|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on April 17, 2020|
Xinhua News Agency: The spread of COVID-19 is prompting food insecurity fears again across the globe. Saudi Arabia proposed to hold an extraordinary virtual meeting of the G20 Agriculture Ministers on April 21. Who will represent China at the meeting? What is China's expectation for it?
Zhao Lijian: The Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit on COVID-19 on March 26 reached important consensus on enhancing global cooperation to cope with the pandemic and stabilize the global economy. China commends Saudi Arabia's proposal to hold an extraordinary virtual meeting of the G20 Agriculture Ministers to address food and agricultural security concerns against the backdrop of the spreading COVID-19. We have learned that Minister Han Changfu of Agriculture and Rural Affairs will attend the meeting.
China always attaches great importance to food security. We hope that this meeting will send out positive messages on making concerted efforts to counter the pandemic and maintain stability and security of the global food supply.
The Paper: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview on April 15 that, "What we do know is that this virus originated in Wuhan, China. We know there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was. There is still lots to learn. You should know that the United States government is working diligently to figure it out." I wonder if you have a comment?
Zhao Lijian: Just the other day some in the US accused China of failing to provide it with timely information on COVID-19. Now they are again hyping up the issue of origins, insinuating that the virus had something to do with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It's not difficult to see through their tricks which intend to muddy the waters, deflect attention and shift the blame to others.
As we've stated repeatedly, tracing the origins of the virus is a serious matter of science, where we need to heed and respect science-based and professional views.
China News Service: Russian President Vladimir Putin last night announced to postpone the celebrations for the 75th anniversary of the Victory Day on 9 May. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: China and Russia both emerged victorious from WWII. To that final victory, we both made significant contributions and tremendous sacrifices. China supports Russia in holding celebration activities for the 75th anniversary of the Victory Day and understands its decision to postpone the event.
China and Russia will continue to work with the international community to safeguard outcomes of the WWII victory, practice multilateralism and oppose attempts to distort history and whitewash aggression.
AFP: French president Emmanuel Macron criticized China's handling of the outbreak, saying there was no comparison between open societies and those where truth was suppressed. British foreign minister Raab also questioned China about the origin of the outbreak. Is China concerned by the criticism from Western countries? And what do you plan to do to address these problems?
Zhao Lijian: Major infectious diseases are the common enemies of all mankind. COVID-19 epidemic is still ravaging all over the world, posing a grave threat to people's safety and health. When people's lives are at stake, nothing matters more than saving lives. It is useless to argue over the merits of different social systems or models. The pressing task for all countries is to unite, fight and defeat it together.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the heads of state of China and France have spoken on the phone three times to express mutual support and condolences. They have commended each other's anti-epidemic efforts and reached important consensus on carrying out anti-epidemic cooperation and strengthening multilateral coordination at the UN and G20. As I recall clearly, in their phone call on February 18, President Macron expressed his admiration for China's vigorous measures and open and transparent cooperation with other countries, and stressed that China's effective efforts should be recognized by the international community. In their phone call on March 23, President Macron reiterated the above position, hailed the tremendous courage of the Chinese government and people and the decisive measures they have taken, which led to effective containment of the outbreak within a short span of time, and expressed thanks for China's support and assistance to France.
Recently, leaders and foreign ministers of China and the UK have held phone calls on anti-epidemic cooperation. During the call, the British side highly appreciated China's comprehensive and forceful measures, timely sharing of information with the international community and efforts to prevent the spread of the epidemic in the world. Foreign Secretary Raab made it clear that he did not agree with the politicization of the outbreak, calling it irresponsible. The international community should build consensus and strengthen cooperation. Prime Minister Boris Johnson wishes to visit China at the earliest time possible after the pandemic passes to move forward bilateral relations.
In the era of economic globalization, there will naturally be more conventional and unconventional security threats. Solidarity and cooperation is the most powerful weapon to defeat the epidemic. I would like to reiterate that China is ready to work with the international community, including France and the UK, to uphold multilateralism, strengthen solidarity and cooperation and jointly safeguard the health and safety of all mankind.
China Review News: According to reports, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on April 16 in an interview that he finds it difficult to believe information from the Chinese Communist Party. "They have been misleading us and opaque from the early days of this virus." What's your comment?
Zhao Lijian: As we stated time and again, since the epidemic broke out, China has taken the most comprehensive, thorough and rigorous measures in an open, transparent and responsible manner and made efforts to stem the spread of the epidemic and proactively conducted international cooperation on COVID-19.
If the US side was misled or didn't get sufficient information in the early days of the outbreak, why did the US CDC issue a warning about COVID-19 on January 15? Why did the US announce on January 25 that it would close its Consulate-General in Wuhan and withdraw its personnel? Why did it close the border to all Chinese citizens and foreigners who had been in China for the past 14 days on February 2?
Smear and stigmatization can never cover up the truth and blame-shifting will not make oneself immune to the virus. Unity and cooperation is the only right way forward. We urge the US to stop political manipulation, get its own house in order and focus more on fighting the epidemic and boosting the economy.
CNR: Nigerian foreign minister reportedly spoke positively about China's progress in fighting COVID-19 to the press and expressed appreciation for the measures China has taken to properly address issues concerning African citizens in Guangzhou. Could you comment on this and update us on China-Africa anti-epidemic cooperation?
Zhao Lijian: When meeting with the press recently, Nigerian foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama commended China's epidemic response, thanked China for its support for Nigeria, called on the Nigerian people to take an objective and rational view on the situation of some African nationals in Guangdong, and made some clarifications. We have noted that many African foreign ministers, ambassadors to China, and consuls-general in Guangzhou have shown understanding to Guangdong's anti-epidemic measures, acknowledged China's prompt action to address concerns raised by the African side, and asked their nationals to comply with local anti-epidemic rules.
China and Africa are a community with a shared future through thick and thin. At the critical moments in our battle against the virus, African brothers offered us strong support. Now we are closely following the spread of the epidemic in Africa. The two medical teams sent by the Chinese government to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso have both arrived yesterday. Going forward, we will send out more medical experts to Africa and provide urgently-needed medical supplies to the best of our ability in support of Africa's epidemic response efforts. We are convinced that the China-Africa friendship will be further cemented as we work hand in hand to overcome the virus.
CRI: China and Andean states recently held a video conference to exchange experience on COVID-19 prevention and control. Could you share more information about it?
Zhao Lijian: Thanks for your question.
On the night of April 13 Beijing time, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Hubei Provincial authorities held a video conference with Andean states to share experience on COVID-19 prevention, control and treatment. Over 50 delegates attended the conference, including officials from foreign affairs, science and technology and health ministries and medical experts from China, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia. The over 1.5-hour-long meeting produced good results. Chinese experts from the Tongji Hospital of Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology and Hubei Center for Disease Control and Prevention held in-depth exchange with their Andean counterparts over such issues as containment measures, diagnostic solutions and clinical treatment.
The foreign delegates spoke highly of China's anti-epidemic measures and expressed appreciation to the Chinese medical workers for their thorough experience-sharing. They said the exchange session provided meaningful reference and experience and would help their countries achieve an early victory.
The merciless virus brings out the warmth of humanity. With the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, the Chinese government will continue to share experience through various means with the world including Latin American countries, provide technical assistance to those in need and strengthen global pandemic response to safeguard the life and health of all.
AFP: There are suspicions that the new coronavirus came from Wuhan. Would China accept a visit from the WHO officials to investigate the authenticity of epidemic-related figures and the origin of the virus?
Zhao Lijian: Regarding the authenticity of the data, this morning, Wuhan municipality reported the revised number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
There are clear provisions in Chinese laws concerning the release and revision of information on infectious diseases. As the COVID-19 situation is by and large brought under control, to make sure that open, transparent and accurate information is released, the Wuhan Municipal Command for COVID-19 response has set up a big data and epidemiological task force, and conducted detailed and case-by-case statistical investigation and verification to revise the number of confirmed cases and fatalities.
Data revision in the case of highly infectious diseases is a common international practice. At the early stage of an epidemic, a small number of medical facilities might be saddled with a flood of new cases and might not promptly link up with the information system for disease prevention and control. And, medical workers at some facilities might be preoccupied with saving lives that there existed delayed reporting, under-reporting or misreporting. But there has never been any cover-up; nor was a cover-up ever allowed. In fact, as we have noticed, data revision has been conducted in some other countries and regions.
What I want to stress is that life and health are the most basic needs and commonest aspirations of the people. Behind the epidemic data are people's lives and health, as well as the government's credibility. The timely revision of the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and fatalities by Wuhan municipality is conducive to safeguarding the rights and interests of the people and science-based decision-making in the prevention and control of the epidemic. It is also a response to social concerns and shows respect for every life. The data released by Wuhan municipality precisely reflects an open, transparent and realistic attitude, and observance of the principle of being responsible to history, to our people and to the lives lost to the virus.
On the issue of the origin of the virus, China has expounded its position on many occasions.
Beijing Daily: Ron Nirenberg, Chairman of Sister Cities International, issued a statement the other day, calling on sister cities around the world to strengthen cooperation to jointly tackle COVID-19. He particularly mentioned the US-China sister cities anti-epidemic cooperation and expressed appreciation. What is China's comment?
Zhao Lijian: We have taken note of the above-mentioned statement and welcome it.
There are 277 pairs of sister provinces, states and cities between China and the United States acting as important bridges to promote the development of China-US relations and sub-national exchanges and cooperation between the two sides. When the epidemic situation was severe in China, many American businesses, civil groups and people rushed to help. With the spread of the epidemic in the United States, all parts of China have also provided prevention materials to the US to support the American people's efforts against the epidemic. Medical and health experts from the two sides have exchanged anti-epidemic experience and treatment plans. Chinese and American sister provinces and cities such as Shandong Province and Texas, Guangzhou City and Los Angeles have held video conferences on epidemic prevention cooperation.
The outbreak once again shows that we all live in a community of shared future. We are ready to continue to work with the international community, including the US, to strengthen cooperation to jointly meet challenges and safeguard the health and well-being of people in all countries and global public health security.
Bloomberg: In a report we noted that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to let Huawei Technologies help build the UK's 5G mobile network is under threat from mounting opposition to the Chinese company in his ruling Conservative Party. We are wondering if you have any comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: We note relevant reports and hope the UK will stay committed to free trade and openness, maintain policy independence and ensure an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies. This will help keep up Chinese enterprises' confidence and expectations in the UK market.
AFP: Some western diplomats from the United States, France and other countries have recently criticized China for using the outbreak to exert "influence" on the WHO and others, accusing China of only considering its own interests rather than those of international organizations and the international community. What is China's comment?
Zhao Lijian: This is totally smear and rumor-mongering against China.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the UN, WHO and other international organizations have made efforts to mobilize the international community to strengthen policy coordination and increase resource input, especially to help developing countries with weak public health systems to prepare for and respond to the outbreak. As the most authoritative and professional international organization in the field of global public health security, WHO has actively fulfilled its duties with objective, science-based and fair position, and played an important coordinating and leading role in assisting countries respond to the outbreak and boost international cooperation on COVID-19. It has been well recognized and commended by the international community. The G20 held a special summit on COVID-19 and reached important consensus on jointly combating the pandemic and stabilizing the world economy, sending a positive signal to the world.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that the international community should work together to fight the epidemic. We hope all parties of the international community can take concrete actions to uphold multilateralism, strengthen and improve the global governance system with the UN as the core, support WHO's leading role in global anti-pandemic cooperation, support the G20's role in communication and coordination, strengthen anti-pandemic assistance and cooperation, and jointly build a community of health for all.