|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Daily Briefing Online on February 19, 2020|
I'd like to share the latest numbers with you first. According to this morning's update from the National Health Commission, February 18 saw 1,824 patients cured and discharged from hospital in China's mainland, bringing the total number of cured cases to 14,376. New confirmed cases in China excluding Hubei Province stood at 56 on February 18, marking a decline for the 15th consecutive day.
Q: The American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai conducted a survey of 109 companies with manufacturing operations in China. Nearly half reported that global supply chains are impacted by shutdown of factories. One third are considering transferring operations out of China. What's your comment? Are you worried that the epidemic may impact foreign businesses' confidence in China's economy?
A: Officials from the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Commerce and other departments have talked about the impact of the outbreak on the economy on multiple occasions recently. I also responded in previous briefings.
In general, the impact on China's economy is temporary, since the Chinese government has sufficient policy space and maneuver room to boost the economy, and the long-term positive trend of China's economy will not change. We are confident in meeting economic and social development goals.
At present, China's epidemic prevention and control measures are showing positive effects, and we are actively supporting and promoting the resumption of work in various enterprises and institutions, including foreign companies in China. Relevant departments are making coordinated and targeted efforts to help them deal with problems in investment, production and business operation to minimize the impact of the epidemic. As far as I know, some foreign enterprises that are ready are already resuming production.
I need to specifically point out that many foreign enterprises in China, including American ones, have said that they believe China will overcome difficulties soon and maintain sound and stable economic growth. The epidemic hasn't affected their determination and confidence in investing and operating in China. Head of Chinese operations of Honeywell, a well-known American manufacturer, said that 18 of its 21 factories in China have resumed full production with the other three running partially. Ford, a large American automobile manufacturer, said China's huge market demand is still there, and that Ford is confident in China's prospects. Those remarks are highly representative. We thank them for their understanding and support in our fight against the virus, and appreciate their confidence in China's economic prospects.
I'd like to stress again that as the Chinese and world economies are highly integrated, China's challenges are the world's. In face of the epidemic, helping China is helping the world. The urgent task for the international community is to make concerted efforts to fight the NCP, resume normal state-to-state exchange and cooperation as soon as possible, and boost and facilitate international trade and global economic growth.
Q: The US on Tuesday added Switzerland-based Rosneft Trading, Russian energy company Rosneft's subsidiary, into its sanctions list, accusing it of handling Venezuela's exports in circumvention of US restrictions. The US also gave the countries and companies doing business with Rosneft Trading 90 days to disentangle arrangements. What's China's comment on this? Is China considering cutting ties with the company?
A: China believes that state-to-state relations should be based on international law and basic norms governing international relations. We oppose interference in other countries' internal affairs, unilateral sanctions and "long-arm jurisdiction". We believe differences should be resolved through consultation following the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and basic norms governing international relations. The Venezuelan issue should be resolved through dialogue and consultation.
Q: US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams told reporters on Tuesday that Washington is advising India and China against purchasing oil from Venezuela. He added that Washington will continue to try "to persuade those countries that are supporting and sustaining this regime to diminish their activities". What's China's comment on this statement?
A: China's position on the Venezuelan issue is consistent and clear. We are committed to upholding the UN Charter and basic norms governing international relations. The issue should be resolved peacefully in accordance with Venezuela's Constitution and laws within the framework of international law. We oppose unilateral sanctions and the so-called "long-arm jurisdiction".
China-Venezuela cooperation adheres to the principle of equality, mutual benefit and market principles. Such cooperation complies with laws and regulations, benefits the two countries and peoples, and should be respected and protected. No matter how the situation evolves, our cooperation will proceed. We hope the US could accept the facts and stop abusing sanctions or other coercive measures. It should work with all parties to jointly seek a political settlement of the issue and help Venezuela return to the track of development.
Q: Russia will temporarily suspend from February 20 the entry of some Chinese citizens to the country amid the threat of the spread of coronavirus infection. What's China's comment on this decision?
A: Russia has informed China in advance through diplomatic channels of the above-mentioned measures against the NCP. It also stressed its firm support for and strong confidence in China. The restrictive measures, taken as part of its prevention and control efforts, are only temporary. This is not a total ban on personnel exchange. Once the situation improves, they will be adjusted before being lifted finally. In addition, for groups affected by the restrictions, such as Chinese students unable to return for their studies, the Russian side will take a series of measures such as online courses to ensure the curricular plans will be completed.
Russia and China are each other's biggest neighbor. We are closely following the measures Russia has taken in response to this epidemic. Russia has repeatedly expressed support and offered a large amount of assistance to us. The two countries are comprehensive strategic partners of coordination for a new era. We hope and believe that Russia and the international community will continue to show firm support to China, assess the epidemic situation in an objective and rational way, and adjust restrictive measures at an early date to avoid any disturbance to normal personnel exchanges and cooperation in various fields.
Q: The US State Department has designated 5 Chinese media outlets as "foreign missions," requiring them to comply with relevant rules with regard to employees and real estate properties. US officials say these outlets are owned and effectively controlled by the Chinese government and that each meets the definition of a foreign mission. What's your reaction?
A: We deplore and reject the wrong decision of the US.
The media play an important role like a bridge or bond facilitating communication and understanding between people of different countries. Chinese media's resident offices in the US have long been covering news following the principle of objectivity, impartiality, truth and accuracy. They have helped promote mutual understanding, communication and cultural exchange between our two countries.
The US touts its press freedom. However, it is wantonly restricting and thwarting Chinese media outlets' normal operation there. This is totally unjustified and unacceptable. We urge the US to discard its ideological prejudice and Cold War zero-sum game mentality, and stop ill-advised measures that undermine bilateral trust and cooperation.
We reserve the right to take further measures in response.
Q: Would China pursue any retaliatory measures after the US classified five Chinese media organizations as foreign missions?
A: As I just said, we urge the US to immediately stop its ill-advised measures. We reserve the right to take further measures in response.
Q: The US Embassy in China said on Weibo on February 8 that the US Secretary of State announced $100 million in support of China's fight against the NCP. Later, the State Department announced that the US government is prepared to spend up to $100 million to assist China and other impacted countries, both directly and through multilateral organizations. Can you elaborate how the US has so far helped with China's efforts against the epidemic?
A: Virus knows no borders. We welcome and appreciate every assistance from the international community, including the US.
As far as I know, the US State Department has coordinated with relevant organizations in donating to Hubei Province 16 tons of epidemic prevention supplies, including masks, protective suits and oxygen-generators.
We hope the up to $100 million the State Department announced for China and other impacted countries could materialize at an early date to help the fight against the epidemic.
Q: Last week, the Spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry asked the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) to make an official apology publicly for its derogatory article and hold those involved accountable. Has the WSJ responded to these demands?
A: On February 3, the WSJ published an article by Professor Walter Russell Mead of the Bard College. The article discredits the Chinese government and people's efforts to fight the epidemic. The unfortunate editorial choice of adding the racially-discriminatory title China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia triggered indignation and condemnation among the Chinese people and the international community.
The Chinese side lodged stern representations with the WSJ repeatedly to make clear our solemn position on this and demand that it recognize the severity of its mistake, make an official apology publicly and hold the persons involved accountable. Meanwhile we reserve the right to take further actions.
However, regrettably, what the WSJ has done so far is nothing but fudging the issue and dodging its responsibility. It has neither issued an official apology nor done anything on accountability.
China handles affairs related to foreign journalists in accordance with laws and regulations. The Chinese people do not welcome media that speak racially-discriminatory languages and maliciously slander and attack China. As such, it is decided that from today, the press credentials of three WSJ journalists will be revoked.
China will continue to support and facilitate foreign journalists' press coverage in China in accordance with international common practice.
Q: A Uyghur human rights group disclosed some "internal documents" at a press conference in Washington on February 18. They claimed that the document detailed the personal information of some people detained in Xinjiang, including the reasons for their detentions. It asked the Chinese government to put a stop to such a policy. Can you confirm that these documents exist? And I would also like to have your comment.
A: I'd like to state three points:
First, Xinjiang-related issues are not about ethnicity, religion or human rights, but about fighting separatism, violence and terrorism. Thanks to the counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts taken by the Xinjiang government, there hasn't been a single violent terrorist attack over the past three years. They are supported by the 25 million people of various ethnic groups in Xinjiang and commended by Muslim countries and the wider international community. This is also China's contribution to the global counter-terrorism cause.
Second, the Chinese government protects the freedom of religious belief of all Chinese citizens, including ethnic minority groups like the Uyghur community in Xinjiang. There are nearly 200 million believers of various religions in China. 20 million of them are Muslims. With 24,400 mosques in Xinjiang, there is one for every 530 Muslims. All the information can be found in the seven white papers on Xinjiang published by the Chinese government since 2015.
Third, Xinjiang affairs are purely China's internal affairs. We will not allow external forces to use Xinjiang to interfere in our domestic affairs. Certain organization and media's attempt to smear Xinjiang's counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures by so-called "leaks" are doomed to fail. The most powerful refutation to them is Xinjiang's lasting political stability, ethnic solidarity and religious and social harmony.
For scheduling reasons, our online briefing on Thursday, February 20 will start earlier at 2pm.