|Speech by Premier Wen Jiabao at Special ASEAN Leaders' Meeting on Aftermath of Earthquake and Tsunami|
--Rebuilding Our Lost Homes Together
Your Excellency President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono,
I have come to this meeting with a heavy heart. Within just a few hours' time, the powerful earthquake in the Indian Ocean and the ensuing tsunami killed more than 100,000 people and left behind a trail of carnage and destruction. It is not just a catastrophe to the afflicted countries. It is a catastrophe to the entire mankind.
Every single Chinese citizen is deeply concerned. Now, on behalf of the Chinese Government and 1.3 billion Chinese people, I wish to express once again our deepest sympathy for the countries and people stricken by the disaster. We wish to share your pain and agony in losing your loved ones, your friends and your fellow countrymen. We will continue doing our very best to help your efforts in disaster relief and reconstruction.
The Chinese people, the people of other nations in the region and indeed the whole world, are ready to lend a helping hand in this time of trouble. I am confident that with the assistance from the international community, the governments and people of your respective countries will overcome the formidable difficulties, tide over the disasters and succeed in rebuilding your homes.
China is a country that is frequently stricken by natural disasters. We know how much pain they can bring and what genuine friendship means in times of tribulations. After the disaster struck, the Chinese Government has launched its largest foreign relief operations to date. Apart from the initial contribution of 21.63 million yuan, the Chinese Government has pledged an additional 500 million yuan for the stricken countries. Chinese medical and relief teams are already on the ground, up and running. Several batches of Chinese supplies have arrived in the hardest hit countries. Individual donations by all sections of society, including senior citizens and school children, spread far and wide in China. China remains a developing country and it is not rich. The assistance we have provided to the best of our capacity is selfless. It shows an outpouring of care and friendship on the part of the Chinese people and the sincerity of the Chinese Government to take an active part in disaster relief and reconstruction. We will follow closely the situation on the ground. We have sent working groups on disaster study and assessment to the stricken countries and will provide additional aid of various kinds in keeping with their actual needs. The Chinese always mean what they say. Whatever promise we make will be honored. It was true, is true and will always remain true.
Disaster relief in these countries is enormous and hard, and the post-disaster reconstruction will be an even tougher job to undertake. All this calls for vigorous support and assistance from the international community. This Special Leaders' Meeting initiated by ASEAN is both necessary and timely, as it can make a major impact on the relief and reconstruction work by improving coordination and combining the resources of the afflicted countries, other countries in the region and the international community at large. China is ready to contribute its share to this effort. To this end, I would like to recommend the followings for your consideration.
First, providing emergency relief. The Chinese Government calls on countries and international organizations concerned to work together with coordinated steps and honor their commitments in good faith. I can assure you that by the end of this month, over 50% of the pledges of assistance made by the Chinese government in both cash and kind will be put in place. Disaster relief is our top priority right now. The need for medicine, water and food is most urgent. We should readjust and beef up the aid packages in quick response to the needs of the national governments and people in the disaster areas and facilitate their speedy delivery, so as to guarantee the livelihood of the people, provide medical treatment and prevent the outbreak of epidemics. The Chinese Government has provided lists of aid both in kind and in cash to the recipient countries and is also ready to dispatch additional health experts, doctors, nurses, volunteers and other relief workers on short notice.
Second, speeding up reconstruction. The Chinese Government will support cooperation between Chinese financial entities with the World Bank and other international financial institutions, and work with the afflicted countries and encourage participation by Chinese enterprises in the reconstruction and development in the disaster areas through such schemes as government-backed credit and interest-free or low-interest loans. We are willing to help with the repairing and rebuilding of roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. We would like to give positive consideration to relieving and reducing the due governmental debts of the hardest-hit countries as a gesture to support reconstruction there. The Chinese government has decided to write off all due governmental debts of Sri Lanka.
Third, reviving tourism in the afflicted countries. Given the fact that most afflicted areas are tourist resorts and tourism is a pillar industry in these countries, China proposes a study on concrete ways and means to revive tourism in the afflicted countries through 10+3 Tourism Ministers' Meeting and other mechanisms. The Chinese Government will encourage travel to these countries by Chinese tourists When conditions encourage travel to these countries by Chinese tourists when conditions return to normal and work with the countries concerned in popularizing disaster prevention and preparedness knowledge among residents and tourists. We also hope to see strong efforts by relevant international tourism organizations in this regard.
Fourth, establishing a disaster early-warning mechanism. This devastating disaster highlights the extreme importance of a tsunami early warning mechanism. China will invite experts form ASEAN, India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and relevant international organizations to a China-ASEAN Workshop on Tsunami Warning scheduled for January 25-26 in Beijing. The Chinese Government is ready to help the neighboring countries, the afflicted countries in particular, to establish an earthquake monitoring and tsunami early-warning network with a view to exchanging and evaluating information in good time and forecasting and preventing earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters.
Fifth, enhancing information sharing and exchanges. China is ready to share relevant data and products of its Fengyun-2 satellite with the countries in the region, and to provide them with information and technical backup on weather forecasting, environment monitoring and disaster assessment. I propose that a 10+1 seminar on post-disaster disease prevention be held under the China-ASEAN Fund for Public Health. In addition, China is willing to host an Asian conference on Disaster Reduction and looks forward to discussing with ASEAN and South Asian countries on the signing of bilateral or multilateral disaster reduction agreements and the cooperation for human resources development. Further more, China is ready to finance experience sharing and training projects in disaster prevention, disaster relief and post-disaster reconstruction.
Sixth, giving full play to the existing mechanisms. Strengthening regional cooperation is an effective way to respond to natural disasters. We propose that disaster reduction, disaster prevention and disaster relief be listed as a key priority area for China-ASEAN cooperation, ASEAN plus China, Japan and ROK cooperation, as well as Asian Cooperation Dialogue in the interest of closer cooperation on disaster control at the regional level.
Seventh, this disaster has aroused such an intense international concern that numerous countries, international bodies, organizations and individuals have thrown themselves into relief operations, giving expression to humanitarianism and the spirit of international cooperation. We highly appreciate the efforts made by the UN and the international community in assisting the afflicted countries, support the leadership and coordination by the UN and WHO in offering humanitarian assistance, and pay high tribute to the primary role played by ASEAN. China will take an active part in the relief campaign led by the UN, other international organizations, and ASEAN. Responding to the appeal of the UN, the Chinese government has decided to provide, on the basis of our existing pledges, additional 20 million US dollars for multilateral relief and reconstruction efforts.
The evolution of human civilizations has been a process of constant struggle between man and natural disasters. Thanks to its unyielding spirit, mankind has always been able to overcome disasters and move on. In the face of this sudden catastrophe, the governments and people of the afflicted countries have displayed an admirable level of confidence, courage and capability to save themselves from danger. Merciless as the tsunami was, we human beings are compassionate and caring. We will work with stricken countries and the international community hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder to help people in the ravaged areas in rebuilding their beautiful homes.