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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on June 17, 2021

Shenzhen TV: At 9:22 this morning, the crewed Shenzhou-12 spaceship successfully blasted off to dock with the space station's core module Tianhe, marking the start of an era of Chinese astronauts staying in space for extended periods of time. The international community is following this very closely. Do you have a comment?

Zhao Lijian: This morning, Shenzhou-12 was lifted from the ground and soared into the skies. I witnessed this historical and exciting moment on TV like many of you.

The last Shenzhou spaceflight was made five years ago. This launch is the seventh time Chinese astronauts knock on the door to the vast universe. It is also the first crewed mission since China's manned spaceflight entered the phase of space station construction. Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, the three astronauts on board, will be the first visitors to the Chinese space station's core module Tianhe. They will stay in orbit for three months, conducting extravehicular activities, in-orbit maintenance, scientific experiment and technical tests, among others.

In the past 18 years since the first manned mission was made with Shenzhou-5 in 2003, China's manned space missions have been making constant progress, from allowing one astronaut to stay in orbit for one day only to multiple astronauts for multiple days, from working in the capsule to spacewalk, from short-term stay to medium-term stay. Every step forward embodies the courage and perseverance of astronauts in pursuing the space dream and marks China's contribution to mankind's peaceful uses of space.

Exploring the universe is the shared dream of mankind. The Chinese government is committed to peaceful use of outer space and has conducted extensive cooperation and communication with relevant countries in the manned space sector in line with the principles of "peaceful use, equality, mutual benefit and common development". Entering the phase of space station construction, China will continue to engage in international cooperation and exchanges at wider scope and deeper level, and make Chinese space station a space lab that can deliver benefits to mankind. We hope that Chinese and foreign astronauts can visit Tiangong together in the near future.

Bloomberg News: A question about President Joe Biden's nominee to be assistant secretary of defense for the Indo-Pacific region. Ely Ratner said that the US should be "combat-credible" to help deter and stop potential Chinese aggression. What's the foreign ministry's comment?

Zhao Lijian: It bears repeating that some in the US have habitually hyped up the so-called "China threat" and taken China as an imaginary enemy in an attempt to justify their attempt to increase military might and spending and seek regional and global hegemony. It has been seen through by people around the world. The US should discard the Cold-War mentality, view China's development in a rational and objective way and play a constructive role in safeguarding regional and global peace and stability.

China Review News: Some on the US side have continued to hype up the so-called "lab leak" in Wuhan. Shi Zhengli, a researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, again refuted such false accusations in an interview with the New York Times on June 14. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: Researcher Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, denounced the "lab leak theory" as baseless in the interview on June 14. I want to stress that in March, the WHO released the origin-tracing study report of the China-WHO joint mission, drawing a clear conclusion that lab leak is extremely unlikely. The report was co-authored by more than 30 top global experts in various fields. It is widely representative and highly professional. Regrettably, some in the US have chosen to ignore the report, and have been hyping up the "lab leak theory" and politicizing the origin-tracing issue. This constitutes an affront to WHO-led origin-tracing study, a serious travesty of scientists and the spirit of science, and a major damage to the solidarity of the international community in the fight against the epidemic. If the US is truly transparent and responsible, it should be as open as China and immediately invite international experts to Fort Detrick and other places in the US to conduct a detailed investigation.

Dr. Ju Liya, who gained her PhD in immunology at the Pasteur Institute in France, said in a recent interview that origin tracing is not to make far-fetched connections, but about rigorous scientific research. The genome sequence of COVID-19 was first identified by Chinese scientists, but that does not mean Wuhan is the source of the coronavirus, nor can it be inferred that the coronavirus was made by Chinese scientists. If those that first publish high-quality viral genomes were to be accused of making the virus, then professor Luc Montagnier, who first discovered Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) would be considered the culprit of AIDS rather than awarded the Nobel Prize, and Mr. Louis Pasteur, who discovered microbes, would be held accountable for the disease-causing bacteria all around the globe. By analogy, the team in Wuhan should be awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for their research on COVID-19, instead of being criticized.

Since last year, the WIV has given in-depth interviews to media outlets including foreign media like Reuters, Science and NBC, and repeatedly said the coronavirus was not man-made or leaked from a lab. Shi Zhengli sharply pointed out that the origin-tracing has been politicized by the West, and asked emphatically that "How on earth can I offer up evidence for something where there is no evidence? I don't know how the world has come to this, constantly pouring filth on an innocent scientist?"

RIA Novosti: The President of Russia and the President of the US held talks in Geneva. They didn't reach much agreement, but they agreed to launch a new Strategic Stability Dialogue between the two countries to lessen the dangers of conflict and nuclear wars. And this time the US did not mention China. I wonder if the foreign ministry has any comment?

Zhao Lijian: China welcomes the agreement reached between the US and Russia on engaging in a bilateral dialogue on strategic stability. As countries with the largest nuclear arsenals, Russia and the US should follow relevant UNGA instruments and international consensus, fulfill their special and primary responsibilities in nuclear disarmament, and further substantively slash their nuclear stockpile in a verifiable, irreversible and legally-binding way to create conditions for the ultimate comprehensive and complete nuclear disarmament. This is the most effective way to uphold global strategic stability and promote international peace and security.

We also noted that the heads of state of both sides reaffirmed the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. China has been working to bring the five nuclear weapon states to reaffirm this principle so as to reduce the risk of nuclear war and safeguard global strategic stability.

China always actively supports international efforts in nuclear arms control, and will continue to hold discussions on a broad range of issues bearing on strategic stability with relevant parties within such frameworks as the cooperation mechanism of the five nuclear weapon states, Conference on Disarmament, and the UNGA First Committee. We also stand ready to have bilateral dialogue with relevant sides with mutual respect and on an equal footing.

China Daily: The remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were found at the site of a former residential school for indigenous Indian children. Special Rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council urged the Canadian side to launch full investigations in a joint statement. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: The recent discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous Canadian children at the site of a former Indian residential school is heartbreaking. Experts from the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council have issued a joint statement on this, including Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation of children, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. They urged the Canadian side to launch full-fledged investigations and said that justice and full reparation must be urgently pursued. They added that the Canadian judiciary should conduct criminal investigations into all suspicious deaths and allegations of torture and sexual violence against children hosted in residential schools, and prosecute and sanction the perpetrators and concealers who may still be alive.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admitted the discovery was not an isolated incident. The investigations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada found that over 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly separated from their families and sent to the so-called "boarding schools". They were forced to convert to Christianity or Catholicism, speak English or French, adopt customs of the white people and completely disconnected from their faith, native language and customs. These children, malnutritional and unattended, even suffered from physical and sexual abuse. Some pointed out that what happened at the schools was akin to "cultural genocide". It is particularly distressing that the commission ultimately determined that at least 3,200 children died at the residential schools, but reports said the actual number far exceeded that. Many were buried nearby on school grounds because the government didn't want to pay to carry the bodies elsewhere. The discovery of the remains of 215 children is the latest evidence to the heinous crime.

Instead of lecturing others on human rights in a condescending manner and pointing fingers citing rumors and lies, Canada should learn lessons from its past, show deep remorse, take a hard look at and probe into its own poor domestic human rights record, and offer a sincere apology to the victims and their families.

Bloomberg News: Regulators in the US are poised to ban products from Huawei and other Chinese companies. This would mean that sales would be forbidden for specific equipment in the US by these companies. Does the foreign ministry have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: We noticed that the relevant companies have already responded to this. We've repeatedly elaborated on our position on the relevant issue. Till this day, some people in the US are still stretching the concept of national security and abusing state power to crack down on certain country and companies without providing any proof. This typical and unveiled economic and technological bullying is a flagrant denial of market economy principles that US claims to champion.

The US should immediately stop abusing national security and exerting unjustified suppression on certain Chinese companies, and create a fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for the normal operation of Chinese companies in the US. China will continue to support relevant companies in upholding their legitimate rights and interests in accordance with law.

Xinhua News Agency: The 410 members of the 19th batch of Chinese peacekeeping force to Lebanon were awarded the United Nations peacekeeping medal on June 16. Can you brief us on the situation?

Zhao Lijian: On the morning of June 16, the medal-awarding ceremony of the 19th batch of Chinese peacekeeping force to Lebanon was held at the Chinese troops' camp in southern Lebanon. All 410 peacekeepers were conferred the medal.

Over 200 people including Head of Mission and Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Major General Stefano Del Col, Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon Qian Minjian, representative of the commander of the southern command of the Lebanese government forces and Chinese peacekeepers attended the ceremony. In his remarks, Del Col expressed appreciation to Chinese peacekeepers for their dedication, saying that their excellent capabilities and noble humanitarian spirit stand as an epitome of China and the Chinese military.

China is an active participant of and important contributor to UN peacekeeping operations. China is the second largest contributor to UN peacekeeping assessments. We have dispatched a total of over 40,000 peacekeepers, more than any other permanent member of the Security Council. Chinese peacekeepers abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, act in strict accordance with their mandates, faithfully fulfill their peacekeeping missions, and make important contributions to safeguarding world peace and promoting common development. At a time when COVID-19 is intertwined with threats such as regional hotspots, ethnic conflicts and terrorism, the role and significance of UN peacekeeping operations are further highlighted. China will continue to work closely with the international community to enhance the efficacy and efficiency of UN peacekeeping operations and play a bigger role in safeguarding international peace and security.

CCTV: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Senate Committee on Appropriations the other day that China had failed to fulfil its basic responsibility of transparency and information sharing in terms of virus origin-tracing, and that WHO was lagging behind in its research because it didn't get good cooperation from China. What is China's comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: Relevant remarks from the US side is utterly groundless. Facts speak for themselves. Soon after the COVID-19 outbreak, China reported the situation to the WHO and published the genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus at the first opportunity available. China put in place the strictest, professional and efficient information release system to provide authoritative information in a timely manner, carried out epidemic-related technical exchanges and shared information with more than 180 countries and over 10 international and regional organizations.

China has been cooperating with the WHO in virus origin-tracing study in an open and transparent manner, and has invited WHO experts in twice. China did a lot of administrative, technical, logistic and supporting work for the joint study. China offered the joint mission every convenience, arranged a rich itinerary with many site visits, and presented item by item raw data of particular concern. Many experts on the joint mission spoke highly of China, saying that they were granted full access to every place they asked to see, everyone they wanted to meet.

Regrettably, some in the US, in disregard of the preliminary results of the WHO-led origin-tracing study, repeatedly spread false information that target China with presumption of guilt. Their intention is to deflect attention from their botched epidemic response, and shift the blame to others before the American people hold them accountable for their reckless actions. Their political manipulation can neither fool the world nor cover up the truth, and is doomed to fail.

A lot of people are wondering: How come the US, a country equipped with the world's most advanced medical technology, is reduced to one with the highest number of COVID-19 infection cases and death tolls, and no US politician is held accountable? What is the role of the coronavirus in the respiratory diseases of unknown causes in Northern Virginia in July 2019 and large-scale EVALI outbreaks in Wisconsin? How does the US explain the NIH study result that shows the coronavirus was present in the US as far back as December 2019? Why does the US remain reticent on Fort Detrick and its 200 plus biological laboratories around the world? Why does the US want its intelligence service, not scientists, to study the origin of the virus? Why doesn't the US follow China's example, and invite WHO experts to the US for origin-tracing study with an open, transparent and science-based attitude?

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