|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on April 13, 2020|
Premier Li Keqiang will attend the Special ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea (ASEAN Plus Three countries or 10+3) Summit on COVID-19 Response that is scheduled to take place on April 14 via video conference, chaired by Vietnam in its capacity as ASEAN Chair 2020.
CCTV: The Russian Foreign Ministry wrote on Facebook on April 12 that "attempts of some states to shift responsibility to others for the worsening epidemiological situation within their borders are worrying. We believe that this is how the recent high-profile accusations by the US leadership against the World Health Organization should be assessed". It added that Russia considered such a position nonconstructive and such statements untimely and counterproductive. "At all stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, WHO acted within its mandate, in strict accordance with the guidelines of member states and based on available scientific data". What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: Russia has expressed an objective and fair position. China commends that.
China has said on many occasions that in the face of the grave threats posed to mankind by COVID-19, the international community can only prevail by upholding the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind and working together to address it. Countries should transcend ideological differences and refrain from groundless accusations and suspicions. In particular, they should avoid politicizing anti-pandemic cooperation and shifting blame to others.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the WHO has upheld an objective, scientific and just position, actively performed its duties, and played an important role in assisting countries in responding to the pandemic and promoting international anti-pandemic cooperation. Recently, the UN Secretary-General and many heads of state and representatives of international organizations expressed support for the WHO. The UN General Assembly adopted a consensus resolution which recognizes WHO's role in countering the spread of COVID-19. The statement of the recent Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit on COVID-19 stressed that member states fully support and remain committed to further strengthening the WHO's mandate in coordinating the international fight against the pandemic. This highlights the common position of the international community.
At present, the pandemic is spreading all over the world. The international community should work together to defeat this common enemy. China will continue to work with the international community, including Russia, to support WHO's continued leadership in global anti-pandemic cooperation.
Xinhua News Agency: You just announced Premier Li Keqiang will attend the Special 10+3 Summit on COVID-19 Response. What is China's expectation for this meeting?
Zhao Lijian: China, Japan, the ROK and ASEAN countries are friendly, close neighbors, looking after and supporting each other since the COVID-19 outbreak. The Special 10+3 Summit, an important meeting for the East Asian region's COVID-19 response taking place after the G20 Extraordinary Summit, demonstrates the resolve of the regional countries to jointly fight against the pandemic and maintain economic development of the region.
China hopes that 10+3 countries will have a thorough exchange of views on stemming the spread of the pandemic and keeping up economic development, and strive to achieve positive results on strengthening coordinated pandemic response, improving health-sector cooperation in East Asia, promoting regional practical cooperation and trade exchanges and advancing regional economic integration.
Voice of Vietnam: What do you think of ASEAN-China anti-pandemic cooperation? In which areas does China hope to enhance cooperation with ASEAN?
Zhao Lijian: China and ASEAN member states are friendly, close neighbors. We've had fruitful cooperation in fighting COVID-19. We will never forget the assistance provided by ASEAN countries after the epidemic broke out in China. After securing an initial victory against the virus, China, relating deeply to ASEAN countries' difficulties, has provided medical supplies to them, sent out medical experts and assisted in their purchase of anti-epidemic supplies. All these speak of our two sides' tradition of mutual assistance in trying times. We hope ASEAN countries will defeat the virus at an early date.
China Daily: Seven US Senators have written to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opposing the appointment of Jiang Duan, Minister of Chinese Mission in Geneva to the UN Human Rights Council Consultative Group. They said that China should not occupy the position of prestige or influence on the Council because of its "willful deceit of COVID-19 outbreak" and "human rights abuse" in Xinjiang, asking the Secretary-General to intervene and suspend this appointment. What's your comment?
Zhao Lijian: China has actively participated in the work of the UN Human Rights Council and other multilateral human rights institutions. The appointment of Jiang Duan, the minister of the Chinese Mission in Geneva, to a seat on the Consultative Group of the United Nations Human Rights Council as the representative of the Asia-Pacific states, again demonstrates the international community's recognition of China's progress in human rights development and active role in exchange and cooperation in the international human rights sector.
With a notorious human rights record, the US has withdrawn from the Human Rights Council. But a handful of anti-China US lawmakers are now poking their nose into the election rules of the UN agency, criticizing and meddling in the Human Rights Council's affairs and other countries' human rights situation. It's nothing short of absurdity. We advise these lawmakers to work in real earnest to address human rights problems at home, such as racial discrimination, proliferation of firearms, violation of the rights of migrant children, stop politicizing the pandemic, take concrete actions to improve the human rights and well-being of American people, and work with China and the larger international community to promote anti-pandemic cooperation.
China Review News: A US State Department spokesperson said on April 11 that there has been discrimination towards Africans in places like Guangdong in the process of epidemic prevention and control, adding that "it's unfortunate but not surprising to see this kind of xenophobia towards Africans by Chinese authorities". The spokesperson also claimed that "anyone who watches Chinese engagement in projects across Africa recognizes this kind of abusive and manipulative behavior", that "promises made to Africans are never kept as advertised", and that "to treat people – especially students – this way during a global public health crisis says everything about how the PRC views their so-called 'partnership' with Africa". What's your response?
Zhao Lijian: We note the remarks by the US State Department spokesperson. At a moment when the international community urgently needs to work together to fight the pandemic, the US side is making unwarranted allegations in an attempt to sow discords and stoke troubles. This is neither moral nor responsible. We suggest that the US had better focus on domestic efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Attempts to use the pandemic to drive a wedge between China and Africa are bound to fail.
During our fight against the coronavirus, the Chinese government has been attaching great importance to the life and health of foreign nationals in China. All foreigners are treated equally. We reject differential treatment. China and Africa are good friends, partners and brothers. During our most difficult times fighting the virus, Africa offered us strong support. As the situation is getting more severe in Africa, the Chinese government and people have urgently delivered batches of supplies to the continent, which has been highly acclaimed by African countries and the African people. There is no change whatsoever in China's policy of friendship towards Africa. Nor will there be any change in African countries and people's friendly sentiments towards China. We will never discriminate our African brothers. As a matter of fact, when China was struggling to contain the virus at an earlier stage, of all more than 3,000 African students in Hubei Province and the city of Wuhan, only one was infected and then quickly cured. The rest have all been safe and sound. Regarding the concerns of some African citizens in Guangdong Province, the local authorities have looked into them and adopted a series of new measures. I'm sure the issue will be properly resolved with the two sides' joint efforts.
Sputnik: The Chinese government sent a team of medical experts to Russia on April 11 to help fight COVID-19. We noticed there was also a team sent to Kazakhstan earlier. Do you have further plans to send medical teams to other countries? Could you give us the schedule? What's your consideration behind such decisions?
Zhao Lijian: Thanks for your interest in China's participation in the global anti-pandemic response. After the outbreak of COVID-19, China, at the request of relevant governments and taking into consideration the epidemic situation and needs on the ground, has sent groups of medical experts to many countries including Italy, Serbia, Cambodia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Myanmar and Kazakhstan. The Chinese experts shared experience with local medical workers, helped them enhance prevention, control, diagnosis and treatment capabilities, and boosted shared confidence in a final victory. Their work has been commended by the governments and peoples of all host countries. As you mentioned, we recently sent a team to Russia, too.
Going forward, while strengthening domestic prevention and control efforts, we stand ready to send more medical teams to countries that request such assistance based on their epidemic situation and containment needs.
RIA Novosti: I want to ask about a flight from Russia to Shanghai. According to official statistics, 60 Chinese citizens, who last Friday arrived in Shanghai from Russia by plane, are positive for novel coronavirus. But as far as we know, there were no regular flights between Russia and China for more than 10 days. Was that a special chartered flight organized for Chinese people who wanted to come back home? Also, there are some reports in Chinese media that this flight was operated by Aeroflot. Could you confirm this? Are you going to organize more such flights?
Zhao Lijian: Based on my information, to date, there are still regular flights between Beijing, Shanghai and Moscow. We will continue to work with the Russian side to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Reuters: According to reports, the G20 is planning to offer low-income countries a moratorium on bilateral government loan repayments to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Can you please confirm if there is such a plan and is China on board with it?
Zhao Lijian: I'm not aware of the situation for the time being. If you are interested, I will try to gather more information from my colleagues in charge of G20 related affairs and come back to you later.
The following questions were raised after the press conference:
Q: A commentary published by Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun on April 12 said that the spreading pandemic is the man-made result of the Chinese government and the Communist Party of China. It also accused China of refusing to admit its mistakes in dealing with the pandemic. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: The Yomiuri Shimbun article has nothing in it but malicious attacks on the Chinese government and the Communist Party of China, With its ignorance, prejudice and arrogance against China, it seriously misleads the opinion of the international community, including those of the Japanese people, towards China. It shows not the slightest respect to the professional ethics of journalism, moral standards and basic conscience of mankind. The Chinese side will not accept such slander and has lodged solemn representations with the relevant person in charge of the newspaper.
I need to stress that China made tremendous sacrifice in fighting COVID-19. The measures we've taken have the support and endorsement of all Chinese people. Our initial success in containing the virus bought precious time and offered meaningful experience for other countries. This is an indisputable fact recognized by the whole international community. No one could deny this.
Faced with this common challenge, we human beings need to work together more than ever, instead of attacking each other. We strongly urge the relevant side in Japan to immediately correct its mistake, earnestly assume its due social responsibilities, and play a constructive role in advancing China-Japan anti-pandemic cooperation and improving bilateral relations.
Q: African envoys to China recently said that China has taken measures such as mandatory testing and quarantine on Africans in the prevention and control of the epidemic. What is China's response? Is China concerned that China-Africa relations will suffer as a result?
Zhao Lijian: Last night, I issued a written statement on the prevention and control of the epidemic in Guangdong involving African citizens. This morning, Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong met with some African diplomatic envoys in China. The Guangdong authorities have also held a news conference saying that they attach great importance to African friends' concerns, and will adopt a series of measures, including to improve medical observation and health management measures related to foreign citizens as relevant epidemic response procedures require, treat them without differentiation, and provide more public health service and guidance tailored for foreign citizens; to take further measures to accommodate African nationals caught in difficulties; to establish an effective communication mechanism with foreign Consulates-General in Guangzhou; to firmly oppose any racist and discriminatory words or deeds.
At the meeting this morning, Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong expounded on the position and work of the Chinese government, reiterated China's friendly policy towards Africa, and stressed that the unbreakable friendship between China and Africa has taken root in the hearts of people in China and Africa. After the outbreak of COVID-19, China and Africa once again stood together to overcome the difficulties. China will continue to increase support for Africa within its capacity and work with Africa to fight the epidemic until the final victory is achieved.
The African envoys said that the great success of the Chinese government and people in fighting the epidemic has provided experience, confidence and hope for the global response to the pandemic. They thanked China for taking good care of African nationals in China and extending a helping hand to Africa while overcoming difficulties at home in the fight against the epidemic, which they believed fully demonstrates the brotherly friendship in difficult times between the Chinese and African people. They found Assistant Foreign Minister Chen's briefing on China's position is reassuring as it serves to enhance mutual understanding and consolidate China-Africa friendship. They will immediately, faithfully and thoroughly report it to their government and get the message across to their nationals in Guangdong, and cooperate with China to urge their nationals in China to comply with Chinese laws and regulations to ensure prevention and control. The envoys also stressed that Africa and China are good brothers and partners, and the problems arising in Guangdong are things between brothers, which can in no doubt be settled through friendly talks. No external force, no matter for what intentions or through which means, can stop the development of Africa-China friendly relations.