|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying's Regular Press Conference on March 31, 2020|
China Review News: Some officials in a handful of countries including the US have been trying to blame China for the pandemic outbreak, accusing China of covering up the actual caseload of the infected and disseminating disinformation on COVID-19. They also said that they will reckon with China after the pandemic passes. What is your response?
Hua Chunying: At present, COVID-19 is ravaging across the world, especially in Europe and the US. People of all countries have called for unity to fight the pandemic, but still some people have made jarring noises from time to time, quite discordant with the current atmosphere of unity against the pandemic. I want to stress a few points.
As the coronavirus is novel virus unseen in the past, its detection, research, testing and confirmation naturally requires time. According to reports, on December 27, 2019, Zhang Jixian, director of the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care at Hubei Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine, reported the first three suspected cases. On December 29, Hubei and Wuhan health committees instructed related centers for disease control and prevention and hospitals to carry out epidemiological investigation. On December 30 Wuhan Municipal Health Committee issued an "urgent notice on the treatment of pneumonia of unknown cause". On December 31, the NHC sent an expert group to Wuhan to investigate on site. On January 3, 2020, China started to send timely updates to WHO and other countries, including the US. On January 11, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention put online five whole genome sequences of the novel coronavirus and shared data with the world and WHO. On January 23, Wuhan was put under lockdown and unprecedented comprehensive, thorough and rigorous measures were taken. The Chinese government took decisive and strong measures at the earliest time possible and the Chinese people have been united as one in this fight against the pandemic, which ensured the life, safety and health of the Chinese people to the highest extent.
WHO estimates that the decisive, effective and timely measures taken by the Chinese government prevented the infection of tens of thousands of people. Many countries also think China's practice offers explicable precedence. Our open, transparent and responsible attitude has been highly acclaimed by the international community.
We have no intention to judge other countries' response to the pandemic. But while China set an example and bought precious time for the world with huge efforts and sacrifice, as WHO, foreign leaders, experts and media say, did a certain country make full use of the time to enhance preparedness? I think its government knows that very well, and its people can feel it too.
Since January 3 China has been notifying the US of epidemic-related information on a regular basis. On January 7, the US CDC and its embassy in China issued warnings on traveling to Wuhan. On January 25, the US announced the decision to close its consulate in Wuhan and withdraw all staff. On February 2, the US government banned entry of all Chinese nationals and foreigners who had been to China in the past 14 days. Now so many days have passed, and some in the US still claim China should be held responsible for the COVID-19 in the US. Don't they feel guilty or ashamed? They are trying to shift the biggest blame of the century to China and make it the biggest scapegoat. However, such an attempt is just impossible as the blame is too heavy to be shifted. Sorry, it won't work.
The pandemic is in some way like a magical mirror that exposes a person's morality and character to the fullest extent. The virus knows no ideology, border or race. The destinies of all countries are closely intertwined. No one can make up for lost time by slandering others or shifting the blame. The only way to defeat the virus is through solidarity and cooperation.
At the G20 virtual summit last week, President Xi put forward propositions on overcoming the difficulties hand in hand. Upholding the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, China would like to share our experience on COVID-19, conduct international cooperation, and provide as much help as we can to countries in need. That is what we say and what we do. We hope certain individuals will, like the CPC and the Chinese government, put people's life, health and safety first, abandon political bias and arrogance, and focus on international cooperation in pandemic response.
CCTV: In a recent interview, White House trade adviser Navarro accused China of a cover-up that has set the world back six weeks, saying China saw human-to-human transmission cases as early as mid-December. I wonder if you have any comment?
Hua Chunying: The lies told by this US politician are not worth refuting. I noticed that during that interview, even the host interrupted him several times and pointed out he was wasting everybody's time.
What is the truth? The truth is, since the epidemic broke out, we have always been open, transparent and responsible. We notified WHO and the international community of related information in a timely manner, shared genome sequencing findings of the virus at the earliest time possible, responded to other countries' concerns, conducted international cooperation and provided help to others. The sacrifice made by the Chinese people has bought valuable time for global anti-epidemic response.
Since the beginning of January, China has been sending regular updates to WHO and other countries, the US included. How can the US politician allege that China's delay set the world back six weeks? What is his intention? He just wanted to muddy the water, shift the blame and undermine China-US cooperation as well as global cooperation in fighting COVID-19. No one with a sense of justice will fall for his words.
We advise Mr. Navarro to try and grasp the gist of the phone call between Chinese and US presidents on March 27. He should stop smearing China and undermining China-US relations, and work to advance rather than harm the two peoples' interests.
Beijing Daily: The US State Department Spokesperson said yesterday that Secretary Pompeo spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and discussed the importance of countering efforts by China to spread disinformation and propaganda related to the virus. I wonder if you have a comment?
Hua Chunying: Since the epidemic broke out, China, in an open, transparent and responsible manner, has been providing timely updates to WHO and countries around the world including the US. We have also been doing our best to provide support and assistance to countries in need. All this has been widely applauded by the international community. Some US officials are accusing China of disinformation campaigns, I wonder if they could point out what information is not true? Were they referring to the effective containment China has achieved, or the assistance it has provided to other countries?
As to how the US has been dealing with this crisis, there has been abundant media coverage in the US and the American people have seen it with their own eyes. The Chinese people are following with concern the development of the situation and sincerely hope the US will overcome the epidemic as soon as possible to safeguard American people's health and safety.
After the outbreak, China has been racing against time to fight the virus and contain its spread. Even as we speak, many Chinese businesses are working around the clock to produce medical supplies and reinforce other countries' combat. We don't have the interest or the time to launch any despicable "disinformation campaign".
President Xi Jinping, upon invitation, held a telephone conversation with President Trump last Friday. The two heads of state agreed that under current circumstances, China and the US should stand united and fight COVID-19. The remarks you mentioned clearly run counter to the consensus of the two leaders. We hope they will focus on containing the spread of the virus at home and contribute to China-US cooperation in responding to the pandemic.
Kyodo: A Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer collided with a Chinese fishing boat in waters of the East China Sea on late March 30. Do you have more details on the incident?
Hua Chunying: According to competent department, there was a collision around 19:30 yesterday in the East China Sea, east of Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province, involving a Chinese fishing boat and a Japanese SDF vessel. The collision damaged the Chinese fishing boat and caused lower back injury in one fisherman. China Coast Guard is still dealing with this on site as we speak. The cause of the collision is under investigation.
I want to point out that the collision occurred in the coastal waters of China. The Chinese side has expressed concern to the Japanese side over the Japanese SDF warship sailing in the relevant waters and endangering the safety of the Chinese vessel.
We are in communication with the Japanese side over this and hope they will cooperate to determine the cause as soon as possible and prevent such incidents from happening again.
China Daily: As COVID-19 spreads all around the world, countries have an enormous need for N95 respirators and other medical supplies. Some people think China is hoarding medical products instead of assisting other countries. Do you have a comment on that?
Hua Chunying: That's not at all true.
China's fight against COVID-19 isn't over yet. We are under heavy pressure to guard against imported cases and a rebound in indigenous cases, and so there is a huge demand for medical supplies. It is the government's top priority to prevent and control the epidemic at home and safeguard people's health. Ensuring the health of 1.4 billion Chinese people is in itself a great contribution to global public health security.
That said, we are also providing medical supplies to countries in need. Here are some figures for you. First, the Chinese government has provided 120 countries and four international organizations with surgical masks, N95 respirators, protective suits, nucleic acid test kits, ventilators and other assistance.
Second, local governments donated medical items to their sister cities in more than 50 countries. Chinese companies made donations to over 100 countries and international organizations.
Third, some countries requested via diplomatic channels Chinese assistance in their commercial procurement, and we recommended qualified exporters for them. To date, 30 countries and two international organizations have signed purchase contracts with Chinese exporters on masks, protective suits, nucleic acid test kits, etc. Buyers from many other countries are also discussing procurement with Chinese enterprises.
As our businesses resume work and production, I believe they will give more material support to the international community. The Chinese government will continue providing support and convenience for foreign procurement. We hope to see and welcome greater cooperation with foreign companies to help stabilize the global industrial chain of medical supplies.
You mentioned there is now a great demand for N95 respirators in other countries, I think you all know that there is a shortage of them in China as well. We have been reserving them for frontline medical workers whose posts make them most vulnerable. The general public, including Chinese leaders, all wear ordinary masks, as I'm sure you've noticed in news footage.
China Radio International: According to reports, four Chinese students in Spain were confirmed to have contracted COVID-19. How has the Chinese embassy in Spain been helping them? How are these students now?
Hua Chunying: The CPC Central Committee attaches great importance to and cares deeply about the health and safety of Chinese citizens overseas. Our diplomatic missions overseas have been in close contact with the students in their host countries.
After four Chinese students were infected, our embassy in Spain and consulate-general in Barcelona have been closely following their conditions. They urged the Spanish side to ensure they are receiving all medical treatment they need, and also brought in Chinese doctors to offer advice online. We will continue to watch over them and offer every assistance possible.
RIA Novosti: US President Donald Trump said that China has sent some medical supplies to the US to help fight COVID-19. Can you confirm this information and share some more details?
Hua Chunying: As I just said, President Xi Jinping held a telephone conversation with President Trump last Friday. President Xi said that the Chinese people sincerely hope that the US will contain the spread of the pandemic at an early date and minimize its impact on the American people. Under the current circumstances, China and the US should unite in the fight against the virus. Health departments and epidemic experts of the two sides have all along been in communication. Last night, Minister Ma Xiaowei of China's National Health Commission and US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar spoke over the phone to exchange ideas on the two countries' pandemic prevention and control efforts. Some provinces and cities and local businesses have already donated medical supplies to the US side. We have noted that some US media have reported that a commercial charter flight has taken a batch of epidemic control materials it purchased from China to the US. China understands the current difficulties the US is facing and stands ready to offer support within our capability.
We also hope that some US officials will act in accordance with the consensus reached between the two heads of state by phone and work to create enabling conditions for the two sides' joint fight against the pandemic.