|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on May 25, 2020|
CNN: The US Department of Transportation ordered Chinese air carriers to file flight schedules with the US government and said this is because of Chinese restrictions on US air carriers hoping to resume service to China. We have learned that besides asking US airlines to abide by Chinese rules, China also asks that they shall be responsible for any passenger on board who happens to be confirmed of COVID-19 infection after arriving in China. The US side said these demands violate bilateral aviation agreements. What's your response?
Zhao Lijian: The Notice on Further Reducing International Passenger Flights during the Epidemic Prevention and Control Period released on March 26 was approved by the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council and issued by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in accordance with relevant laws including the Frontier Health and Quarantine Law of the People's Republic of China. It is a special arrangement for international passenger flights out of the need of preventing and controlling COVID-19 during an unusual period. The measures are open, impartial and transparent. All airlines, Chinese and foreign, are treated equally. In formulating them, Chinese authorities also drew from many other countries' practice. We noted that relevant US department has asked Chinese airlines to file flight schedules. China opposes any possible US disruption of or restriction on Chinese airlines' normal passenger flight operations.
Follow-up: Last week you mentioned some Chinese temporary flights forced to be delayed after failing to get approval from the US side. But as we understand, Chinese airlines recently filed a great number of temporary charter flight schedules, but didn't do so in time. The US side also said that it is unfair when Chinese airlines can carry out temporary charter flights while American carriers are excluded. What's your response?
Zhao Lijian: Recently Chinese airlines have been arranging temporary flights to bring back overseas Chinese students who are in difficulties and in urgent need of coming home. It is regretful that the temporary flights are compelled to be delayed as the US hasn't approved the flight applications. We hope the US will act out of the humanitarian spirit and complete all procedures for the flights as soon as possible to facilitate the Chinese students' return.
As to the specific issue, I will refer you to the competent authorities.
The Paper: On May 22, the Washington Post quoted senior US officials as saying that a meeting of senior national security officials on May 15 discussed the possibility of resuming nuclear test. I wonder what's China's comment?
Zhao Lijian: We're gravely concerned about the report. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is an important pillar of the international nuclear arms control system. Though it has not yet entered into force, banning nuclear testing has become an international norm. The CTBT is of great significance for nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and world peace and security. All five nuclear weapon states including the US have signed the treaty and committed to a moratorium on nuclear tests. The US has conducted the highest number of nuclear tests. We urge it to assume its due obligation and honor its commitment by upholding the purpose and objective of the treaty and contributing to the international disarmament and non-proliferation regime, instead of further disrupting global strategic stability.
AFP: On Friday the US Department of Commerce said it would sanction relevant Chinese companies and government institute for human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Do you have any response to this?
Zhao Lijian: The US, adding relevant Chinese enterprises, institutions and individuals to its "entity list", has overstretched the concept of national security, abused export control measures, violated the basic norms governing international relations, interfered in China's internal affairs, and hurt China's interests. China deplores and firmly opposes that.
It needs to be highlighted that Xinjiang affairs are purely China's internal affairs which allow no foreign interference. The measures on countering terrorism and deradicalization have been taken to prevent in a fundamental way these two evil forces from taking roots in Xinjiang. They accord with Chinese laws and international practices. They have been proved effective, widely supported by 25 million people of various ethnic groups in Xinjiang, and contributing to the global counter-terrorism cause. The US accusation against China, nothing but absolute nonsense to confound the public, only serves to reveal its vile attempt to disrupt Xinjiang's counter-terrorism efforts and China's stability and development.
We urge the US to correct its mistake, rescind the relevant decision, and stop interfering in China's internal affairs. China will continue to take all necessary measures to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese enterprises and safeguard China's sovereignty, security and development interests.
China Daily: A team of medical experts on COVID-19 sent by the Chinese government arrived on May 23 in the Republic of the Congo after completing their mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Could you talk about the experts' work in the two countries?
Zhao Lijian: At the invitation of the governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of the Congo, China sent out a medical team of 12 experts to help them fight COVID-19.
From May 12 to 23, the team held about 30 exchange and training activities in the DRC, sharing experience with representatives of the government, medical institutions, WHO, UN Organization Stabilization Mission as well as British and French institutions in the DRC, training health workers, interacting with communities, promoting multilateral cooperation, and providing guidance on prevention and control to the resident Chinese medical teams. The DRC government and people spoke highly of their work. Foreign minister Tumba and Minister for International Cooperation Manjolo met with the experts and thanked them for their assistance at a crucial moment in the DRC's epidemic response, which demonstrated the profound China-DRC and China-Africa friendship. The Chinese experts' exchange and cooperation with international organizations and diplomatic missions is a successful practice of global cooperation against the pandemic and sets a good example for the world.
After completing their tasks in the DRC, the Chinese experts went on to the Republic of the Congo on May 23. Going forward, China will continue providing anti-virus assistance to Africa to the best of its capability and send more expert teams to share experience with African brothers and sisters to help them fight the virus.
China News Service: On May 23 Taliban spokesman announced a three-day ceasefire during the Eid al-Fitr holiday starting Sunday. President Ashraf Ghani welcomed that and instructed the Afghan National Defence Security Force to comply with the three-day truce. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: We noted relevant reports. China welcomes and commends the ceasefire during the Eid al-Fitr between the Afghan government and the Taliban. We hope such situation will be sustained so as to create conditions for an early launch of the infra-Afghan talks. China always hopes that all parties to the Afghan issue will take peace as a priority, resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation and jointly discuss the future arrangements of the nation. China stands ready to work with the rest of the international community to continuously provide support and assistance for the Afghan peace and reconciliation process.
Shenzhen TV: According to Australian media reports, Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and other officials said recently that Belt and Road Initiative is a "propaganda exercise" of the Chinese government. Victoria state lacks transparency in signing the BRI agreement with China, and the values of the communist regime are different from those of Australia. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has threatened to "disconnect" with Australia because the deal "could affect the security of US telecommunications". What is China's comment?
Zhao Lijian: The Belt and Road Initiative is an economic cooperation initiative. It follows the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and advocates openness, inclusiveness and transparency. It has brought tangible benefits to people along the Belt and Road. The successful cooperation between China and the Australian state of Victoria under the BRI framework was determined and implemented by the two sides through friendly consultation with a view to improve the well-being of the people. It is completely reasonable, lawful and aboveboard. The groundless accusations made by some Australian politicians are totally untenable, which only expose their negligence of the Australian people's interests and their sinister intentions of damaging China-Australia relations. We hope these Australian politicians will bear in mind the interests of their own people, discard ideological prejudices and do more to promote mutual trust and cooperation between China and Australia, rather than the contrary.
The threat from American politicians is even more bizarre. What is the relationship between the BRI cooperation between a Australian state government and China and the telecommunications security of the United States? What makes them think that they have the right to disrupt and tarnish China-Australia cooperation? Isn't it blatant coercion and interference in other countries' internal affairs? Even the US ambassador to Australia admitted that the BRI MOU between Victoria state and China has nothing to do with the US. Some politicians in Australia have been saying all day long that they oppose "foreign interference" and "Chinese coercion". Why don't they stand up against the US? This has once again exposed the deep-rooted ideological bias and double standards of some people on the Australian side.
NHK: US White House National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said to the press that the US government will likely impose sanctions on China if Beijing implements the national security law related to Hong Kong. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: China is firmly opposed to the noises made by certain US politicians on the Hong Kong-related agenda of China's National People's Congress and has lodged solemn representations with the US side. Recently, the NPC, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Hong Kong SAR government have all made explanations or responses. Yesterday, State Councilor Wang Yi also made a response when meeting the press during the Two Sessions. China's attitude and position have been made very clear. I wish to stress three points here:
First, no state will allow any activities that endanger its national security on its own territory. The Central Government is responsible for upholding national security in China, as is the case in any other country. The US itself has enacted dozens of laws on national security in an effort to build an impregnable fortress of its own national security. However, it has interfered in China's national security legislation and even attempted to drill a hole in China's national security network. Such double standards fully exposed the sinister intentions of some people in the US.
Second, the NPC decision targets a very small number of people who are splitting the country, subverting state power, organizing and carrying out terrorist activities, and foreign and external forces that are interfering in the affairs of the HKSAR. It will protect the law-abiding Hong Kong citizens, who are the overwhelming majority, guarantee the legitimate rights and interests of Hong Kong residents and foreign institutions and personnel in Hong Kong. It has no impact on Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents, and will improve Hong Kong's legal system and bring more stability, stronger rule of law and a better business environment to Hong Kong. It will be more conducive to Hong Kong's long-term stability and tranquility, which is the most representative public opinion in Hong Kong.
Third, the legal basis for the Chinese government's administration of Hong Kong is China's Constitution and the Basic Law, not the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Then again, what on earth does the declaration have to do with the US? With Hong Kong's return to China in 1997, the UK's rights and obligations stipulated in the Sino-British Joint Declaration were all completed. The US side has no legal basis or right to invoke the Joint Statement to make irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong affairs.
To sum up, I want to stress that Hong Kong is China's Hong Kong and the Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs. What legislation the HKSAR introduces and how and when it enacts the legislation is entirely within the scope of China's sovereignty. The US has no right to wantonly comment or interfere. If the US is bent on harming China's interests, China will have to take all necessary measures to fight back.
RIA Novosti: Robert O'Brien also expressed on Sunday his conviction that the United States will be the first country that can develop a COVID-19 vaccine, but he also said that there's a chance that the Chinese side has been engaged in espionage to try and find the research and technologies that the United States is working on. I wonder if the Chinese side has any comment on this accusation?
Zhao Lijian: The US allegations are groundless. In fact, China has made significant progress in developing a novel coronavirus vaccine. China supports further information-sharing on COVID-19 and exchange of useful experience and practices between countries, as well as international cooperation in vaccine and drug research and development.
I would like to underline that COVID-19 vaccine development is not a race between China and the US, but a race between mankind and the virus. No matter which country is the first to develop and deploy a vaccine, it will be a great contribution to all mankind in this fight. Mankind is racing against the virus, which claims lives ruthlessly every day. As the vaccine is the key to defeating the virus, we hope to hear more good news in this regard. We also stand ready to work with the international community to contribute our share to the concerted global response to COVID-19 including in vaccine R&D and to forge a global community of health for all.