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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on March 9, 2022

2022-03-09 21:45

Global Times: The Chinese Embassy in Ukraine said on March 8 that the last group of Chinese students caught up in the war in Sumy were evacuated by bus. Can you confirm this?

Zhao Lijian: I noticed the exclusive report in the Global Times yesterday. Thanks to joint efforts by various parties, more than a hundred Chinese students in the Sumy region have safely evacuated from risk-prone areas. So far, the overwhelming majority of Chinese citizens in Ukraine have evacuated. I once again remind the few remaining in Ukraine to stay safe, strengthen precautions and preparations, and keep in touch with the Chinese Embassy and the Consulate General. Our diplomatic and consular missions will continue to provide consular protection and assistance.

CCTV: Since the situation in Ukraine changed, there has been a shortage of supplies in the country. I wonder if China has provided humanitarian assistance to Ukraine?

Zhao Lijian: The Red Cross Society of China has released information. At the request of the Ukrainian side, the Red Cross Society of China will provide a batch of humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society worth five million yuan consisting of food, daily necessities and other supplies. The first shipment has left Beijing on March 9 and will be delivered to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society in an appropriate manner as soon as possible.

Phoenix TV: According to reports, US President Joe Biden announced a ban on oil, gas and other energy imports from Russia on March 8, and the European Commission published plans to cut EU dependency on Russian gas by two-thirds this year and gradually reduce its reliance on Russian supplies of the fuel. The UK announced it would phase out oil imports from Russia by the end of 2022. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: China firmly reject unilateral sanctions that have no basis in international law. The willful wielding of the big stick of sanctions can never guarantee peace and security, but will only bring serious difficulties to the economy and people’s livelihood of relevant countries, lead to a lose-lose situation and further escalate division and confrontation. China and Russia always maintain sound energy cooperation and will continue to conduct normal trade cooperation including on gas and oil in the spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. 

AFP: President Xi Jinping used the word “war” in his call with his French and German counterparts yesterday when describing the situation in Ukraine. Does that mean that the foreign ministry is changing its assessment of the situation on the ground?

Zhao Lijian: China’s position on the Ukraine issue is consistent and clear and remains unchanged.

Beijing Daily: As athletes from around the world compete and excel themselves during the ongoing Winter Paralympics in Beijing, a certain foreign media outlet has accused China of screening athletes for the Games. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: China is committed to hosting two equally splendid Winter Games. Athletes from all countries, the International Paralympic Committee and the international community have all spoken highly of the Beijing Paralympics for its organization, services and thoughtful attention to persons with disabilities. The Games conveys a message of confidence, fraternity and hope to the whole world. The negative report you mentioned deliberately smears China in disregard of all these plain facts, which shows disrespect for the Paralympic Movement and Chinese athletes participating in the Paralympics. Such tricks will get nowhere.

China’s State Council Information Office released a white paper titled “China’s Parasports: Progress and the Protection of Rights” a few days ago. Parasports is making rapid progress in China. The courage, tenacity and resilience that disabled people show in pushing limits and forging ahead have inspired the whole nation. This demonstrates China’s institutional strength in promoting programs for the disabled. It is a vivid illustration of the progress in China’s human rights cause and also contributes to the flourishing international cause for persons with disabilities.

As we speak, athletes are still competing in the Beijing Paralympics. I would also like to thank all journalists for your comprehensive coverage of the Beijing Winter Paralympics with your pen and camera. Let’s focus on the games and the sports themselves and root for the athletes who persevere against all odds and never give up.

Anadolu Agency: Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov will meet on Thursday on the margins of Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkey. Does China plan to support or join in any facilitation effort between warring sides?

Zhao Lijian: China’s position on the Ukraine issue is consistent and clear-cut. We hope relevant parties can step up efforts to promote peace talks, ease tensions and promote a peaceful settlement of the Ukraine issue at an early date.

AFP: The UN human rights chief has announced a visit to China in May including to Xinjiang. An agreement is set to include unfettered access to a broad range of people. Could we get further details about plans for the trip and how to organize this plan to ensure the unfettered excess mentioned? 

Zhao Lijian: China welcomes Ms. Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to visit China in May and take a trip to Xinjiang. The two sides are having consultations on the specific arrangements. We will provide convenience for the visit.

China’s position on relevant visit is consistent and clear. The purpose of such visit is to promote bilateral exchanges and cooperation. We always oppose certain countries’ political manipulation of this matter. As for the specific question you raised, Ms. Bachelet has already made a clear statement at the Human Rights Council, and you may refer to that.

Macau Monthly: Global Times recently revealed that the two New York Times articles about China’s so-called prior knowledge of Russia’s military operation against Ukraine were both made-to-order. And the director behind all this is an US official. What is your comment?

Zhao Lijian: Lately, the US has been disseminating disinformation about China on the Ukraine issue, with the attempt to shift blame, stoke confrontation and profit from the issue. The practice is despicable and malicious.

The ins and outs of how the Ukraine issue has evolved to what it is today are very clear. The moves by the US-led NATO have pushed the Russia-Ukraine tension to the breaking point. While looking away from its own responsibility, the US criticizes China’s position on Ukraine to seek space for the plot of simultaneously suppressing China and Russia, with a view to maintaining its hegemony. The more it racks its brains to discredit China with lies and hype things up, the more it exposes its credibility deficit to the international community.

TASS: White House spokesperson Jen Psaki warned that if China “does not comply” with sanctions imposed by Western countries against Russia because of Ukraine, then this could lead to “retaliatory steps” from the United States. Do you have any comments on this statement? 

Zhao Lijian: Sanctions are never the fundamental and effective way to solve problems. China firmly opposes any form of unilateral sanctions or long-arm jurisdiction by the US. When dealing with the Ukraine issue and the relationship with Russia, the US should take seriously China’s concerns and not undermine China’s rights and interests in any way. China will take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies and individuals.

AFP:Norway’s sovereign wealth fund will sell off its stake in Chinese brand Li Ning over suspicions of forced labor used in the Xinjiang region. Norway central bank said in a statement that the brand was singled out due to unacceptable risk that the company contributes to serious human rights violations. Does the ministry have any comments on this?

Zhao Lijian: Hmm, interesting. Forced labor? China has stressed many times that the accusation of so-called forced labor in Xinjiang is a preposterous lie invented by anti-China forces and has no factual basis. We hope relevant parties can distinguish right from wrong and will not be deceived by lies so as to avoid unnecessary losses to their own interests.

Bloomberg: Chinese President Xi Jinping told French President Macron and German Chancellor Scholz in a video call that China is willing to coordinate with the two nations and Europe over the crisis in Ukraine. Does the foreign ministry have any information on what this coordination entails? Does this mean China will mediate between Russia and Ukraine? The second question is about Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has asked China to consider restructuring its debt repayment during a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Is China planning to provide debt relief?

Zhao Lijian: On your first question, yesterday, President Xi Jinping had a virtual summit with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The Chinese elaborated on its position on the situation in Ukraine, commended the mediation efforts by France and Germany on Ukraine and expressed readiness to stay in communication and coordination with France, Germany and Europe and play an active role together with the international community in light of the needs of the parties involved. China has been playing a constructive role in promoting peace talks. We will continue to stay in close communication with all parties.

On your second question, since the establishment of diplomatic ties, China and Sri Lanka have shown mutual understanding and rendered each other support. China has been providing assistance for Sri Lanka’s socioeconomic development as its capability allows, and will continue to do so going forward. With the efforts and solidarity of the Sri Lankan government and people, the country is believed to overcome the temporary difficulties soon and embrace even greater development.

AFP: Regarding cyber security issues, the French cyber security watchdog has warned about ongoing attacks against French organizations by a China-linked hacking group APT-31. Separately, a cyber security company has also said that at least six US state government networks have been targeted by Chinese hacking group APT-41. Do you have comments on either of these incidents?

Zhao Lijian: We have reiterated on many occasions that the Chinese government firmly opposes and cracks down on all forms of hacking in accordance with the law. China will never encourage, support or connive at such attacks.

Not long ago, Beijing-based Qi An Pangu Lab and 360 released a series of reports, which found that hackers affiliated to the US National Security Agency (NSA) carried out malicious cyber activities in nearly 50 countries and regions around the world, including China, for more than a decade. Such activities have gravely endangered the security of China’s key infrastructure, a large amount of personal data and commercial and technological secrets, and seriously undermined China-US mutual trust in cyberspace. The US side has yet to give any explanation. At the same time, the US continues to spread disinformation about China through various means to divert the attention of the international community. This trick of a thief crying “stop thief” will not succeed.

Prasar Bharati: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at his annual press conference on Monday said that China India relations have encountered some setbacks in recent years which don’t serve the fundamental interests of two countries and the two peoples. He also said, India and China should be partners for mutual success rather than adversaries. In this regard, I have two questions. First, can you share some details as to what steps China is taking to enhance mutual trust and resolve these setbacks between India and China? My second question is, can you give us some details as to what steps China is taking to increase people-to-people exchanges between India and China, which has technically stopped for more than one and a half year now?

Zhao Lijian: State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi already made clear China’s position on developing China-India relations at a press conference on the margins of this year's two sessions. China and India boast broad common interests and huge potential for cooperation, and have historical missions of improving livelihood and accelerating development. The two countries should be partners for mutual success instead of adversaries of mutual attrition. 

We always believe that the China-India relations are mature and multi-dimensional. The border issue doesn’t represent the whole of the China-India relations and should be put in an appropriate position in bilateral relations and under effective control. We hope India will work with China to continuously enhance mutual trust, strengthen practical cooperation, and ensure that the bilateral relations will move forward along the right track, bring more benefits to the two peoples and make greater contributions to the region and beyond. 

As for the border issue, I would like to announce that as agreed by both sides, the Chinese and Indian military will hold the 15th round of China-India Corps Commander Level Meeting on March 11.

On January 12, the 14th round of China-India Corps Commander Level Meeting was held, where the two sides had a candid, in-depth exchange of views the relevant issues about the west section of the China-India boundary and issued a joint press release. We hope this round of meeting, on the basis of previous meetings, can move forward, further enlarge consensus, narrow differences and work for a solution that is acceptable to both parties.

As for the people-to-people exchange between China and India you asked, since the coronavirus is still raging, on the basis of keeping up pandemic prevention and control, China and India can do more to promote people-to-people exchange and solidify ties between the two sides, either through video call and virtual diplomacy, or in a face-to-face manner when the pandemic situation permits.

Reuters: Today, Andrew Shearer, Director General of Australia’s Office of National Intelligence, described China’s strategic partnership with Russia as “troubling”. What is the foreign ministry’s response?

Zhao Lijian: I haven’t seen the reports. If he did say so, I think that would be met with strong opposition from China and Russia. He’d better spend his time on focusing on Australia’s own business and how the US, the UK and Australia have advanced the nuclear submarine cooperation under AUKUS in a high-profile manner in disregard of their non-proliferation obligations and the universal opposition from regional countries and the international community. This is the real trouble in this region.

Prasar Bharati: Can you please elaborate a little bit on that part of your answer where you said virtual diplomacy and face-to-face interactions? What do you mean by face-to-face interaction, including through what means?

Zhao Lijian: I just made clear China’s position. The foreign ministries, line departments and embassies and consulates of the two countries, as well as Indian journalists present here, all have the responsibility to promote people-to-people and cultural exchanges. Be it online or offline, it’s a very meaningful and rewarding thing to do.

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