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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on May 20, 2020
2020-05-20

CCTV: The 73rd WHA adopted the EU-proposed resolution on COVID-19 response. Do you have any comment? Why did China co-sponsor this resolution?

Zhao Lijian: On May 19, the 73rd WHA adopted the resolution on COVID-19 response by consensus. China welcomes that.

The resolution unequivocally affirms and supports WHO's leading role and calls on member states to prevent discrimination and stigmatization, combat misinformation and disinformation, strengthen cooperation on the research on diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines, and the zoonotic source of the virus and evaluate the work of WHO at the appropriate moment. All these are in line with China's position and meet the shared aspiration of the overwhelming majority of the international community. In light of this, China is, along with other more than 140 countries, a co-sponsor of the above-mentioned draft resolution and joined the consensus.

On tracing the source of the virus, the resolution basically follows the recommendations issued under the International Health Regulations upon the advice of the Emergency Committee for COVID-19 on May 1, strictly restricting the relevant research to identifying the zoonotic source of the virus, intermediate hosts and the route of introduction to the human population, to enhance preparedness of the international community in the future. This is also a recommendation made by Director-General Tedros. Indeed, certain countries proposed to prioritize tracing the source of virus in the consultations, but the overwhelming majority of countries believed the most pressing concern is epidemic prevention and control. They didn't agree to make tracing the source of virus a priority and rejected such wording, which proves that politicization of this issue gains no support.

On the evaluation of WHO response, the resolution decides that the evaluation should be initiated by the Director-General in consultation with member states to review experience gained and make recommendations for future work. The WHO previously made evaluation on its H1N1 flu and Ebola responses, a customary practice for the organization after a major epidemic. The resolution asks for a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation. These four words - stepwise, impartial, independent and comprehensive - are very important as they indicate that the evaluation shall not be monopolized by a handful of countries.

China hopes this resolution adopted by WHA will be followed through upon in a comprehensive and accurate manner.

The rumor that China was "forced" to co-sponsor the proposal, as falsely claimed by certain media, is totally nonsense. As a matter of fact, China, along with the majority of countries, firmly thwarted the attempt of a few countries to politicize the origin tracing and the evaluation of COVID-19 response, and secured an impartial and objective resolution. Under such circumstances, we took the initiative to be a co-sponsor. We advise a few countries to stop fabricating lies in an attempt to seek excuse for its own failure.

Phoenix TV: First question, on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Pompeo sent a congratulatory message to Tsai Ing-wen on the commencement of her second term. He called her "Taiwan's President" and acclaimed Taiwan as a "force for good" and a reliable "partner". This is the first time in decades for a US secretary of state to publicly congratulate the leader of the Taiwan region on starting a new term. I wonder what is China's response? Second question, Tsai Ing-wen said in her inaugural speech that over the next four years, Taiwan will "continue to fight for its participation in international organizations", "participate more actively in regional cooperation mechanisms", and "make concrete contributions to peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region". She also stressed that Taiwan will play a more active role in the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region. I wonder what is your response?

Zhao Lijian: Regarding what you said in your first question, a foreign ministry statement was released.

On May 20, in his statement to congratulate Tsai Ing-wen's assumption of office as the leader of the Taiwan region, US Secretary of State Pompeo called her "Taiwan's President" and boasted about the "partnership" between the US and Taiwan. Some other US officials and politicians also sent congratulatory videos to Tsai. These practices by the US side are in serious violation of the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, and constitute grave interference in China's internal affairs. China deplores and condemns them.

There's only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. As the China-US Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations clearly stipulates, "The United States of America recognizes the Government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China. Within this context, the people of the United States will maintain cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan." The above-mentioned US practices seriously violate the one-China principle, the three China-US joint communiqués and the US government's own commitment. They have sent a wrong signal to the "Taiwan independence" separatist forces and gravely undermined the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as well as the bilateral relations between China and the US.

The Taiwan question concerns China's sovereignty, territorial integrity and core interests. The Chinese government and people are determined in opposing "Taiwan independence" separatist activities, upholding national sovereignty and territorial integrity, opposing external interference and realizing national reunification. We solemnly inform the US that "Taiwan independence" will only lead to a dead end, and attempts to condone and support "Taiwan independence" are doomed to fail. Practices that undermine China's core interests and intervene in China's domestic affairs will be met with forceful fightback, which will not to the slightest extent impede the historical trend of China's reunification. We urge the US to immediately correct its mistakes, abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, cut its official ties with Taiwan, and stop upgrading substantive relations with Taiwan, interfering in China's internal affairs and undermining the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as well as China-US bilateral relations.

China will take necessary measures in response to the US erroneous practices, and the consequences will be borne by the US side.

As for your second question, the spokesperson of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council stated our position on the statement made by the leader of the DPP authorities on May 20.

I'd like to stress that there's only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. The one-China principle is a basic norm governing international relations and a prevailing international trend. Attempts to create "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan" are doomed to fail.

The Paper: There have been some global responses to President Trump's letter to WHO Director-General Tedros. Canadian Prime Minister said that Canada will continue to support WHO. Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy at European Commission said that this is the time for solidarity, not the time for finger-pointing or undermining multilateral cooperation. The EU backs the WHO in its efforts to contain and mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak. Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN Office in Geneva said that there is nothing new in the US letter and they have a negative attitude to it. WHO is the organization that must coordinate interactions between the states in the sphere of healthcare at the international level, and now the priority is the fight against the coronavirus, so these attacks against the WHO are just inconsistent. What is your comment?

Zhao Lijian: I noted those responses you mentioned from all over the world. It is not difficult to see that the international community does not agree with the US fact-distorting and self-contradictory actions that aim to shift the blame and responsibility to others and undermine international cooperation on COVID-19 response. Those fallacies in the US leader's letter have been pointed out and cleared up by us many times. Here I just want to list some of its basic mistakes.

The letter said that "Taiwanese authorities had communicated information to the WHO indicating human-to-human transmission of a new virus". The fact is, the email sent from the Taiwan region to WHO on December 31 was mainly about requesting information from WHO, without any mention of "human-to-human transmission".

The letter said that on January 21, the Chinese leader pressured Director-General Tedros. This is pure fiction. As has been clarified by both China and WHO, the Chinese leader and Director-General Tedros didn't even have a phone call on January 21.

The letter criticized Director-General Tedros for praising China for its transparency and setting a new standard for outbreak control. The US side seems to have forgotten that its leader has publicly commended on China's outbreak response on many occasions. On January 25, President Trump tweeted that China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus, and the United States greatly appreciates its efforts and transparency. On March 13, President Trump told journalists that the data China shared was helpful for the U.S. efforts against the epidemic.

The list of US disinformation, lies and rumors goes on and on. There is simply not enough time for me to enumerate them all. But the public is a fair judge. The international community will determine the credibility of this letter.

Let us just revisit the timeline here. The US had only one confirmed case when Wuhan was put under lockdown on January 23. The US official tally for the confirmed cases was 11 when it closed its borders on February 2 to all Chinese citizens as well as foreigners who had been to China in the previous 14 days. The US had 1,264 cases when it declared national emergency on March 13. The number surpassed 10,000 on March 19 and 100,000 on March 27. When the lockdown in Wuhan was lifted on April 8, there were 400,000 confirmed cases in the US. Today, the US has more than 1.57 million confirmed cases and over 90,000 death tolls. We mourn for the lost lives and wish the US people will defeat the outbreak as early as possible. But for those US politicians spending all their time on political maneuvering, the responsibility is too heavy to shake off.

China upholds the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind and puts the people and their lives first. China takes it as its responsibility to ensure not just the life and health of its own citizens, but also global public health. We have taken the most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough measures, and every family and every citizen nationwide have been contributing their strength in this fight against COVID-19. After making painstaking efforts and enormous sacrifice, we have turned the tide. We have been acting with openness, transparency and responsibility, and providing epidemic updates to WHO and relevant countries including the US in a timely fashion. We shared the genome sequence at the earliest possible time. We shared control and treatment experience with the world without reservation. We have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need. On May 18, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech via videolink at the opening ceremony of the 73rd World Health Assembly and put forward important proposals and measures on international cooperation in response to COVID-19. China firmly supports WHO's leading role in the global response, because to support WHO is to support international cooperation and to support saving lives. Practices of unilateralism, selfishness, evading responsibility, and even coercing and intimidating WHO, are indifference toward lives, challenges to humanitarianism, and disruption of international cooperation on COVID-19 response.

The US should commit itself to securing an early victory against the virus instead of issuing an "ultimatum" to the very international organization spearheading the global response. We advise some US politicians reflect on their actions, stop political maneuvering and focus on saving more lives.

RIA Novosti: The United States imposed sanctions against a Chinese logistics company for providing services to Iran's Mahan Air. I wonder what's China's comment and if China will take any countermeasures against any American companies?

Zhao Lijian: China always stands against the US unilateral sanctions and the so-called long-arm jurisdiction. For a long time, members of the international community have been conducting mutually beneficial and friendly cooperation with Iran under the framework of international law, which is legal and legitimate, and thus should be respected and protected. China urges the US to immediately lift the illegal sanctions. We are firmly committed to safeguarding the legal rights and interests of Chinese companies.

I want to stress that at the crucial moment when the international community is mounting a joint fight against COVID-19, the US practice of unilateralism and maximum pressure runs counter to the concerted international efforts against the pandemic and seriously violates humanitarianism. We urge the US to instantly change its course and rectify its mistakes.

RIA Novosti: First question, Palestine decided to terminate all agreements with Israel and the United States amid the Israeli government's intentions to annex Palestinian lands. What is China's comment on this? Second, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has suggested that world leaders send video statements for the General Assembly September meeting because it is highly unlikely they will be able to travel to New York due to the coronavirus pandemic. What is China's position on this?

Zhao Lijian: Regarding your first question, there have been continued tensions between Palestine and Israel with the peace process in jeopardy. China is closely following that.

It is China's consistent position that any solution to this issue should be based on international consensus including relevant UN resolutions, the "two-state solution" and the principle of "land for peace". The views and propositions of Palestine, as a main party concerned, should be heard and respected. The international community should play a constructive role and create conditions for the two sides to reach agreement through equal-footed dialogue and negotiation for a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the Palestinian issue at an early date.

As to your second question, this year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, presenting an important opportunity for the international community to review the past, look into the future and consolidate consensus on multilateralism. Faced with COVID-19, the international community is expecting a greater role of the UN. China stands ready to work with other countries for the success of a high-level commemoration of the UN's 75th anniversary and the general debate of the UNGA's 75th session, and for upholding the UN-centered international system and the international order based on international law.

Bloomberg: President Donald Trump's economic adviser Larry Kudlow said nobody can invest confidently in Chinese companies and that the US needs to protect investors from the country's lack of transparency and accountability. We are wondering if you have a comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: In an era of globalization, the interests of all countries are closely intertwined. The formation and development of global industrial and supply chains are determined by market forces and companies' choices. As such, it is unrealistic and insensible to try to sever them, wish political forces would override economic law, or even trumpet "shifting" or "decoupling" theories. In the face of the pandemic, such practices will not help solve the domestic problems in the US. Instead, they will only cause more harm to the ordinary American people.

I'd like to stress again that no country is immune to this pandemic, and the international community needs solidarity and collaboration to tide over the difficulties together.

Reuters: There was a Bloomberg report citing sources saying that China will consider further retaliatory measures against Australia, including limiting extra products including dairy. Is there any truth to this report?

Zhao Lijian: Like we stressed repeatedly, China always adheres to mutual respect and equal-footed treatment while developing friendly relations with other countries. China champions seeking common ground while shelving differences and advocates win-win cooperation. We have never sought selfish gains at the expense of others. We hope Australia will work with us to create favorable conditions for practical cooperation with actions that are conducive to bilateral relations and mutual trust.

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