Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on June 1 & 2, 2020
Shenzhen TV: US Secretary of State Pompeo said in a statement on June 1 that the Trump administration values the important contributions of international students and researchers, including from China. However, the administration “will not tolerate PRC attempts to illicitly acquire American technology and intellectual property from American academic institution and research facilities for Chinese military ends”. I wonder if you have any comments?
Zhao Lijian: Mr. Pompeo is used to weaving lies as excuses for his wrongdoing, and his statement on this issue is no exception. Chinese students and researchers have been an important bond of friendship and bridge for scientific and educational exchange between Chinese and American people. The latest visa restriction on Chinese students and researchers was imposed by the US side under an abused concept of national security and flimsy excuses. It severely undermines their legitimate rights and interests and runs counter to the common aspiration for friendly people-to-people, especially youth-to-youth exchange. Taking a backward step like that will only bring harm to oneself and others.
Reuters: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “In response to proposed new national security legislation, the US is considering welcoming people from Hong Kong to come to America.” Do you have any comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: China has made clear its principled position on issues relating to Hong Kong. Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs that allow no foreign interference. We hope the US will do more that is conducive to stability and prosperity in Hong Kong and development of China-US relations.
NHK: China and the US have reached a phase one trade deal. But according to some reports, the Chinese government has ordered SOEs to stop purchasing pork and soybean from the US. I wonder if you have a comment?
Zhao Lijian: I’m not aware of what you mentioned. China’s position on China-US trade issues is consistent and clear.
Macau Monthly: According to reports, the US government plans to secretly call for bids for its consulate general staff quarters in Hong Kong on the condition that the properties, after being sold, will remain as they are or be leased to the US. Do you have more on that?
Zhao Lijian: I’m not aware of that. You’d better ask the US side.
CCTV: US President Trump in recent remarks accused China on such issues as the national security legislation for Hong Kong, the COVID-19 pandemic and trade issues. He announced that the US will begin the process of eliminating policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment, suspend the entry of certain Chinese students and researchers, and study the differing practices of Chinese companies listed on the US financial markets. I wonder if China has a comment?
Zhao Lijian: The US leader’s allegations against China show a total disregard of facts. The measures announced gravely interfere with China’s internal affairs and undermine bilateral relations and will be detrimental to both sides. China is firmly opposed to them.
Hong Kong is part of China and Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs. The NPC is exercising its constitutional mandate in adopting the decision on establishing and improving a legal framework and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong SAR. It is aimed to fill in a national security legislative gap in the HKSAR to better implement the “one country, two systems” principle and maintain Hong Kong’s lasting stability and prosperity. No foreign country has any right or is in any place to interfere. The Chinese government is determined in safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests, implementing the “one country, two systems” principle, and opposing external interference in Hong Kong affairs. The gross interference by the US side in this matter runs counter to international law and basic norms of international relations and is doomed to fail.
Cooperation between China and the US in the areas of economy, trade and education is for mutual benefit and win-win results. For some time, the US has been purposely oppressing Chinese companies for no good reasons other than a far-fetched excuse of national security. Now it is threatening US-listed Chinese companies with investigations and Chinese overseas students with visa restrictions. These severely violated the principle of market competition, went against the wish of the two peoples to carry out friendly exchanges, and will further undercut China-US economic relations and the social foundation for the overall relationship.
COVID-19 is a common challenge faced by all mankind and calls for a concerted international response. The international community is on the same page in fighting against the virus with solidarity and cooperation and opposing coronavirus-related stigma. However, the US is still bent on blaming China and the WHO to distract the attention of its people from its own botched response to the pandemic. This practice shows no decency and will not succeed in hiding the truth from the public.
China and the US both stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. China is committed to working with the US to develop bilateral relations featuring non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. In the meantime, China will resolutely defend its own sovereignty, security and development interests. No words or actions by the US that hurt China’s interests will go without meeting firm counterattacks. The US will never have its way in containing China’s development. We urge the US to immediately correct its mistakes, discard its Cold-War mentality, zero-sum game mindset and ideological prejudice, cautiously and properly deal with the relevant issues, and halt its steps down the erroneous path.
CCTV: US President Donald Trump said at a press conference on May 29 that the incompetence of the Chinese government has caused suffering around the world. Why, he said, does China not allow people infected in Wuhan to travel to other parts of the country, while allowing them to travel freely around the world, including the US and Europe? What is your response?
Zhao Lijian: What he said is totally untrue and shows no respect for the tremendous efforts and sacrifices made by the Chinese people in the fight against the virus.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Chinese government has taken the most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough prevention and control measures in a timely manner to contain the spread of the epidemics, effectively cut off the chain of transmission of the virus, and made a major contribution to global public health security, which has been widely praised by the international community. According to a study in Science, the measures taken by China have reduced the number of infected people in the country by more than 700,000.
Facts are the best answer. The Chinese side locked down Wuhan on January 23, and there were no commercial flights or trains leaving Wuhan from January 24 to April 8. The three major US airlines announced the suspension of direct flights between China and the US on January 31, and on February 2, the US government banned the entry of Chinese citizens and foreigners who had visited China in the past 14 days. I wonder what he meant by saying China let infected people “travel freely”?
According to published reports, epidemic statistics in several major Canadian provinces indicate that the virus was introduced into Canada by American travelers. A study by the Pasteur Institute in France found that the source of the viral strain circulating locally in France was unknown. None of the imported cases found in Russia came from China. The Australian Department of Health noted that only a very small portion of imported cases came from Northeast Asia. In Singapore, cases imported from China were less than one tenth of those from other countries. The Japanese National Institute of Infectious Diseases has argued that the outbreaks that have spread in Japan since March did not originate in China.
Between China and the US, who is incompetent and guilty of inadequate response? Let the numbers speak for themselves. The US now has more than 1.8 million confirmed cases and more than 100,000 deaths, nearly 22 times the number in China. According to a research by Columbia University, which was published in a report on the New York Times website on May 20, the delay of government measures on social distancing has cost at least 36,000 lives in the US. If the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures one week earlier than it did in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the coronavirus outbreak. And if the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact two weeks earlier, about 83 percent of the nation’s deaths would have been avoided.
At present, the situation in the United States is still very serious. People’s lives are at stake. Scapegoating China will not drive away the virus or cure the sick. We urge those in the US who still want to label and politicize the virus to put their mind and energy into fighting the epidemics at home.
Bloomberg: First question, do you think that the rising tensions between the US and China will affect the implementation of the phase one trade deal? Second, we noticed that your colleague made a comment on Twitter in response to the White House spokesperson referencing the protests in the US. Does the MFA have an official comment on the protests that are happening in the US right now?
Zhao Lijian: Regarding the first question, China has stated its position many times.
Regarding your second question, we are following the latest developments of the situation following the death of George Floyd. “Black lives matter.” Their human rights should be protected. Racial discrimination against ethnic minorities remains a social ill in the US. What is happening right now once again shows the seriousness of racial discrimination and violent law enforcement by the police, and the urgency for the US to address them. We hope the US government will take concrete measures to fulfill its due obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to protect the legal rights of ethnic minorities in the US.
CNN: US officials and agencies claimed that foreign forces are influencing the domestic situation. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien mentioned some Chinese social media users are gloating over what’s happening in the US. Some are comparing the situation in the US with that in Hong Kong. According to a media monitoring company, some Chinese, Russian and Iranian social media accounts are extremely active in commenting what the US is experiencing. I wonder what’s your response?
Zhao Lijian: The remarks made by Mr. O’Brien and other US officials, as well as the conclusion made by the US institution, are just baseless. China doesn’t interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs. The whole world has watched as things unravel in the US. American politicians had better get their own house in order.
China has a sense of right and wrong. We are opposed to all violent and illegal activities. We also hope that the US will not stay indifferent to the issue of racial discrimination.
You mentioned some people’s comparison between the protests in the US and the violence in Hong Kong. Their causes are completely different. During the disturbance over proposed legislative amendments in Hong Kong, hostile local and foreign forces flagrantly engaged in secessionist, subversive and terrorist activities that severely threaten national security, which are “Hong Kong independence” and violence in essence. As to the trigger for protests across the US, American media have made thorough coverage.
Many people may want to ask this question: why does the US refer to those “Hong Kong independence” and black-clad rioters as “heroes” and “fighters” but label its people protesting against racial discrimination as “thugs”? Why did the US have so many problems with the restrained and civilized way of law enforcement by the Hong Kong police but have no problem at all with threatening to shoot at and mobilizing the National Guard against its domestic protesters? This double-standard way of behaving is so typical of the US. The reasons behind this are worth reflecting on and staying vigilant against.
Beijing Youth Daily: At a White House press conference on May 29, US President Trump said the US will be terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization because the WHO has failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: We heard voices of opposition from many countries including US allies. The international community universally disagrees with the US selfish, responsibility-shirking behavior that undermines international cooperation in fighting COVID-19. In fact, over the past years, the US has been a habitual quitter who has pulled out from the UNESCO, the UN Human Rights Council, the Paris Agreement, the JCPOA, the INF Treaty, the Treaty on Open Skies, etc. Its latest withdrawal reveals once again its pursuit of unilateralism and power politics.
As State Councilor Wang Yi recently pointed out, WHO is an international body made up of 194 sovereign states. It does not serve any particular country, and it should not defer to any country that provides more funding than others. In the face of COVID-19, those attempts to attack or blackmail WHO are negligence of human life, a challenge to humanity and sabotage of international cooperation that will surely be rejected by the international community.
As a responsible major country, China will continue making efforts to support the WHO’s leading role in global anti-epidemic cooperation. We call on the international community to further consolidate consensus in endorsing multilateralism, increase political and financial support for the WHO, and jointly safeguard global public health security.
Global Times: A proclamation signed by US President Trump and published on May 29 accused the Chinese government of using its overseas students to acquire sensitive US technologies and intellectual property. Starting on June 1, Chinese students and researchers who seek to enter the US pursuant to an F or J visa to study or conduct research and have connections with the Chinese military are subject to certain restrictions, limitations, and exceptions. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: I have given my response last week. This action is stark political persecution and racial discrimination and a grave violation of the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese students and researchers in the US. It runs counter to the openness and freedom the US claims to champion and the public commitment given by the US leader. It goes against the trend of the times in international talent exchange. This will gravely impact the normal cultural and personnel exchange between the two countries. We strongly condemn and firmly oppose this action.
History has taught us that nothing will prevail over the will of the people. If someone attempts to “decouple” the two economies, wage a new Cold War on China, push China and the US towards conflict and confrontation, and sow estrangement between the two peoples, their efforts will only end up in vain. We urge the US to immediately stop using all sorts of excuses to wantonly restrict and oppress Chinese students and researchers in the US. It should immediately retract its wrong decision, and respect and protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese students in the US.
Reuters: A group of Republican members of the US House of Representatives plan to unveil a bill this week to stop Americans investing in companies with ties to China’s military, according to documents seen by Reuters. Do you have any comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: I noted relevant reports. We urge those US politicians to rise above their bias and earnestly follow market principles. They should stop abusing the concept of national security to politicize economic issues, and stop unwarranted allegation and oppression against Chinese companies. We hope they will work to advance China-US trade cooperation and the two peoples’ welfare.