indian reservations that bear witness to the miserable experience of the indigenous people being discriminated against and marginalized.
A US indigenous activist said bluntly that the erasure of Native people and histories is a foundational sin of the US. As a country that is built on plundering the land of native Indians and committing crimes against humanity, how come the US feels it is in the position to smear the ethnic policies of other countries by citing lies and disinformation and slander others for its hidden agenda? When questioned over the tens of millions of Indian Americans who were persecuted, those US politicians who spread rumors will always feel the weight of justice and conscience.
China News Service: On July 14, a blast was reported from a bus carrying Chinese workers on their way to a project at the Dasu Dam site in Khyber Pakhunkhwa Province. The incident resulted in Chinese and Pakistani casualties and no organization or individual has claimed responsibility. I noticed an analyst saying that this incident is linked to the bomb explosion at a hotel in the Pakistani city Quetta on April 21 and may have been conducted by Taliban. Taliban claimed to be responsible for the April 21 terrorist attack, which took place when the Chinese ambassador was about to arrive at the hotel. This analyst seems to have confused Pakistan Taliban with the Afghan Taliban though. He also mentioned Afghan Taliban's friendly remarks toward China recently, saying that Taliban may be using both hard and soft tactics on China. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: China is highly concerned about and strongly condemns the bus blast in Pakistan on July 14. China's cross-departmental joint working group to Pakistan is working intensively with the Pakistani side. We believe that China and Pakistan will find out the truth and bring the perpetrators to justice. China will continue to firmly support Pakistan's anti-terrorism efforts and earnestly protect the safety of Chinese personnel and institutions in Pakistan.
Your understanding of the Pakistan Taliban and the Afghan Taliban is objective. These two are different. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), is a terrorist organization designated by the Pakistani government and the international community universally, which admits that it was behind terrorist attacks including the bomb blast of the hotel in Quetta. The Afghan Taliban is a self-styled political and military organization which openly states that it prohibits any organization or individual from taking advantage of Afghanistan's territory to threaten other countries. It has maintained dialogue and contact with the Afghan government and the international community in recent years.
Terrorism is a common enemy of mankind. China stands ready to work with the international community to step up anti-terrorism cooperation and uphold world peace and tranquility.
NHK: Will China send anyone to attend the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games this Friday on behalf of President Xi Jinping?
Zhao Lijian: China supports Japan in hosting the Tokyo Olympic Games and making it a success. China has released the full list of athletes in its sports delegation for the Tokyo Olympic Games. As for the specific question you mentioned, I have no information to release for the moment.
Global Times: In June this year, a group of Chinese netizens drafted a joint open letter to ask the WHO to investigate the Fort Detrick lab. On July 17, they entrusted the Global Times with posting the letter to solicit a public response to call on the WHO to investigate Fort Detrick lab and other labs in the US that have the risk of virus leak. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: I noted relevant reports. As of 3 p.m. today, over 750,000 Chinese netizens have signed the letter, calling for a thorough probe into Fort Detrick lab to find the truth of coronavirus. The number of co-signers is soaring as we speak. I also noted that huanqiu.com conducted an online survey about where the next-stage investigation should be. Over 90 percent of the respondents believed the next-phase investigation should be carried out in the US. You may have a look at that.
These actions initiated by the pubic and media in fact have raised those questions long hovering over the mind of all, which the US has kept in dark. Here are questions for the US to answer: What is the link between Fort Detrick and the unexplained outbreaks of respiratory disease including EVALI? Why hasn't the US invited the WHO in for an investigation into Fort Detrick? Why can't origins study be conducted in the US just as in China? The US should show transparency and tell as much as they know about all the questions and respond to the concerns of the outside world.
In recent days, 54 countries sent a letter to the WHO Director General on the issue of origin-tracing, stressing the importance of adopting science-based approach and rejecting political manipulation. Origin-tracing is a scientific matter, the second phase of which requires study in multiple places around the world by scientists. Any attempt to peddle intelligence-led origin-tracing in disregard of science and truth, and coerce experts and scholars in pursuit of one's selfish interests will only disrupt global anti-epidemic cooperation, meet with strong opposition from the international community, and lead to nowhere.
Nothing will prevail over the will of the people. It has long been known to all that the US is trying to engage in political manipulation and shift blame to China. The US should heed the calls of the Chinese people and the rest of the international community, and respond squarely to the open letter and the online poll.
AFP: Can you confirm whether Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi was in Beijing on Sunday? Reports say he was here for some kind of emergency briefing. And also is there any update on what the Chinese investigation team that it sent to Pakistan has found about the bus blast?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, I have no information to release.
On your second question, a cross-departmental joint working group to Pakistan led by the Foreign Ministry arrived in Islamabad on the early morning of December 16. In the past few days, the working group has been working non-stop together with the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, pushed Pakistan to treat the injured, carried out investigation, and strengthened security for the personnel of Chinese projects. They also visited the injured and mourned the deceased together with high-level Pakistani officials, conducted on-site investigation, visited the staff on the ground, and guided the company to strengthen safety precautions. All this work has achieved effective outcomes.
The Pakistani side has done a lot of work to deal with the incident, properly keeping the bodies of the victims, transferring the injured in time and providing the best treatment to the injured. After the working group arrived, the Pakistani side offered full assistance to it, and said it would spare no effort to carry out the investigation and strengthen security measures for all Chinese projects in Pakistan.
As for the progress of the investigation, competent Pakistani authorities are making full efforts to investigate the incident and have informed the Chinese side of the preliminary investigation. Relevant technical experts from China and Pakistan have also jointly inspected the site and are still in the process of further investigation.
Twenty-seven Chinese personnel were injured in the incident, and Pakistan has provided the best medical treatment to them. One seriously injured person has undergone craniotomy and is under medical observation. Twenty-six others are recovering from the injuries. The Chinese Embassy in Pakistan and the cross-departmental joint working group in Pakistan are working with the Pakistani side to properly handle the matter concerning the bodies of the nine victims.
PTI: Earlier in response to the question related to the bus blast in Pakistan, you spoke about the difference between Pakistan Taliban and Afghan Taliban. Does China suspect that the Pakistan Taliban is behind this blast?
Zhao Lijian: As I just said, the incident is under further investigation. The instigator and the nature of the incident has not yet been determined. There has been no conclusion yet.
Prasar Bharati: A follow up question on this blast. So within the span of a few days after this blast, there was this incident of the kidnapping of Afghan ambassador's daughter in Pakistan. Looking at the situation and back-to-back incident related to terrorism, is China concerned about its investments and its people in Pakistan? Second, The Chinese company has suspended Pakistani workers from the Dasu hydropower project. What was the reason? Is there suspicion to do with their suspension?
Zhao Lijian: The Chinese side has repeatedly stated its position on China-Pakistan relations and the CPEC. This is an isolated incident. We believe that Pakistan is fully capable of protecting the safety and security of Chinese personnel and property in Pakistan.
As to the kidnapping in Pakistan of the daughter of the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan by unknown personnel, we strongly condemn the kidnapping and wish the victim an early recovery. We are convinced that the criminals will be brought to justice as soon as possible.
On your second question, what you mentioned is non-existent. After the attack on the Dasu Hydropower Project bus, on-site work was temporarily halted so as to channel more resources into handling the emergency such as rescuing the injured and attending to the matters of the deceased. At the same time, efforts were made to comb through security risks and shore up security measures. Work at project will be resumed once the conditions are ripe.
As to the Pakistani employees with the project, we understand their contracts are still valid and they remain at their posts. Pakistani Foreign Office Spokesperson also made the matter clear in a statement on July 18 and reaffirmed the two sides' commitment to timely completion of the Dasu Hydropower Project and other bilateral cooperation projects.
Some people are under the false impression that the Dasu Hydropower Project is under the framework of the CPEC. I'd like to clarify the matter here. It is not a CPEC project, but just a economic cooperation project between China and Pakistan.
PTI: State Councilor Wang Yi made a statement during his Dushanbe visit that Taliban should renounce its friendships or its associations with terrorist groups in Afghanistan. You have already made a reference to Afghan Taliban's commitment to rather not to allow its territory to launch terrorist attacks. Does China really believe that Taliban will do so, especially when it comes to groups like Pakistan Taliban and the ETIM?
Zhao Lijian: State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has fully elaborated on China's position in his remarks.