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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on December 21, 2021

Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng will hold the ninth high-level strategic dialogue between the foreign ministries of China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) with First Vice Foreign Minister of the ROK Choi Jong Kun in Beijing through video link on December 23. The two sides will have an in-depth exchange of views on foreign policies, international and regional situation and the development of bilateral relations. 

CCTV: According to reports, the US Department of State just designated a new “Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues”. Does China have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: Tibetan affairs are purely China’s domestic affairs that brook no interference by any foreign force. The US designation of the so-called “Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues” interferes in China’s internal affairs. We firmly oppose it and never recognize it. We urge the US to abide by its commitment of recognizing Tibet as part of China and not supporting “Tibet independence” with concrete actions, and stop using Tibet-related issues to meddle in China’s domestic affairs. The Chinese side will continue to take all necessary measures to firmly safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests.

Xinhua News Agency: According to some research, the Roma ethnic minority in Lithuania said they generally suffer from discrimination in life and work. With little interest in their resumes in the labor market, jobs seemed unattainable. What is China’s comment?    

Zhao Lijian: I have seen relevant reports. According to what is revealed, there is grave racial or religious discrimination in Lithuania’s job market, which usually leads to systemic poverty facing ethnic minorities. Statistics showed that in Lithuania, the monthly income of the Roma population was less than one quarter of the national average. Up to 75 percent of Roma lived in poverty, which was about 3.5 times as much as the national average. More than two-thirds of Roma people at the age of 15 and above could not afford to replace worn-out clothes and half of the group could not afford to have two pairs of shoes. Poverty due to racial inequality had a direct impact on Roma people’s health, many of whom lived with chronic or long-term illness. 

What the ethnic minorities including Roma people have gone through is only the tip of the iceberg of Lithuania’s grave humanitarian problems. Serious domestic violence and infringement upon children’s rights can also be found in the country. National corruption remains rampant. The Lithuanian side should earnestly reflect on itself and work on the problems, and take effective measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of ethnic minorities and women and children. It should not bury its head in the sand, which is not what a responsible country would do.  

Bloomberg: Nikkei reports that China has invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to the Winter Games. Does the ministry have a comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: The international community and people from different sectors are all welcome to attend and support the Beijing 2022 in various ways. We are ready to work with all parties to follow the Olympic spirit of “together”, present a streamlined, safe and splendid Olympic Games to the world, and promote friendship and cooperation between countries.

Shenzhen TV: On December 20, the US Department of State and Department of the Treasury announced that they’ve added five Deputy Directors of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong (LOCPG) to a sanction list pursuant to the Hong Kong Autonomy Act (HKAA). Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: In accordance with its domestic law of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, the US announced sanctions on relevant officials of the resident organ of the Central People’s Government of the PRC in Hong Kong. This seriously violates international law and basic norms governing international relations and constitutes severe interference in China’s internal affairs. Thus it is illegal, null and void. China firmly opposes and strongly condemns it.

It needs to be pointed out that earlier in July this year, the US already announced sanctions on seven Chinese officials including the above-mentioned five Deputy Directors of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong when it issued the so-called “Hong Kong Business Advisory”. The Chinese side has taken reciprocal countermeasures against relevant personnel in accordance with the Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law. Now the US has announced sanctions against these same individuals once again under another pretext, citing the Hong Kong Autonomy Act. That I cannot understand. Such a move is preposterous and despicable.

CRI: According to reports, foreign ministers of the Five Eyes countries, and foreign ministers of the G7 countries and the EU High Representative issued joint statements respectively on the election for the seventh-term Legislative Council (LegCo) of the HKSAR. What is China’s comment?

Zhao Lijian: China firmly rejects and strongly condemns certain Western countries’ collusion, irresponsible remarks on the seventh-term LegCo election and democracy and the rule of law in HKSAR, and gross interference in China’s internal affairs.

Improving Hong Kong’s electoral system is a necessary step to ensure the full and faithful implementation of the policy of One Country, Two Systems, the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”, and the development of democracy in Hong Kong on the right track. The seventh-term LegCo election in HKSAR just concluded is a successful practice to implement the new electoral system, and an important leap of a democratic system with Hong Kong’s characteristics and compatible with the SAR’s realities. The election process was fair, just, open, secure and clean, where voters democratic rights were fully respected and protected.

I want to stress that under the British colonial rule, there was no democracy in Hong Kong at all, and residents there never enjoyed real democracy, human rights and freedom. But no “democracies” expressed concern then. When the forms of democracy are developing with the quality improving in Hong Kong, certain Western countries shamelessly expressed so-called concern about a democratic election in an administrative region of China, and condescendingly launched attacks on and made accusations about Hong Kong’s democracy and rule of law. This fully reveals the countries’hypocrisy, as well as their vile scheme to destabilize Hong Kong and contain China’s development.

Certain Western countries should face up to the fact that it has been 24 years since Hong Kong returned to the motherland. They should abide by international law and basic norms governing international relations, stop all forms of meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs and interference in other internal affairs of China. Any attempt to undermine Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability is doomed to fail.  

CCTV: On December 10, the US Department of State and Department of the Treasury announced sanctions on four Chinese officials citing “human rights abuse” in Xinjiang pursuant to its domestic law. Does China have any comment on that?

Zhao Lijian: The US imposed illegal sanctions on Chinese officials under the pretext of so-called human rights issue in Xinjiang in accordance with its domestic law. Such action seriously interferes in China’s internal affairs, seriously violates basic norms governing international relations and seriously undermines China-US relations. China firmly opposes and strongly condemns this.

In response to the above-mentioned erroneous practice of the US side, China has decided to take reciprocal countermeasures in accordance with the Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law of the People’s Republic of China. Effective today, China will take countermeasures against Chair Nadine Maenza, Vice Chair Nury Turkel, Commissioner Anurima Bhargava and Commissioner James W. Carr of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). These individuals are prohibited from entering the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of China. Their assets in China will be frozen, and Chinese citizens and institutions will be prohibited from doing business with them. 

It must be pointed out that Xinjiang affairs are purely China’s internal affairs and the US has no right and is in no position to interfere. The US should lift the so-called sanctions and stop interfering in Xinjiang affairs and China’s other internal affairs. China will make further response as the situation evolves.

Global Times: According to US media reports, over the past five years, the US military has conducted more than 50,000 airstrikes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Due to so-called “flawed intelligence”, the air wars in the Middle East caused the deaths of thousands of civilians, children included. We noticed that the spokesman for the US Central Command said that “even with the best technology in the world, mistakes do happen”. He added, the US will try to learn from those mistakes, work diligently to avoid such harm and investigate each credible instance. What is China’s comment?

Zhao Lijian: The killings of civilians by the US military in overseas wars are abominable crimes. Downplaying the war crimes and shirking the responsibilities further exposes the US’ hypocrisy in professing democracy and human rights.

Some more shocking numbers to share with you. Over the past two decades, the US military launched over 90,000 airstrikes in other countries, which led to about 48,000 civilian deaths. Up to 1,600 civilians were killed in “the most precise air campaign in history” in Raqqa, Syria alone. Bullets, explosives and missiles from the US have taken tens of thousands of innocent lives and displaced hundreds of thousands. Behind every number is a precious human life. In the face of all such brutality, the US has not shown remorse, given any apology or held anyone concerned accountable. Instead, it attempts to give it short shrift with such claim as “mistakes do happen”. Is this how the US defends human rights?

Adhering to the hegemonic mindset, the US has long violated human rights in other countries under the pretext of democracy and human rights. The crimes the US has committed were etched into the historical pillar of shame; they cannot be erased or evaded. Rather than saying “to avoid such harm” halfheartedly, the US should seriously investigate and hold those concerned to account, stringently punish the perpetrators and connivers, and show repentance and atone for its crimes with real actions. 

Prasar Bharati: Yesterday at a symposium on China’s foreign relations in 2021, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China and India have maintained a dialogue through diplomatic and military channels, and effectively managed and controlled frictions in certain border areas under a shared commitment to improving and developing the bilateral relations. Can you share the latest situation in the India-China border standoff and progress in the dialogue between the two countries on this matter?

Zhao Lijian: I would like to say that the situation at the China-India border is generally stable. China and India have maintained dialogue through diplomatic and military channels to ease the situation along the border.

Hubei Media Group: Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh of Laos in a recent interview rebuked smears targeting the China-Laos Railway, dismissing the allegation that the railway has led Laos into a debt trap as pure slander. He said the railway meets the development needs of the Lao people and will deliver greater benefits to them by giving a strong boost to personnel and trade exchange. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: Just as Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh put it, the China-Laos railway meets the development needs of Laos. Laos is endowed with rich natural resources and has enormous potential for development. The main impediment at the moment is inconvenient transportation with the outside world due to its geographical location as a landlocked country. As a Chinese saying goes, good wine with an enticing aroma may still be known even hidden deep in an alley. The China-Laos Railway aims to reach this deep alley, help Laos realize the strategy of turning itself from a landlocked country into a land-connected one, invigorate its growth, bring it closer to the world, and enable people to not only smell the “aroma” but also taste the “fine wine” produced by Laos.

The China-Laos Railway is a flagship project of the two countries’ mutually-beneficial cooperation and BRI cooperation. For over half a month since it started operation, tangible progress has already been achieved. According to statistics, many Chinese localities including Yunnan, Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Chongqing, Sichuan and Guangdong have started operating international freight trains on this railway. As of December 15, they have shipped over 100 million RMB worth of goods between the two countries. As of December 20, the Laos section of the railway has served 22,000 passengers. My colleagues in Vientiane told me that many local people would buy tickets to experience the positive changes brought by the railway to their life and work. They are showing their joy and support for the railway with concrete actions. Going forward, the railway will connect more countries both northward and southward. We are convinced that it will play an even bigger catalyst role, produce greater integrated effects, and create more benefits to the people in China, Laos and the wider region.

CNR: Recently, a research report entitled “The World’s Human Rights Dilemma Clouded by US Interference” was released by the working group on international human rights and politics of the Human Rights Research Center of Jilin University. The 18,000-word report with substantial facts exposes US’ brutal interference in others’ internal affairs and damages to others’ stability, and reveals the profound disasters in the human rights cause brought by the US hegemony. What is your comment?

Zhao Lijian: The report you mentioned has revealed the essence of the US hegemony. I can share more with you about this. The US interferes in other countries’ internal affairs mainly through the following four ways.

First, engaging in infiltration and subversion. The US has long leveraged government agencies such as USAID and so-called “non-governmental organizations” including the NED to foster proxies in countries in Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East and provide them with financial support and guidance for action. The countries where “color revolutions” and the Arab Spring took place were thus reduced to “guinea pigs” of the experiment of US democracy at a huge expense.

Second, fanning turbulence and chaos. The US is apt at employing its hegemony in public opinion to distort facts, fabricate lies and spread disinformation. It portrays itself and its proxies as “human rights fighters” and labels others with “authoritarianism”. The US calls violence created by anti-China forces destabilizing Hong Kong “a beautiful sight to behold”, but does not mince its words in condemning the Capitol riots. Its double standards and political manipulation is laid bare.

Third, willfully imposing economic coercion. Without UN Security Council’s authorization, the US willfully slapped unilateral sanctions many times that severely affected national economy and people’s livelihood in countries concerned and undermined the security and stability of global industrial and supply chains, which is textbook economic coercion. After the outbreak of COVID-19, the US took more unilateral coercive measures than before, which caused food and anti-pandemic supplies shortages and impeded humanitarian assistance in the countries sanctioned. Some scholars pointed out that sanctions have become the go-to solution for nearly every foreign policy problem in the US, and that the United States of America has become “the United States of Sanctions”. 

Fourth, waging wars of aggression. The US wantonly conducted military intervention in sovereign states including Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, and forced through the US democracy that is incompatible with local realities. This has resulted in human tragedies and sufferings. Over the past two decades, US military actions overseas have taken the lives of over 800,000 people.

The iron-clad facts are indisputable. The US has exported chaos and disasters to the world in the name of democracy and human rights, bringing untold sufferings to people in relevant countries. The international community should see the true face of the US, and jointly oppose US interference in others’ internal affairs and violation of human rights in other countries for its own hegemony.

RTHK: A report on Hong Kong submitted by the US government to Congress underscores concerns about “Beijing’s clear efforts to deprive Hong Kongers of a meaningful voice” in the Legislative Council election. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price issued a statement about this. How do you respond to the report? Also, the turnout in the Legislative Council election hit a record low. What is your comment?

Zhao Lijian: I have already expounded on China’s Central Government’s position on the LegCo election both today and yesterday. I would like to add two more points.

First, turnout in an election is never an indicator of  the degree of democracy of an electoral system. The criteria to gauge an electoral system is whether or not it can promote meritocracy. For this election in Hong Kong, the most important factor is whether it can implement the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong” and whether it can elect capable patriots into the SAR’s administrative architecture. The election for the seventh-term Legislative Council was held in an open, fair, just and orderly fashion. Altogether 90 members with diverse backgrounds were elected in accordance with law. The composition is well-balanced. This fully demonstrates the new electoral system’s feature of broad representation, political inclusiveness, balanced participation and fair competition. It can advance the interests of the whole society and all sectors and social strata. Facts have proven, this is a very successful democratic practice.

Second, if voter turnout could decide whether an election is legitimate and democratic or not, then how can one explain the 23 percent turnout in the New York City’s mayor election and the 32 percent turnout in local elections in France? Are these elections illegitimate? Certain individuals hyped up the turnout issue in Hong Kong’s election simply to question the democracy and legitimacy of the new electoral system and to disrupt and undermine Hong Kong’s constitutional order. Their ploy of fact distortion is preposterous. 

China Daily: Can you share with us some details and major outcomes of the 2021 annual meeting of the Advisory Council of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation?

Zhao Lijian: On December 17, the 2021 annual meeting of the Advisory Council of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held through video conference. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivered remarks at the opening ceremony and witnessed the release of the Report on the Findings and Recommendations. Convener of the Advisory Council and Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu chaired the meeting.

At the meeting, members had an in-depth exchange of the overall progress of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the work going forward. They shared the view that China’s confidence and determination to advance Belt and Road cooperation is fully demonstrated in President Xi Jinping’s call that the BRI must stay committed to realizing sustainable, livelihood-oriented and high-standard objectives and that it should strive for more cooperation at a higher level, more efficient investment, better quality in supplies and greater resilience in development. This is a guiding principle for high-level Belt and Road cooperation at the next stage.

The Global Development Initiative and the BRI put forward by President Xi are both conducive to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They can complement and reinforce each other to contribute to global common development.

The participants of the meeting believed that the Belt and Road cooperation benefits global connectivity and strengthens international cooperation. The BRI has born much fruit since it was put forward eight years ago. It has promoted global poverty reduction, trade and economic growth and has become an important global public good and a platform for global economic cooperation consisting of guiding principles, cooperation mechanisms and pragmatic programs with even broader prospects. All parties should continue to advance practical cooperation in infrastructure connectivity, health, innovation and green and digital sectors, find more drivers for world economic recovery and inject more impetus into the global fight against the pandemic.

The members also spoke highly of China’s vaccine cooperation with Belt and Road partners and the launch of the Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on COVID-19 Vaccines Cooperation with 30 countries. They believe that China has made important contribution to the global fight against COVID-19 with the provision of nearly two billion doses of vaccines to more than 120 countries and international organizations, accounting for nearly one-third of global vaccine usage outside China.

The Paper: US Secretary of State Blinken said in a statement on December 20 that the newly appointed US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Uzra Zeya will promote the human rights of Tibetans and support efforts to preserve their historical, linguistic, cultural and religious heritage. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: I just stated China’s position on Tibet-related issues. 

I want to stress that since the peaceful liberation of Tibet 70 years ago, Tibet has witnessed social harmony, economic prosperity and religious and cultural development. People in Tibet have been leading a happy life. There is no need for certain Americans to worry about them, still less any room for their criticism and lectures. If the US politicians cannot find anything better to do, I would suggest that they show some care for the serious racial discrimination and human rights problems at home. What the US has done to Native Americans constitutes de facto genocide. But when will the US show remorse and take real actions to protect these people’s human rights? Racial minorities in the US long suffer from unfair treatment including racial discrimination and violent crimes. But when will the US politicians truly protect these people’s human rights? The US has the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. But since US politicians are not even able to protect the safety and life of its own people, what right do they have to babble on protecting human rights in Tibet? In place of the “Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues”, the best designations the US should make are the “Special Investigator for the Genocide of Native Americans”, the “Special Coordinator for the Human Rights Affairs of US Racial Minorities” and the “Special Coordinator for Investigations into US Poor Epidemic Response”.

Facts have fully proven that the US has no right whatsoever to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs under the pretext of human rights. It should immediately stop political manipulation, earnestly reflect upon itself, and resolve its own serious racial and human rights problems. 

Bloomberg: Lithuania pulled out its remaining four diplomats, one technical embassy employee and their relatives on short notice on December 15 in Beijing, a day after a deadline given by the Chinese foreign ministry demanding the return of the envoys’ diplomatic ID cards. Lithuania’s foreign ministry said this. Does the foreign ministry of China have any comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: With the downgraded relations to the chargé d’affaires level, China asked Lithuania’s diplomatic representation in China to reapply for the identification cards for diplomats. This is a normal procedure of China’s support for and management of foreign missions in China, which complies with international law and common international practice. It does not affect the normal fulfillment of duties and life of Lithuanian diplomats in China. At the same time, China protects the security and legitimate rights of all diplomatic missions in China and their normal operation, including Lithuania’s diplomatic representation, in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Without prior notification to the Chinese side, the Lithuanian side suddenly decided to pull out all its diplomats from China and spread false statements afterwards, thus putting on a self-directed farce. China regrets and firmly opposes this. A stern warning to the Lithuanian side: the attempt to pull tricks, shirk responsibilities, distort facts and even blackmail China politically is completely miscalculated. For Lithuania, the only way out is to earnestly correct mistakes, stop undermining China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and come back to the commitment to the one-China principle, which is the right path to follow.

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