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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying's Regular Press Conference on April 3, 2020
2020-04-03

CCTV: Samuel Brownback, the US State Department's Ambassador at large for international religious freedom, said at a briefing on April 2 that China continues to have a number of people imprisoned for their faith, including a million Muslims. He said that those should all be released in this time of pandemic. What is China's comment?

Hua Chunying: Mr. Brownback is also an expert in rumor-mongering. His claim that China has imprisoned a large number of people for their religious beliefs, including a million Muslims in Xinjiang, is totally out of thin air and could not be farther from the truth.

Through hard work, the Chinese people have achieved positive results in the fight against the pandemic, effectively safeguarded the health and safety of all Chinese people, including those who follow Islam, and made important contributions to global public health security. This is universally acknowledged, but a handful of US politicians, such as Mr.Brownback, are simply unwilling or afraid to face up to the fact.

The Chinese government protects its citizens' freedom of religious belief in accordance with law, and Chinese people of all ethnic groups enjoy full freedom of religious belief. There is no such thing as "religious prisoners" in China, let alone "a million Muslims from Xinjiang in detention". Meanwhile, as a country under the rule of law, China will never allow anyone to engage in illegal and criminal activities in the name of religion. At present, China has nearly 200 million religious believers, of whom more than 20 million are Muslims. There are more than 380,000 clerical personnel, some 5,500 religious organizations and more than 140,000 venues for religious activities registered according to law. Xinjiang now has 24,400 mosques, one for every 530 Muslims. A few American and western politicians can repeat their lies a thousand times but it's impossible to alter these facts.

Pandemics are a common challenge to mankind, regardless of national boundaries or ethnic groups. Only by working together can countries stand a chance to win the war. We urge Mr. Brownback and his like to stop manipulating political issues under the pretext of the pandemic, stop smearing China and undermining the cooperation between China and the US in fighting the pandemic, and instead focus on responding to the situation in the US and rescuing American lives.

Beijing Media Network: There have been some latest developments in Afghan. Technical teams from the government and Taliban held discussions on the release of prisoners in Kabul and made some progress. The government released a list of participants for intra-Afghan talks, which has got the consent from major parties in Afghanistan but not the Taliban. UN Secretary-General Guterres called for a global ceasefire to focus on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. This is generally believed to apply to the Afghan issue as well. What's your comment?

Hua Chunying: China welcomes the meaningful and fruitful dialogues between the Afghan government and the Taliban. We note the consensus among various parties in Afghanistan on the formation of the negotiating team as well as the Taliban's reservations. We hope all important items in the US-Taliban peace agreement can be steadily implemented, including withdrawal of troops, reduction of violence, release of prisoners and intra-Afghan negotiations.

China firmly supports the broad and inclusive peace and reconciliation process that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. We support all efforts towards a political settlement of the Afghan issue. We call on all parties in Afghanistan to put the country and people first, respond to Secretary-General Guterres' initiative and the aspiration of the international community, and cease conflict and confrontation. We hope they will start intra-Afghan talks at an early date, resolve differences through dialogue and consultation, make proper political and security arrangement for the future, and work together for peace and stability in the country.

China stands ready to join relevant sides and the international community to continue playing a constructive role in promoting the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

CNN: More reports have emerged recently on Chinese media about foreigners in China violating local regulations on epidemic control. Statistically speaking, before China announced an entry suspension for foreigners holding valid Chinese visa and residence permit, 90% of those coming to China are Chinese citizens. What I gathered from my interviews is that most foreigners who came here during this period have been following China's rules. There are concerns that China's control measures are increasingly targeting foreigners. What is your comment? Will there be immunity for foreign diplomats? Also, some places in China including Beijing have seen discrimination against foreigners, such as services refusing to receive them. Is the foreign ministry aware and coordinating with other departments to address this?

Hua Chunying: At present, China is faced with the arduous task of "preventing imported cases from abroad and resurgence at home". Given the current worldwide spread of the pandemic, experts all suggest minimizing non-essential travel to prevent the risk of cross-infection both for public health safety and personal health. This is also the advice of WHO and a prevention measure commonly adopted by all countries.

Everyone is equal before the virus. Diplomats have immunity due to their posts, but the virus does not know that. You said that after international flights were cut down, most of those returned are Chinese. But our information is that there have been confirmed cases among the foreign diplomats who returned to China. In the past week or so, of the 84 foreign diplomats who have returned to China through 12 entry points, 66 percent were traced as close contacts. Relevant departments and local governments including the Beijing Municipal Government have recently rolled out strict quarantine measures upon entry, which pose some inconvenience to returning foreign diplomats. Therefore, taking into account the need of the current prevention and control situation and the safety of foreign diplomatic and consular personnel in China, we suggest that all diplomatic missions suspend for the time being personnel returns or rotations. This is purely for epidemic prevention and control. No need to read too much into it.

These prevention and control measures taken at all levels are applied equally to Chinese and foreign citizens. These measures will not be enforced more strictly or loosely just because foreign citizens are in question. This is to ensure the safety of all. I believe that the majority of foreign citizens in China, the diplomatic community in particular, will understand and cooperate.

Beijing Daily: An open letter to the US people from 100 Chinese scholars was published in The Diplomat on April 2, which calls for global solidarity and cooperation to defeat COVID-19, a common enemy of humanity. The scholars wrote that the effort to overcome both the virus and its impact will be nothing short of a long-term and arduous global war, and countries should be working together, not complaining, finger pointing, and blaming one another. Do you have any comment on the open letter?

Hua Chunying: I noted many positive responses to this letter from foreign leaders. I retweeted this open letter myself.

Like it said, the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. China, like other countries affected, is a victim of the virus. All countries must uphold solidarity and cooperation to achieve the final victory and protect the life and health of all people across the globe. We hope for and welcome more such rational, calm and positive voices at this moment, especially from the US side.

China Daily: According to the Bureau of International Information Programs, which is part of the US State Department, many Chinese state-run news outlets work to spread Chinese Communist Party propaganda around the world, and that was the conclusion of Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo when he ordered the State Department to limit the number of Chinese employees that five Chinese media outlets could have in the United States. It also said the Party aims to control China's population and influence media narratives around the world. I wonder if you have any response to that?

Hua Chunying: The US State Department is just trying to find some excuses for discriminating against and expelling 60 Chinese journalists, and attempting to drive a wedge between the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people.

Since the very day when China and the US established diplomatic relations 41 years ago, the US has been well aware that China is a socialist country under the leadership of the CPC. It is extremely unfair and non-sensible to impose restrictions on Chinese journalists and deliberately make things difficult for them just because they come from a socialist country led by the CPC. China doesn't put any US professional news media in a different category due to its partisan leaning. For example, we don't say CNN is a professional one because it's at odds with the ruling party, and we don't say Fox News is not real media because it's amity with the Republicans. We make our judgments based on whether they can make fair, fact-based and accurate reports, not their political or ideological preferences. The US shouldn't wantonly oppress Chinese media out of ideological bias.

Due to its wedge-driving behaviors, the US has triggered indignation among all Chinese people. It is under the leadership of the CPC that the Chinese people achieved independence, freedom and liberation, made enormous progress in national development, and pulled over 800 million people out of poverty. Faced with the horrific spread of COVID-19, the CPC and the Chinese government put people's life and health as the first priority and left no patients behind. All those infected got free testing and treatment at the earliest time possible. Our arduous efforts yielded remarkable results within two months, and the life and health of all 1.4 billion Chinese people has been protected to the highest extent possible. As the CPC has been dedicated to wholeheartedly serving the people, its domestic support rate has remained on top of public opinion polls conducted by well known companies for many consecutive years.

The year 2021 will mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC. There are now over 90 million CPC members, which is about 27 percent, more than a quarter of the total US population. Such a large number of Party members, together with their family, relatives and friends, constitute inseparable ties between the Party and the people. The CPC comes from the people and serves the people. Certain US politicians, including some in the State Department, are just wasting their time and energy to try to drive a wedge between the CPC and the Chinese people. Here's a piece of kind advice: in light of the current situation, why not focus on domestic problems first?

Xinhua News Agency: Some in the Western countries say China is turning the COVID-19 pandemic into a geopolitical weapon to raise its influence. I wonder if you have any comment?

Hua Chunying: This pandemic is indeed a war that caught us by surprise. When fighting an intense battle, does anyone think of how much prize they will get after the war? The most important thing is doing your best and racing against time to achieve the final victory. In China, we are doing our best to protect people's life and health at the minimal cost possible, while contributing as much as we can to other countries affected.

We would like to share China's good practice and experience with other countries, but we will not turn it into any kind of geopolitical weapon or tool. Besides, leadership is not gained by boasting or jostling. China would like to contribute our experience and ideas to global public health security and governance, which is something we should do as a responsible major country.

RIA Novosti: The Chinese government donated 25.5 tons of supplies to Russia including surgical masks and protective suits, which arrived in Moscow on April 2. Can you offer more details? A photo from the Wechat account of the Chinese embassy in Russia showed a Russian plane carrying the supplies. Could you confirm and share more on China-Russia cooperation in fighting the pandemic?

Hua Chunying: First I'd like to thank Russian journalists and their media agencies, who have been widely and accurately covering the Chinese government's effective epidemic response with professionalism and dedication. This is also an embodiment of the friendship between the Chinese people and the Russian people.

As comprehensive strategic partners of coordination, China and Russia have always rendered each other understanding and support. We will not forget how the Russian government and people first brought to us much-needed medical supplies in our most trying days. I remember seeing Chinese media reports on the special plane from Russia leaving without a word after unloading 23 tons of hardcore medical supplies. Yesterday China sent over 25.5 tons of supplies, which as you mentioned, arrived in Moscow yesterday. I have seen some photos showing the words "the virus shall be defeated and victory will be ours" on the packages.

Anyone interested in history will remember how the Russians won the famous Battle of Moscow in 1941 during World War II. There is a saying by the Soviet Red Army to the effect that "we cannot retreat, because Moscow is just behind us". In the face of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Chinese government has never retreated, because behind it is the safety and health of 1.4 billion Chinese people. With arduous efforts, we have won our "Battle of Moscow". As Secretary-General Guterres said, "COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations". The international community needs solidarity, cooperation, trust and science. These are our weapons to win the unprecedented "Battle of Moscow" against the virus. China stands ready to work with Russia to further enhance bilateral and global coordination and facilitate the UN and WHO's work to overcome the pandemic as soon as possible. I am convinced that victory will be ours. Mankind will triumph.

As to other forms of cooperation between China and Russia beside the assistance I mentioned, the Russian side also purchased a batch of supplies from China the other day. We will continue to offer convenience and facilitation to future Russian procurement of medical supplies.

AFP: Some French officials accused the US of hijacking face masks from China intended for France. They say masks that France ordered from China were bought by the US as the masks waited to be loaded into planes in China. Does China have any detail on this incident?

Hua Chunying: I'm sorry I'm not aware of the specifics. I'll leave that to the US side if you want confirmation and details.

However, after seeing relevant reports, I just wish the Chinese manufacturers could have greater capacity to make enough masks that satisfy all countries' demand. In fact, they have been working around the clock to provide supplies for all countries, and we will continue making all-out efforts in this regard.

The Paper: US Republican Senators Cotton and Hawley introduced a bill named after Li Wenliang, which allows President Trump to revoke visas for foreign government officials who "deliberately conceal or distort" information about a public health emergency. Some also suggested President Trump award the Medal of Freedom to Li Wenliang. What's your comment?

Hua Chunying: I really cannot understand how these lawmakers were elected because they have been doing everything but fulfilling their own duties. If they were in China, the people would long have called for their removal from office.

Late Dr. Li Wenliang was awarded the title of "advanced individual" for COVID-19 prevention and control in the national health sector, and identified as one of the 14 martyrs who fought on the frontline of epidemic containment in Hubei Province. These US politicians' political manipulation of Dr. Li Wenliang's passing, driven by vicious intentions, is utter disrespect of and insult on Dr. Li and his family with total indifference to morality.

Today I read a long article published by the Brookings Institution that combs through the timeline of the US administration's coronavirus response this year. Besides, I also talked about this topic at my press conference yesterday. If those US politicians truly care for so-called concealment of public health emergencies, I suggest they read that article carefully.

As to some people's suggestion about conferring medals, I just said Dr. Li Wenliang has already been honored as a martyr posthumously. The Chinese people will mourn and remember him and all other medical workers who gave their lives for the people. They are our heroes and will not be forgotten.

For these few people in the US, why not suggest awarding Dr. Helen Y. Chu who sounded the alarm on the epidemic in the US back in January, or Dr. McCarthy who pleaded to health authorities to test suspected cases, or Deboroh Burger, president of National Nurses United, who called for testing and protection for nurses? I also saw a report saying Capt. Brett Crozier, now the former commanding officer of aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, was dismissed for calling for disembarking the crew on board. I don't know if it is true or not, but I think he was saving sailors' lives. By American values, he should be hailed as a hero instead of being punished, right?

Beijing Youth Daily: US Secretary of State Pompeo said in a recent press conference that the US contribution to WHO's global anti-pandemic response is far larger than that of China. Can you comment on that?

Hua Chunying: I took a similar question the other day. I find it interesting that Secretary Pompeo counted the US contribution since 1948. He said the US contribution to the global anti-pandemic response is far larger than that of China. Well, we don't want to compete at all. I'm not sure of the real situation when it comes to US assistance, but I read some news reports saying the US is withdrawing foreign assistance already on the way. I wonder if that's true? As my colleague said before, Secretary Pompeo and the US government announced $100 million anti-epidemic aid to China and other countries, but we haven't received a cent from them. The US Agency for International Development once said it would provide assistance to China, but it didn't materialize. We were only notified on March 11 that the supplies were ready. Considering the progress in China's epidemic response by then and the fast spread of the pandemic around the world, China told the US side that we no longer need the supplies and asked it to deliver them to countries in more urgent need. We haven't heard of what happened to them afterwards.

Indeed, some US localities and businesses extended a helping hand to China in our most difficult period. Now as the US is facing a severe situation at home, many Chinese companies and localities have been offering assistance to the American people. The two peoples have shown mutual understanding and support in this joint fight against the pandemic.

By the way, I have been wondering, has the US paid its overdue contributions to the UN and WHO yet?

China News Service: According to reports, a Canadian government official said recently that China will allow some Canadian canola seed exports to continue, provided shipments contained less than 1% foreign material such as straw or chaff. There are also reports saying that China has agreed to resume imports of Canadian canola seeds. What is your comment?

Hua Chunying: Actually this is not a question for the foreign ministry. But noting online reports, we checked with the competent Chinese authorities and found them to be false information.

In March 2019, after repeated detection of hazardous organisms in Canadian canola seed imports, China suspended the export qualifications of two Canadian canola businesses whose quality problems were serious. So far, the Chinese side has not received any investigation results or rectification measures by the Canadian side.

On the issue of impurity rate in Canadian canola seed imports, the relevant memorandum signed by the competent authorities of China and Canada has expired on March 31, 2020. In order to prevent the introduction of harmful organisms, the Chinese side has decided not to extend the above memorandum. Based on the existing quarantine requirements, it is decided that canola seeds from Canada with the amount of foreign material exceeding 1 per cent of the shipment will not be allowed to enter China. The Canadian side should take comprehensive quarantine measures to cut off at the source the spread of harmful organisms along with canola seed imports.

Shenzhen TV: Taiwan decides to donate 2 million masks to the US. In response, a spokesperson for the State Department said that "Taiwan is not just a democratic success story, but a true friend in times of need, for which the American people are deeply grateful." What is your comment?

Hua Chunying: I have noted the heated exchanges between the US and Taiwan in recent days. It seems that the US has really let its standard fall, as 2 million masks are enough to make Taiwan a model of democracy and a "true friend". I have noticed that Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation donated 1 million masks and 500,000 testing kits to the US. And Huawei, a Chinese company targeted by unwarranted US suppression, is making generous donations to the American people. It appears on a list of appreciated donors released by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Some provinces, cities and enterprises in China have also extended a helping hand to the American people, and the US has purchased a fairly large amount of medical supplies from China. How will the US comment on this?

It goes without saying that we should all help each other out during his extraordinary period with the spreading pandemic. However, if someone attempts to take advantage of and politicize the situation to undermine China's core interests, they'd better think twice.

Reuters: Are China and the US having talks about allowing Taiwan greater access to WHO and on if China will permit Taiwan to attend the World Health Assembly as an observer this year?

Hua Chunying: The US government and the Taiwan region are fully aware that WHO members must be sovereign countries. According to arrangement between China and WHO, medical and health experts in the Taiwan region can, on the precondition of the one-China principle, participate in WHO's technical activities in their own capacity. With International Health Regulations (IHR) contact point in the Taiwan region, it has no problem at all in accessing WHO information on global public health emergencies, including notifications and cooperation on epidemics. I hope certain people will refrain from politicizing the pandemic.

The following questions were posed after the regular press conference:

Q: Martin Griffith, UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Yemen, said on April 2 that he was in regular contact with relevant parties on reaching agreements on a nationwide ceasefire, humanitarian measures and the resumption of the political process, aiming to foster joint efforts to counter the threat of COVID-19. Situation in Yemen has recently been escalated. Last Saturday the Houthis fired missiles at Saudi cities, including the capital Riyadh, which were intercepted by Saudi Arabia. I wonder if you could comment on that?

Hua Chunying: China supports political settlement of the Yemen issue and opposes any action targeting civilians or escalating tensions. We support the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Yemen in making mediating efforts, and we hope all sides concerned will continue attaching importance to the interests of the country and people, de-escalating the tensions through dialogue and negotiation, and advancing the political settlement process, so that the peace, stability and normal order of Yemen can be restored as soon as possible. It will also help Yemen and regional countries better fight the spreading COVID-19.

Q: It is reported that on the early morning of April 2, a Vietnamese fishing boat sank after colliding with a Chinese Coast Guard vessel in waters off the Xisha Islands. Can you confirm this? What is China's comment?

Hua Chunying: On the early morning of April 2, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel, during a routine patrol, spotted a Vietnamese fishing boat illegally fishing in the internal waters off China's Xisha islands and immediately called out to it to leave. The Vietnamese boat refused to leave and suddenly veered sharply towards the Chinese vessel. Despite its best efforts to keep clear, the Coast Guard vessel was struck at the bow. The Vietnamese fishing boat then took in water and sank. The Chinese Coast Guard vessel immediately carried out a rescue operation, and all eight Vietnamese fishermen were rescued without any injuries. The Chinese Coast Guard vessel let the fishermen go after fulfilling necessary investigation and evidence-collection procedures.

For some time, Vietnamese fishing boats have frequently entered the territorial sea and internal waters off China's Xisha islands and infringed upon the fishing rights of the Chinese side. They ignored and even took dangerous actions to resist China's law enforcement. The Chinese side has expressed its grave concern and deploring to the Vietnamese side over this, and demanded that the Vietnamese side earnestly inform its fishermen and regulate their fishing activities to make sure they will not invade the relevant waters of China's Xisha islands or make hazardous moves against China's law enforcement.

***

In observance of the Qingming Festival (Tomb-sweeping Day), our press conference will be halted for Monday, April 6 and resumed on Tuesday, April 7. You can still reach the spokesperson's office by fax, Wechat or email.

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