|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on June 22, 2021|
On June 23, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will preside over the Asia and Pacific High-level Conference on Belt and Road Cooperation with the theme of "Promoting Cooperation on Combating the Pandemic for Sustainable Recovery" via video link. More than 30 parties, including foreign ministers or economic ministers of relevant countries in Asia-Pacific and representatives of the United Nations and other international organizations will attend the meeting.
CRI: What is China's consideration behind this High-level Video Conference on Belt and Road International Cooperation in Asia Pacific Region? And what do you expect out of it?
Zhao Lijian: This is a high-level international conference on the Belt and Road Initiative with a wide range of participants, which reflects the high priority all parties attach to and support they lend to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
More and more friends and partners are joining in the BRI. Up to date, altogether 140 countries and 32 international organizations have joined in the initiative with fruitful cooperation results in various fields, making the BRI a popular global public good. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the BRI partners have worked together to strengthen the building of a "Silk Road for health", a "green Silk Road" and a "digital Silk Road", making new progress, and contributing to the fight against the epidemic, economic stability and people's livelihood in all countries.
In his keynote speech at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2021, President Xi Jinping said that China would continue to work with other parties on high-quality Belt and Road cooperation to build a closer partnership for health cooperation, connectivity, green development, openness and inclusiveness. The purpose of this meeting is to build on President Xi Jinping's important initiative to forge new consensus with countries in the Asia-Pacific region on jointly fighting the epidemic and promoting sustainable economic recovery, advance high-quality development of the BRI, and make greater contributions to the building of a community with a shared future for Asia-Pacific region and the entire mankind.
Xinhua News Agency: On June 21, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that while the global community is looking into the origin of the COVID-19 virus, the US and its allies will "work together to exercise the necessary pressure on China to be a participant and to provide transparent data and access in this case". What is China's comment?
Zhao Lijian: On the issue of origin-tracing, the US has no right to blackmail and coerce China, nor does it have the right to attack and smear China on behalf of the international community.
China has made clear on many occasions its position on the issue. I also elaborated on it yesterday. China solemnly calls for three thorough investigations on the US side: first, a thorough investigation into the source of the epidemic in the US; second, a thorough investigation into the causes and those responsible for the US failure to fight the epidemic; and third, a thorough investigation into the problems at Fort Detrick and the US' over 200 overseas bio labs. We also call on the international community to work together to urge the US to cooperate with the investigation and provide transparent data and access.
AFP: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said yesterday that she hopes to visit Xinjiang this year and to be given "meaningful access" to look into "reports of serious human rights violations". Does the foreign ministry intend to facilitate such a visit?
Zhao Lijian: The remarks made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Xinjiang-related issues are seriously inconsistent with the facts. Xinjiang enjoys social stability and economic prosperity, and residents in Xinjiang live a peaceful and happy life. The human rights of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are fully protected. Out of political motives, certain countries and forces have spread lies and disinformation about Xinjiang in an attempt to tarnish China's image, interfere in China's internal affairs and curb China's development. Their scheme will not succeed. We welcome the High Commissioner to travel to China and visit Xinjiang. We already extended invitation to the High Commissioner for visiting Xinjiang and other places in China, and the two sides are in communication on that. At the same time, we have repeatedly stated that the visit should be a friendly visit with the purpose of promoting exchanges and cooperation, rather than carrying out a so-called "investigation" with presumption of guilt. We are firmly opposed to anyone using this issue for political manipulation and to exert pressure on China.
CCTV: We noted that the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations the instrument of acceptance of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Could you offer more information?
Zhao Lijian: In April this year, President Xi Jinping made the solemn pledge that China decided to accept the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. This is China's new contribution to protecting the ozone layer and combating climate change. On 17 June 2021, the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations the instrument of acceptance of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. In accordance with relevant provisions, the amendment will come into force for China on September 15, 2021.
The Kigali Amendment was adopted in October 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda, which decided to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Montreal Protocol, thus opening a new chapter in the history of the coordinated response to ozone layer depletion and climate change.
China has always taken an active and constructive part in the global ozone layer governance and the Montreal Protocol process, and played an important role in the conclusion of the Kigali Amendment. China has taken concrete steps to implement the Montreal Protocol and eliminated over 280,000 tons of ozone-depleting substances, accounting for more than half of the total amount eliminated by developing countries. China has also cracked down on illegal production and fulfilled its obligations under the Protocol. China will continue to earnestly implement the Protocol and advance global climate and environmental governance.
Kyodo News: I have a question on the shutdown of the Hong Kong-based Apple Daily. A US State Department spokesman called it an effort to stifle media freedom and called on China to uphold Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: China resolutely rejects the US interference in Hong Kong affairs which fall within China's internal affairs. The HKSAR government, the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in HKSAR and the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR responded to the relevant issue already. The Central Government of China firmly supports the HKSAR government and police in fulfilling their duty in accordance with law and all efforts to safeguard national security and prosperity and stability in Hong Kong.
China News Service: Recent US media reports have revealed that an FBI agent admitted to falsely accusing Professor Anming Hu, who is of Chinese descent, of being a spy for China, causing him to be put on a federal no-fly list and leading to two years of surveillance on him and his son. Does China have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: I have noted relevant reports. US media are saying that this is part of the "China Initiative" launched by the US Department of Justice. Some federal lawmakers have already called for an investigation into the US intelligence agency's inappropriate behavior in this case. The false accusations expose the US intelligence community's usual ploy of investigation based on presumption of guilt, and stand as further evidence to how the US engages in political manipulation through its intelligence agencies.
The US intelligence apparatus stops at nothing to achieve specific political goals. Its credibility has been shattered by this age-old practice. Mike Pompeo's shameless boast "we lied, we cheated, we stole" is a true description and a black signboard of the US intelligence community. Using a test tube of what was suspected to be laundry powder as evidence, they accused Iraq of hiding weapons of mass destruction. They sent out spies disguised as staff for a fake UN hepatitis-B vaccination program to collect Pakistani people's DNA samples. They conducted massive tapping and theft of secrets, not even sparing European allies. Under "Operation Mockingbird", they recruited media and institutions and forced foreign journalists to spy for them through various means including bribery, manipulation and exploitation.
The US should discard the Cold-War zero-sum mentality and ideological bias, cease its political manipulation, and stop disrupting normal exchange and cooperation in scientific, people-to-people and cultural sectors with China.
People's Daily: Since the US announced troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, we've seen worsening turbulence in the security situation there. What's China's comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: Since the beginning of this year, Afghanistan has seen incessant domestic conflicts and frequent terrorist attacks, making the security situation more grave and complicated. The US, as the largest external factor on the Afghan issue, bears unshirkable responsibility to the current situation.
Twenty years ago, the US sent troops to Afghanistan in the name of counterterrorism. While combating al-Qaeda and the Taliban, they caused high civilian casualties, bring abysmal calamities to the Afghan people. According to reports, over the past two decades, over 30,000 civilians in Afghanistan were killed in shooting and bombing by the US and US-inflicted war. More than 60,000 were wounded and around 11 million became refugees.
Over the past 20 years, the US has committed numerous crimes and it has no credibility left but only poor track record. On March 5, 2020, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court ruled that its prosecutor could open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Afghan war since May 2003, including those committed by members of the US armed forces and the CIA, such as alleged attacks against hospitals and other non-military targets, civilian casualties by drones, abuse of prisoners and torture.
Twenty years later, the security situation in Afghanistan remains complex and grim, and the issue of terrorism is no closer to settlement. The US' sudden announcement of a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan has directly led to immediate deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan and seriously threatened the peace and stability of Afghanistan and the safety of people's lives. The US has left to the Afghan people a future that is riddled with problems and crises. The US troops should withdraw in a responsible manner to ensure a smooth transition in Afghanistan, so as to prevent terrorist forces from taking advantage of the chaos to fester and bring more turbulence and suffering to the Afghan people, and undermine regional peace and stability.
Reuters: According to a report by Politico, the Biden administration is mulling a ban on polysilicon imports from Xinjiang, responding to calls to confront allegations of forced labor and other human rights violations in the region. What's the ministry's comment?
Zhao Lijian: The so-called "genocide" and "forced labor" in Xinjiang are nothing but rumors with ulterior motives and downright lies. Its real purpose is to restrict and contain the development of relevant sectors and enterprises in China. It is imposing on China "forced unemployment", "forced poverty" and unfair competition. China has clarified the facts and the truth many times. The US side should respect the facts, and immediately stop spreading false information and using that as excuses to unjustifiably suppress Chinese companies. China will watch closely the measures to be taken by the US side and make necessary responses to resolutely safeguard its own interests.
Reuters: I also wanted to ask the Chinese ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai has announced that he is leaving his role as Chinese ambassador to the US. Can the ministry comment on who might be replacing him?
Zhao Lijian: Thank you for your attention. At present, I have no information authorized to release.
Reuters: The US Commerce Department said on Monday that it's rescinding a list of prohibited transactions with WeChat and TikTok that were issued under the former President Trump in September. What's the Chinese ministry's comment on this? Does it see this is a positive move?
Zhao Lijian: I have noted relevant reports. This is a positive step toward the right direction. China has all along urged the US to earnestly respect the principles of the market economy and international economic and trade rules, immediately stop over-stretching the concept of national security, stop abusing state power to unjustifiably suppress Chinese technology companies, and treat Chinese companies in a fair, just and non-discriminatory manner. The Chinese government will continue to firmly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.
CNR: In a joint statement released on June 21, the EU, the US, the UK and Canada expressed deep concern regarding the Belarusian government's continuing attacks on human rights, fundamental freedoms, and international law, and announced coordinated sanctions action. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: China always opposes the willful use or threat of unilateral sanctions in international relations and any interference by external forces in Belarus' internal affairs. China respects the development path chosen independently by Belarus in light of its national conditions. China believes that the Belarusian people have the capability to maintain political stability and social tranquility through their own efforts and hopes that the international community will play a constructive role in this regard.
China Daily: This year marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of the China-Europe Railway Express. How did it achieve such leapfrog growth within ten years? How does China envisage the prospect of win-win cooperation with other countries along the BRI route going forward?
Zhao Lijian: In March 2011, the first China-Europe freight train departed from Chongqing of China bound for Duisburg of Germany, opening a prelude to the innovation-driven development of China-Europe freight train service. In the past 10 years, the number of journeys made by China-Europe freight trains exceeded 40,000 in total, including over 10,000 in 2020 alone. The total value of goods carried so far is worth more than 200 billion dollars. The China-Europe Railway Express has altogether developed 73 routes, reaching more than 160 cities in 22 European countries. Over the past decade, it has brought business opportunities to tens of thousands of Chinese and foreign enterprises, and delivered tangible benefits to hundreds of millions of people in countries along the routes, opening a new chapter in Eurasia land transport, and serving as a bridge of mutual benefit and win-win results for countries along the routes.
In particular, since the outbreak of the epidemic, the China-Europe Railway Express, hailed as a "steel camel fleet", has undertaken the sacred mission of opening up a "cargo lifeline", shipping accumulatively 94,000 tons of anti-epidemic supplies consisting of 11.99 million pieces to Europe. This has ensured the stability of the global industrial and supply chains, and played an important role in protecting the safety and health of peoples in countries along the routes.
The China-Europe Railway Express is a major part of the Belt and Road Initiative. Its flourishing growth attests to the great resilience and vitality of the BRI cooperation. According to the latest figure from China's Ministry of Commerce, in the first five months of this year, China's non-financial direct investment in countries along the Belt and Road reached 7.43 billion dollars, a year-on-year increase of 13.8%. Contracted projects are also progressing steadily. Amid the epidemic, the impressive success achieved in BRI cooperation is particularly inspiring. It gives strong impetus to economic recovery and development for countries along the routes, and thus endorsed and praised by the people of these countries.
China stands ready to work with all parties concerned to further deepen practical cooperation across the board, and continue to make headway in advancing BRI cooperation, so as to lend fresh impetus to global economic stability and growth.
Reuters: A UN committee has recommended that Australia's Great Barrier Reef be added to a list of "in danger" World Heritage Sites. It's a move that has angered Australia and the Australian government who believe it was influenced by political interference. A government source told Reuters reporter in Australia that the Canberra believes China is behind the move as China is currently chairing the committee. Do you have any comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: Some people in Australia have been spreading China-related rumors and disinformation out of ideological bias. In the same vein, what you just mentioned is totally groundless smear and slander.