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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on May 14, 2020
2020/05/14

CCTV: We understand countries including Swaziland and Nicaragua have put forward to WHO a proposal on inviting Taiwan to attend this year's WHA as an observer. A few countries are doing everything they can to push for discussions of this proposal at the WHA. I wonder if China has a comment?

Zhao Lijian: The 73rd WHA will be held on May 18 to 19. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be virtual. According to WHO Executive Board consensus, this year's agenda will be significantly reduced to cover only essential items like the COVID-19 pandemic and Executive Board election. This reflects the shared sincere wish of member states to focus on international cooperation on COVID-19 at this WHA.

China opposes the so-called proposal by a few countries including Swaziland on inviting the Taiwan region to attend this WHA as an observer. The Taiwan region's participation in the WHA must be handled in accordance with the one-China principle. This is also a fundamental principle enshrined in UNGA Resolution 2758 and WHA Resolution 25.1. Based on this principle, the Central Government of China has made proper arrangements for the Taiwan region's participation in global health affairs, which ensures that the region can promptly and effectively respond to local and global public health incidents. Therefore the region is by no means a so-called "gap" in global anti-epidemic efforts. The WHA has for many consecutive years rejected a handful of countries' proposals relating to the Taiwan region, demonstrating the shared international commitment to the one-China principle.

I would like to reiterate that the few countries who are insisting on discussing the proposal relating to the Taiwan region are only seeking to severely disrupt this WHA and undermine global anti-pandemic cooperation. The international community including China stands firmly against this.

AFP: Some pieces of China's Long March-5 rocket crashed in Africa in recent days. Is China aware of that? Can you confirm it and provide more details?

Zhao Lijian: I have no information on that and refer you to competent authorities.

Beijing Media Network: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other US officials again accused China of withholding information needed to protect the safety of the American people, which has led to the spread of the pandemic. They also called on China to be transparent. What is your comment?

Zhao Lijian: A lie repeated a thousand times is still a lie. We should stick to facts. As for the constant accusations by some US politicians that China did not share information in a timely manner and was not transparent, and that the delay led to the spread of the pandemic, we have elaborated on the timeline of China's response on many occasions, and the facts are crystal clear.

As I've seen from media reports, US CDC Director Robert Redfield said at a Senate hearing on May 12 that China informed WHO's China Office of pneumonia cases of unknown causes on December 31, 2019. Two days later, on January 2, 2020, the US CDC contacted the Chinese side and discussed some scientific aspects of the issue. There's very good communication between the two sides. Dr. Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) of the Department of Health and Human Services, made public on May 13 a written testimony to Congress, in which he said that in January he warned the US to be prepared for the novel coronavirus, but the Department's leadership was dismissive and unwilling to take urgent actions.

There have been many reports and discussions in the US on how it has handled the crisis, and the American people have had first-hand experience of it. There are also many concerned voices questioning whether the US government has dealt with the pandemic in a timely and effective manner. We hope that the US will be open, transparent and responsible, respond to the concerns of its people in a timely manner and take effective measures to safeguard the life and health of its people, rather than blindly blaming others.

RIA Novosti: According to Global Times, China is considering punitive measures on the US lawmakers endorsing anti-China bills under the pretext of COVID-19, with a US state and some entities and individuals involved. Can you confirm that?

Zhao Lijian: Some in the US have failed their people's trust in the fight against COVID-19 with their lamentable response. However, instead of working on improvement, they have turned to massive political maneuvers to shirk the responsibility, doing all they can to shift the blame to China, even resorting to frivolous litigation to hold China "accountable". Their petty tricks are exposed by US media in the GOP memo advising candidates to address the coronavirus crisis by proactively attacking China.

We urge the US side to stop smearing China, pushing anti-China bills or pursuing frivolous litigation against China. They should focus on combating the virus and saving American lives instead of playing the boring and preposterous blame game.

I have no further comments on whether there will be punishment on US entities and individuals.

Shenzhen TV: On May 13, a US State Department spokesperson said in an emailed press statement that WHO Director General Tedros has the authority to invite Taiwan to participate as an observer and we call on him to do so. From 2009 to 2016, Taiwan was invited by former WHO DG Margaret Chan to attend the WHA as an observer. But after the DPP won the election in 2016, the WHA unilaterally stopped the invitation. Taiwan's participation is in line with UNGA and WHA resolutions. What is your response to the above statement? Some people say that China politicizes the health issue by barring Taiwan from the WHA just because the DPP became the ruling party after winning the election. What is your reaction to this?

Zhao Lijian: There is only one China in the world and the Taiwan region is an inseparable part of China's territory. As a specialized agency of the UN, the WHO should deal with Taiwan-related issues in strict accordance with the one-China principle affirmed in UNGA Resolution 2758 and WHA Resolution 25.1. No legal basis can be found in WHO's Constitution or the WHA's Rules of Procedure to justify the participation of a region of a sovereign state in the WHA.

From 2009 to 2016, through cross-strait consultations and on the basis that both adhere to the 1992 Consensus embodying the one-China principle, China's Central government made special arrangements for the Taiwan region to participate in the WHA as an observer. In the past, the WHO director general invited Taiwan to participate as an observer on the precondition of no objection from all WHO member states, but that does not constitute a precedent.

Since the DPP came to power, it has obstinately adhered to the separatist position of "Taiwan independence" and refused to recognize that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one and the same China. As a result, the political foundation for the Taiwan region to participate in WHO has ceased to exist. That foundation was unilaterally abandoned by the DPP authorities, who are the only one to blame for the region now being unable to take part in the WHA. The DPP understands this only too well. It goes without saying that with China and the vast majority of members firmly opposed to the participation of the Taiwan region, the WHO DG could not issue an invitation.

According to the consensus reached by the WHO Executive Board, this year's agenda will be significantly reduced to cover only essential items like the COVID-19 pandemic and Executive Board election. This reflects the shared wish of member states to focus on international cooperation on COVID-19 at this WHA. I would like to reiterate that the one-China principle is a consensus of the international community and the overriding trend of the times. The WHA has long made a final decision on issues relating to the Taiwan region. The few countries who are insisting on discussing the proposal relating to the Taiwan region are only seeking to severely disrupt this WHA and undermine global anti-pandemic cooperation. The international community including China stand firmly against this.

Xinhua News Agency: Republican attorneys general in 14 states, including Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, wrote a co-signed letter to President Donald Trump on May 13, asking him to form a state-federal partnership to hold China accountable for damages caused by the spread of the new coronavirus. The letter says state and federal governments need to look at legal, economic, diplomatic and security measures that could be taken against China. What's your response?

Zhao Lijian: I made clear China's position while responding to the question from RIA Novosti. We urge the US side to stop smearing China, pushing anti-China bills and pursuing frivolous litigation against China. They should focus on combating the virus and saving their people's lives. It is high time they stopped playing such ridiculous, boring finger-pointing game.

Yonhap News Agency: Yesterday Chinese and ROK heads of state had a phone call and discussed President Xi's visit to the ROK and other agenda items and plans to advance bilateral relations. I wonder if you have a comment?

Zhao Lijian: During last night's telephone conversation, President Xi Jinping and President Moon Jae-in held an in-depth exchange of views over such issues as China-ROK anti-epidemic cooperation and bilateral relations, reaching important consensus. Both spoke highly of the COVID-19 response in each other's country and agreed that the effective bilateral anti-virus cooperation not only helped with the two sides' domestic response, but also accumulated meaningful experience and set a good example for the world.

On bilateral relations, President Xi said he attaches high importance to this relationship and stands ready to step up strategic communication with President Moon to bring China-ROK relations to a higher level. President Moon once again extended the invitation for President Xi to visit the ROK and said that he looks forward to this visit. He also expressed readiness to enhance cooperation and exchange with China to move forward bilateral relations.

As to the specific issues you asked about, high-level exchange plays an important role in guiding the development of China-ROK relations. The two sides have all along maintained communication over this. If there is anything new, we will keep you updated.

Beijing Youth Daily: On May 12, terrorist attacks on civilians were reported in Afghanistan's capital Kabul and Nangarhar province, causing dozens of casualties. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for one attack while the Taliban denied any involvement. What is China's comment?

Zhao Lijian: We have noted relevant reports. We condemn the terrorist attacks targeting civilians, mourn the lost lives, and express our sincere condolences to the injured and the bereaved families.

China will continue supporting the Afghan government and people's fight against terrorism to safeguard national stability and people's safety and creating enabling conditions for the peace and reconciliation process in the country.

AFP: The US leader yesterday described the COVID-19 as the plague from China, and also said that even 100 trade deals with China won't be able to make up for losses caused by the virus to the US economy. I wonder if you have any comment on that?

Zhao Lijian: The pandemic, knowing no borders or races, is a common challenge to all mankind. It is a force majeure event. If US politicians truly put their people's lives first, they should immediately stop smearing and shifting the blame to other countries. Focusing on containing the virus at home and promoting global cooperation is the only right way forward.

China News Service: After the Special Vice-Foreign Ministerial Meeting on COVID-19 between China and Caribbean Countries, China and Pacific island countries also held a Special Vice Foreign Ministers' Meeting on COVID-19 on May 13. Can you tell us the meeting's outcomes and your plan for future cooperation with Pacific?

Zhao Lijian: China and Pacific island countries held the special vice foreign ministers' meeting on COVID-19 via video link yesterday. The meeting was co-chaired by Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang of China and Foreign Minister Patrick Pruaitch of Papua New Guinea, and attended by delegates from China and 10 Pacific island countries that have diplomatic ties with China. They discussed domestic epidemic situation, anti-epidemic measures, global containment efforts, bilateral cooperation between China and Pacific island countries, and coordination on multilateral occasions, reaching broad consensus. A joint press release of the Vice Ministers' Special Meeting on COVID-19 was issued after the meeting.

China and Pacific island countries share long-standing friendship. Last year, the Solomon Islands established diplomatic ties with China, and Kiribati resumed diplomatic relations with China, joining our family of friendly cooperation. In the fight against the pandemic, the island countries have both unique advantages and fragility. They have attached high importance to anti-epidemic response and taken aggressive measures. During China's most difficult times, the island countries expressed sympathies and support to us through different means. China reciprocated their kindness by sharing its experience and providing material assistance, which demonstrates the two sides' deep friendship with mutual assistance in times of adversity.

At the special meeting, all countries shared updates on domestic epidemic situation and exchanged experience in fighting the virus and discussed how to deepen cooperation. All shared the view that the virus, knowing no borders or races, is a common enemy of humanity. Countries need to adopt a science-based approach, oppose any attempt at stigmatization, politicizing or labeling the virus, and support UN and WHO's leading role in global cooperation against COVID-19. They agreed to strengthen communication and coordination in global and regional affairs, uphold multilateralism, and safeguard the interests of developing countries. All parties reiterated their commitment to mutual support on issues concerning each other's core interests and major concerns. They will strive to deepen exchange and cooperation and work for more outcomes in the comprehensive strategic partnership based on mutual respect and common development. The Pacific island countries reaffirmed their commitment of the one-China principle.

Upholding the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, China will continue enhancing anti-epidemic cooperation with the Pacific island countries, sharing experience and know-how, and supporting them to the best of our ability. China is also ready to work with the Pacific island countries to advance practical BRI cooperation in the "post COVID-19 era" for early stabilization and recovery of our economies and for more benefits to our peoples.

CRI: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Foreign Ministers' Video Conference was held yesterday. I wonder how does China see the outcomes of this meeting and its significance for the joint global response to COVID-19?

Zhao Lijian: Yesterday SCO member states held a foreign minsters' virtual conference, which issued a statement on COVID-19.

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended this conference and put forward four proposals. He called for all member states to hold high the SCO banner and contribute SCO strength in the face of the grave challenge posed by the global spread of COVID-19. Efforts should be made to enhance solidarity and coordination in combating the pandemic, to strengthen security cooperation and maintain peace and stability in the region, to promote mutually-beneficial cooperation and realize shared development, to uphold multilateralism and jointly defend and improve global institutions.

All sides agree that the international community should uphold multilateralism, give full play to the UN system's leading and coordinating role, and work together to fight the pandemic. SCO member states should carry forward the Shanghai Spirit, stay united through thick and thin, support WHO's important role and conduct effective cooperation with it to respond to the pandemic together. All parties should enhance coordination of macroeconomic policies, facilitate the unimpeded and orderly flow of people and goods, jointly deal with the pandemic's impact on regional economic growth, and oppose unilateralism, bullying practices and stigmatization in the name of the pandemic.

The SCO is a regional organization of important influence. Amid the global fight against COVID-19, it is of special significance for foreign ministers of SCO member states to hold this meeting. It demonstrates a fine tradition of solidarity and a firm resolve to overcome difficulties with the rest of the world. China will work with fellow SCO member states to uphold the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, deepen solidarity and coordination, and contribute SCO strength to an early victory against COVID-19 in the region and the world.

CNR: Health ministers from China and 17 Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs) held a special video conference on COVID-19 yesterday. Can you tell us the highlights of the conference? Also, China expressed readiness to turn health cooperation into a new growth point and pillar of China-CEEC cooperation. Could you share more details on that?

Zhao Lijian: Health ministers from China and 17 CEECs held a special video conference on COVID-19 yesterday afternoon. It is another important event for the two sides to share anti-epidemic experience after the successful video conference for medical experts in March.

Delegates at the meeting talked about their domestic situation, commended the solidarity, cooperation and mutual assistance demonstrated by all sides during the fight against COVID-19, and offered propositions for future collaboration. China expressed readiness to consolidate consensus with CEECs, support WHO's role, engage in international anti-epidemic cooperation, and turn health cooperation into a new growth point and important pillar of China-CEEC cooperation by expanding institutional collaboration based on existing health cooperation networks, so as to foster a community of health for all. Many countries expressed hope to enhance communication and cooperation via China-CEEC cooperation and other platforms, and contribute to a global solution by promoting multilateralism. They also hope to continue sharing know-how in preventing a resurgence of the COVID-19 and resuming socioeconomic development.

AFP: The FBI released a report yesterday accusing Chinese hackers of trying to steal research information on COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines. I wonder if it is true that Chinese hackers are trying to steal information from the US?

Zhao Lijian: Our position on this issue is pretty clear. China deplores and opposes such slanderous actions.

Judging from its past records, the US has conducted the largest-scale cyber espionage activities globally. China has already made significant strategic achievements in the fight against COVID-19 and is now leading the world in COVID-19 treatment and vaccine research. Therefore we have more reasons to worry about hackers stealing from us.

As we have said many times, China is a staunch champion of cyber security and a major victim of cyber attacks. We firmly oppose and fight against all forms of cyber attacks in accordance with law. When COVID-19 is still ravaging across the whole world, hacking attempts that sabotage the global efforts against the pandemic should be unequivocally condemned by all.

I want to stress that spreading rumors and smearing and scapegoating others will not make the virus go away or put an end to the pandemic. We urge the US to focus on saving more lives and play a constructive role in strengthening China-US anti-pandemic cooperation and upholding global public health security. It should not seek to distract attention and deflect responsibility by unrelentingly pinning the blame on others.

China Daily: US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien said on May 12, "We've had five plagues from China in the last 20 years. We've had SARS, avian flu, swine flu, COVID-19 now and we cannot have another one of these virus outbreaks and plagues come from China. " What is your comment?

Zhao Lijian: In their attempts to smear others, US politicians often just talk through their hats. Mr. O'Brien should get the facts straight. According to media reports, the 2009 swine flu is widely believed to have started in the US and AIDS also first broke out in the US.

Infectious diseases know no borders or races and are common challenges for all. They may break out anytime anywhere. Scapegoating will not help the US solve its own problem. US politicians should rather focus on enhancing their response efforts and international cooperation, which is the right way out of this crisis.

Reuters: The US navy said today it has sailed a destroyer through the Taiwan Strait. Do you have any comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: China closely and fully monitored the US navy vessel sailing through the Taiwan Strait. We hope that the US side will properly deal with the relevant issue and play a constructive role in upholding regional peace and stability, instead of the contrary.

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