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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on March 29, 2021

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine will jointly hold the "Forum on Traditional Chinese Medicine and International Cooperation to Fight Against COVID-19 Pandemic" in Beijing on March 30. Vice Premier Sun Chunlan of the State Council will address the event via videoconference.

CCTV: Could you offer more information on the "Forum on Traditional Chinese Medicine and International Cooperation to Fight Against COVID-19 Pandemic", which, as you just announced, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan will address virtually?

Zhao Lijian: After COVID-19 broke out, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been playing an active role in the global fight. Many countries have drawn upon and applied it in their anti-epidemic efforts, making TCM a highlight in China's solution to prevent and contain the pandemic. With a view to deepening exchange and cooperation in this area and to fostering a community of health for all, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine will jointly hold the "Forum on Traditional Chinese Medicine and International Cooperation to Fight Against COVID-19 Pandemic" under the theme of "Deepen TCM Exchanges and Cooperation, Build a Global Community of Health for All". Political leaders, senior health officials and experts from more than 20 countries and regions including Zimbabwe and Ukraine will have in-depth exchanges through video link. Going forward, China stands ready to advance international cooperation in fighting COVID-19 and protecting the life and health of people all over the world.

The Paper: State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday signed a plan for China-Iran comprehensive cooperation with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif during his visit to Iran. Do you have more details on this agreement?

Zhao Lijian: In January 2016, China and Iran issued a joint statement on establishing comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries and agreed to sign a plan for comprehensive cooperation. Through communication and consultations, the two sides reached agreement on the content of the comprehensive plan recently. On March 27, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi signed the plan for comprehensive cooperation with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during his official visit to Iran upon invitation. The plan focuses on tapping the potentials in economic and cultural cooperation and charting course for long-term cooperation. It neither includes any quantitative, specific contracts and goals nor targets any third party, and will provide a general framework for China-Iran cooperation going forward.

AFP: I just have a follow-up question on this China-Iran deal. Can you tell us if there will be any total amount on how much China is planning to invest in Iran?

Zhao Lijian: I just talked about the content of the cooperation plan and I have no further detail to offer.

Shenzhen TV: After the Chinese people initiated a boycott against foreign companies that refuse to use Xinjiang cotton, a US State Department spokesperson said this is "state-led" and condemned it, while the White House Press Secretary said that China is using private companies' dependence on its markets to stifle free expression. I wonder if you have any comments on these remarks?

Zhao Lijian: I've taken note of the news. Some in the US are not only stigmatizing Xinjiang cotton in an attempt to undermine the interests of cotton growers in the region and China's overall economic interests, but also trying to pit the Chinese people against the government. How venomous!

As we've repeated so many times, there is no forced labor in Xinjiang. Cotton-picking is highly-paid work. Pickers all sign labor contracts with planters voluntarily through consultation on an equal footing. There is no need whatsoever for "forced labor".

Besides, according to data from Xinjiang's agricultural sector, 70% of all cotton were harvested mechanically instead of manually in 2020. I've also got to know about an APP through which planters can order mechanical cotton-pickers, a true symbol of the Internet+ era in cotton harvest. And yet, a handful of countries and individuals are still weaving stories about "forced labor". Do they mean "forced machinery labor"?

I noticed the statement released by the BCI representative office in Shanghai which said that "Since 2012, the Xinjiang project site has performed second-party credibility audits and third-party verifications over the years, and has never found a single case related to incidents of forced labor." We cannot help but wonder, since no case of forced labor was found, how was the conclusion of "forced labor" reached? Why not show your evidence?!

Some accuse the Chinese government of fanning nationalism and calling for a boycott. Certain foreign brands refuse to use Xinjiang cotton based merely on lies. This negative act itself is more than enough to trigger opposition and indignation among the public. There is no need whatsoever for any "state-led" campaign. The smears and rumors inspire patriotism better than anything.

The US falsely implies that the Chinese government is engaging in backstage manipulation. This reminds me of the video my colleague played here last week, showing remarks by Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell and retired US Army Colonel, at the Ron Paul Institute in August 2018. It exposed the shocking conspiracy of the US and the West on Xinjiang, which is to destabilize Xinjiang and contain China's development. The cotton smears are just part of the bigger plot.

Coming back to Xinjiang cotton, I'd like to stress the importance of respect in doing business. Certain retailers want to smear and attack China and hurt Chinese interests while making profits in the Chinese market. They should know better than to bite the hand that feeds them. There is no way to get away with this. The Chinese market is always open. We welcome foreign companies to operate and invest in China with a sound business environment. We hope they will comply with laws and regulations, refuse to be weaponized by certain political forces, and refrain from testing public opinion in China.

Bloomberg: My question is about the upcoming WHO report. Top Biden administration officials on Sunday expressed concern about the WHO report, which is examining the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and said the Chinese side should be more transparent. Speaking to the CNN, Secretary of State Blinken said the US had real concerns about the methodology and the process of the report, including that the Chinese government "helped to write it". What's the foreign ministry's comment on Mr. Blinken's statement on the WHO report?

Zhao Lijian: We never accept the groundless accusations and wanton denigration on the epidemic issue by the US side.

As we have said many times, China was the first to report the epidemic to the World Health Organization, and China released key information such as the gene sequence of the novel coronavirus, and the diagnosis, treatment and prevention and control plans at the earliest time possible. The first suspicious case was reported to local authorities in Wuhan on December 27, 2019. On January 3, 2020, the Chinese side began to inform the US about the epidemic and its prevention and control measures on a regular basis. Since then, the Chinese side has kept the US informed and the two sides have maintained close communication. The US side is well aware of this.

As for origin-tracing studies, the China-WHO joint mission visited nine institutions or sites during their trip for joint research, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology. They had exchanges with medical staff, researchers, recovered patients, families of deceased medical staff, ordinary people, etc. These arrangements were all made at the request of the joint mission. The Chinese side also presented item by item raw data of particular concern. The WHO and international experts gave positive comments on the joint research, stressing a level of openness they hadn't anticipated. The drafting of the origin-tracing report has been carried out between experts from both China and WHO, and conclusions have been reached through repeated research in a science-based way.

I cannot help but ask, when will the US be as open and transparent as China on the epidemic and origin-tracing issues? When will the WHO experts be invited to the United States for a visit on origin-tracing? When will Fort Detrick be opened for international experts to visit, investigate or study? Is the US side making constant barrage of accusations in order to exert pressure on the members of the joint mission? Could the US side please ask the experts the Chinese government "helped to write" which part of the report? How can anyone call the Chinese government's facilitation of origin-tracing research behind-the-scene manipulation?

NHK: First, over 100 protesters were killed in Myanmar the day before yesterday. The UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar called on Myanmar's military to stop killing civilians. Do you have any comment? Second, Palau's President arrived in Taiwan for a visit yesterday and he is supposed to meet with Tsai Ing-wen. What's your response?

Zhao Lijian: On your first question, we are concerned about the situation in Myanmar. As we have said on many occasions, we hope all parties in Myanmar can keep calm, exercise restraint, and take actions with a constructive attitude to deescalate and cool down the situation. Violence and bloodshed serve no one's interests, and it is the people of Myanmar who suffer. We hope that all parties will bear in mind the fundamental interests of the people of Myanmar, continue to exert efforts to ease tensions through dialogue and consultation, address disputes and differences within the constitutional and legal framework, and continue to push forward the process of democratic transition in the country.

On your second question, we noticed that US Ambassador to Palau is also among the delegation members. I want to stress that the one-China principle is a universally recognized norm for international relations and a common consensus recognized, accepted and practiced by the vast majority of countries in the world. Following the one-China principle is the overriding trend with popular support. The Taiwan question is the most important and sensitive issue in China-US relations. The one-China principle is the political foundation of China-US relations. China firmly opposes any form of official interactions between the US and Taiwan. This position is consistent and clear. We urge the US side to fully recognize that the Taiwan question is highly sensitive, and that it should abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués. It must stop any official interaction with Taiwan, refrain from sending any wrong signals to Taiwan independent forces, stop any attempt to cross the bottom line, and properly handle Taiwan-related issues with prudence, lest it should damage China-US relations as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Associated Press of Pakistan: Last week, President of Pakistan in his speech delivered at the National Day military parade said that "China is our closest and friendliest country". I wonder if you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: China warmly congratulates Pakistan on the 82nd Pakistan Day, and believes that the Pakistani government and people will make steady progress on the path of national development and rejuvenation.

China has noted and highly appreciates President Arif Alvi's positive comments on China-Pakistan relations in his speech delivered on the occasion of the Pakistan Day military parade. China also cherishes its all-weather strategic cooperative partnership with Pakistan. We are ready to take the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic ties as an opportunity to work together in the fight against COVID-19, carry forward our traditional friendship, deepen all-round cooperation, and build an even closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future for the new era.

President Alvi also stressed in his speech that Pakistan will focus on development, and remain committed to peaceful coexistence with the outside world. He called on world leaders, especially South Asian leaders, to discard hatred, prejudice and religious extremism, and jointly safeguard regional peace and prosperity. To pursue peace and development is the shared aspiration of all countries in the region. China supports Pakistan's foreign policy of peace and good-neighborliness as well as it commitment to advancing the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. China is happy to see Pakistan's recent positive interactions with India. We are ready to work with Pakistan, and continue to inject positive energy into regional peace, stability and development.

AFP: Got a question on Xinjiang. Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, said this weekend the UN is holding negotiations with China for UN visit in Xinjiang. He said this visit should be without restrictions. Can you confirm the negotiations? Is China ready to welcome the UN without restrictions in Xinjiang, or do you think there should be conditions or restrictions?

Zhao Lijian: I've noted the report. I want to point out that the door of Xinjiang is always open. We welcome the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to Xinjiang. China has extended invitation long ago to the UN High Commissioner for a visit to Xinjiang and other places in China, and the two sides have been in communication. The purpose of the visit is to promote exchanges and cooperation between the two sides, rather than to conduct the so-called "investigation" based on presumption of guilt. At the same time, we oppose political manipulation to pressure China on this matter.

Follow-up: You mean the UN Secretary-General want to do political manipulation in China? Is that what you mean?

Zhao Lijian: That is your understanding. Some Western countries have been using the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to Xinjiang to engage in political manipulation and put pressure on China. China welcomes anyone free of prejudice against China to visit Xinjiang, but firmly opposes the so-called "investigation" based on presumption of guilt.

Bloomberg: A question about Myanmar again. Over the weekend, there were reports that Myanmar was striking against ethnic Karen rebels. What's your response?

Zhao Lijian: I've already made China's position very clear on the Myanmar issue. I have nothing more to add.

AFP: I got a question on the UAE and vaccines. According to local media reports, the Chinese vaccine producer Sinopharm will produce COVID-19 vaccines in the UAE. Can you confirm that?

Zhao Lijian: As you know, Sinopharm has cooperated with the United Arab Emirates in phase III clinical trials. They work very closely together on vaccine research and development. As for the specific information you mentioned, please check with Sinopharm, but I would not be surprised if they had such a plan.

Bloomberg: A question on Japan. The Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is under pressure to join other major democracies in imposing sanctions on China over human rights violations. This is coming as he prepares for his first face-to-face summit with the US President Joe Biden. In particular, some in Suga's ruling party are calling for him to take a more radical line ahead of the G7 summit in the UK. What's the foreign ministry's comment on pressure on the Japanese Prime Minister to consider imposing sanctions on China over human rights issues?

Zhao Lijian: I'm not aware of what you mentioned. But China has stated its solemn position and taken countermeasures in response to the imposition of unilateral sanctions by the US and its small handful of western allies on Chinese individuals and entity based on lies and disinformation. We hope the Japanese side will act in a prudent manner, and refrain from joining the US in attacking China just because it is a US ally. It is not in Japan's interest to do so.

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