Q: Last Friday, the Intermediate People's Court of Chengdu sentenced to death two people for the killing of Akong Rinpoche who was a British citizen and a Tibetan monk. Does the Chinese government believe that this was a politically motivated crime? What access did British diplomats get during the court process?
A: I will come back to you after getting more information on the specific case you mentioned. The principle is that Chinese courts handle cases in accordance with the law. Within the framework of the Chinese law, we grant foreign citizens with due consular protection and guarantee the right of foreign consular missions in China to pay proper consular visits.
Q: Peace talks between the government and the opposition of Syria started the other day in Geneva. However, the two sides are yet to have substantial contact and narrow their sharp difference on issues concerning humanitarian access and release of prisoners. What is China's comment on the state and prospect of peace talks?
A: We are glad that the talks finally started. It is a hard-won opportunity which we hope could lead to positive results and alleviate tensions in Syria.
UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura launched peace talks between the government and the opposition of Syria in Geneva. Thanks to the joint efforts of the international community for the political settlement of the Syrian issue, the two sides are able to come back to the negotiation table two years after the Geneva II Conference on Syria in January 2014. The Chinese side hereby expresses its welcome.
The purpose of peace talks is to defuse conflict and narrow difference. Although it may take quite a long time and even suffer setbacks, it remains the only realistic approach to resolving the Syrian issue and can produce the most sustainable results. We hope that the two parties to the talks would take one step at a time, strive for common ground while reserving difference, take part in peace talks with no preconditions attached and explore a solution that suits best the conditions in Syria and the fundamental interests of the Syrian people. In the meantime, conflicting parties in Syria should create conditions for the success of peace talks by adopting confidence building measures, such as to stop besieging civilian areas and open up humanitarian access. All relevant parties of the international community, especially major countries in the region, should help advance peace talks. The Chinese side will continue to promote peace talks and work with all parties for the political settlement of the Syrian issue.
Q: Special Representative of the Chinese Government on the Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei held talks with Sung Kim, Special Representative for North Korea Policy of the US Department of State in Beijing on January 29. Can you give us more details about their talks?
A: Since the DPRK conducted the fourth nuclear test in defiance of the international community, the Chinese side has been in close contact with relevant parties. As you have said, Special Representative of the Chinese Government on the Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei held talks with Sung Kim, Special Representative for North Korea Policy of the US Department of State last week. We will release further information on their talks in a timely fashion, if there is any.
Q: What is China's comment on the spread of Zika virus in Latin American countries? Will China cooperate with Latin America for epidemic prevention? Will China provide Latin America with assistance?
A: Cases of people infected with Zika virus have been reported in several countries in America. Cases of imported Zika virus infections have also been found in Europe, Asia and Oceania. Relevant departments of China are following closely the development of the epidemic as well as efforts by relevant countries and regions to prevent and control it. We have asked Chinese citizens about to travel abroad and those already in epidemic affected areas to keep an eye on the development of the epidemic and the alert issued by relevant countries, and take necessary measures for epidemic prevention. Cooperation between China and Latin American and Caribbean countries in the field of public health is based on a sound foundation. The Chinese side supports Latin America's anti-epidemic efforts and stands ready to cooperate with Latin America and provide them with assistance as capacity allows.
Q: Spokesperson of the US Defense Department said on January 30 that the US navy vessel transited in "innocent passage" within 12 nautical miles of Zhongjian Dao. This "freedom of navigation" operation was about challenging excessive maritime claims that restrict the rights and freedoms of the US and others, not about territorial claims to land features. What is China's comment on that?
A: First, I want to make it clear that China has indisputable sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea and their adjacent waters.
On January 30, the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur violated the Chinese law and entered territorial waters of China's Xisha Islands without authorization. Chinese troops stationed on the islands, naval ships and airplanes made an immediate response, conducted identification and verification against the US navy vessel and warned it to leave.
I want to point out that the so-called "freedom of navigation plan" or "freedom of navigation operation" that the US has been advertising all these years does not conform to the well-recognized international law. It is conducted in disregard of sovereign security and maritime rights and interests of coastal states, causing severe damage to regional peace and stability. It is, in essence, the pursuit of maritime hegemony by the US under the cloak of "freedom of navigation" which has been met with firm opposition from members of the international community, developing countries in particular. It is highly dangerous and irresponsible for the US to do so.
China always respects and supports the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea to which all countries are entitled under international law. But we are firmly opposed to any country's attempt to undermine China's sovereignty, security and maritime rights and interests citing the freedom of navigation as an excuse. The flexing of military muscles and creating of tension by the US under the pretext of the freedom of navigation is the biggest cause of militarization in the South China Sea. We advise the US to stop as soon as possible the action that brings good to none.