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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on December 30, 2021

Continuing the tradition of Chinese foreign ministers starting every new year with a visit to Africa, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Eritrea, Kenya and the Comoros from January 4 to 7, 2022 upon invitation. Afterwards he will visit Maldives and Sri Lanka upon invitation.

CCTV: Could you share more information on State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s upcoming visit to Africa and Asia? What expectations does China have for the visit?

Zhao Lijian: State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s upcoming visit to the three countries in Africa is keeps up Chinese foreign ministers’ tradition of choosing Africa for their first overseas visit every year for the 32nd consecutive time. It demonstrates the great importance China attaches to its traditional friendship with Africa and the development of China-Africa relations. At the eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) successfully held in Senegal not long ago, President Xi Jinping called for joint efforts to promote and carry forward the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation and build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era and announced major cooperation initiatives including nine programs, which have been warmly received by African countries. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Africa over a month later aims to promote the implementation of the outcomes of the eighth FOCAC Ministerial Conference, dovetail new measures for practical cooperation between China and Africa, and support African countries in defeating COVID-19 and achieving economic recovery at an early date. This demonstrates that China takes efficient and results-oriented actions, and always stays true to its word.

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang’s visit to the two South Asian countries comes at the 50th anniversary of China-Maldives diplomatic relations, the 65th anniversary of China-Sri Lanka diplomatic relations, and the 70th anniversary of the Rubber-Rice Pact. China and the two countries are traditional friendly neighbors and important partners with close high-level exchange, deep practical cooperation, broad common interests, and the same or similar positions on many regional and international issues. Faced with the once-in-a-century changing landscape and pandemic, China has stood together with Maldives and Sri Lanka to overcome difficulties with effective anti-epidemic cooperation and practiced its neighborhood diplomacy featuring amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness. The opportunity of commemorating the anniversaries will be seized to deepen our traditional friendship, enhance political mutual trust, strengthen solidarity against COVID-19, upgrade practical cooperation including under the BRI framework, and increase coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs. 

Shenzhen TV: You just announced that State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will be visiting Africa soon. Why has Africa been the destination of Chinese foreign ministers’ first annual overseas visit over the years?

Zhao Lijian: It will be the 32nd consecutive time for Chinese foreign ministers to start their year-round overseas visits with a trip to Africa. Since 1991, Africa has been the destination for Chinese foreign ministers’ first overseas visit, heralding a new year of foreign exchanges. This fine tradition of China’s diplomacy has been going on for 31 years rain or shine. This fully demonstrates the priority China gives to China-Africa relations, the growing profound friendship between China and Africa, and China’s firm support for Africa’s seeking strength through unity, development and revitalization. This has been applauded by our African friends and the rest of the international community. 

China is the largest developing country, and Africa is the continent with the largest number of developing countries. As fellow developing countries, China and African countries are faced with the common task of safeguarding sovereignty, opposing hegemony and achieving development. We are not only comrades-in-arms in the fight against hegemonism, but also partners in pursuit of development and revitalization, and important forces defending international fairness and justice. Neither the evolving international landscape nor the raging COVID-19 can weaken the will and determination of China and Africa to maintain friendly exchanges, enhance strategic communication and render each other firm support or diminish China’s attention and support to Africa. This is integral to building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era. 

The eighth FOCAC Ministerial Conference was successfully held in Senegal a month ago. President Xi Jinping summarized and crystallized the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation at the meeting, put forward four proposals on building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, and announced nine programs of practical cooperation between China and Africa, which have been highly commended by African friends and stood as a new milestone in China-Africa relations. After chairing the conference in person, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will pay another visit to Africa to uphold the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation put forward by President Xi, carry forward the fine diplomatic tradition, advance the implementation of the meeting outcomes including the nine programs, work for early harvest to improve Chinese and African people’s welfare, and inject new impetus into building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.

AFP: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has condemned the closure of Hong Kong’s Stand News, and called on the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to stop targeting Hong Kong’s free and independent media and release the detained journalists. Canada and the EU have also criticized these arrests. Does the foreign ministry have any comment on that?

Zhao Lijian: Since the implementation of the Law on Safeguarding National Security, Hong Kong has returned to the right path of development, and freedom of the press there has been better protected in a secure and stable environment with rule of law. This is a fact that cannot be denied by anyone without bias.

Supporting media freedom is just a false pretense used by the US to serve its true agenda of destabilizing Hong Kong. We will let numbers speak. The US has seen press freedom deteriorating at home. According to reports, at least 117 journalists were arrested or detained in 2020 in the US, a staggering 1,200% increase from 2019. If the US has a “confident government that is unafraid of the truth”, why does it seek the extradition of Julian Assange? Why not treat Edward Snowden the way it extols the so-called truth-seekers in other countries?

The US should cut out its hypocritical double standards and stop interfering in China’s domestic affairs in the name of freedom.

Besides, the lawful actions taken by the Hong Kong police to arrest individuals suspected of conspiring to publish seditious publications and freeze relevant assets are necessary actions of justice to safeguard rule of law and public order in Hong Kong. It has nothing to do with freedom of the press or speech.

Hong Kong upholds rule of law. The residents’ lawful rights and freedoms including freedom of the press and speech are fully protected. That being said, media and speech freedom should not be the excuse for criminal acts. Media practitioners in the SAR must strictly comply with Chinese and Hong Kong laws. Offenders shall bear legal consequences.

No country, organization or individual has the right to meddle in Hong Kong’s affairs. Some external forces are distorting facts in an attempt to confuse the public by wantonly criticizing the Hong Kong SAR’s justified law enforcement activities under the disguise of media freedom.

MASTV: According to reports, Lithuania’s Klaipėda Port has lost over four percent of cargo this year due to the stoppage of shipments from Belarus. Next year, the expected loss could be up to 40 percent because of Lithuania’s soured relations with China, said Vaidotas Šileika, President of the Lithuanian Association of Stevedoring Companies. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: What you mentioned serves exactly to show that Lithuania’s relevant foreign policy is erroneous and has failed. In the end, the wrong foreign policy hurts the interests of the country and its people.

Macau Monthly: It is reported that a recent poll in Lithuania shows that the share of respondents who say they trust the government fell from 21 percent in November to 17.3 percent in December, those who distrust the government rose from 39.6 percent to 47.8 percent and the disapproval rating of Lithuania’s foreign minister increased from 59.8 percent to 66.4 percent, after the Lithuanian government attempted to stop the transit of Belarusian potash in response to US sanctions on Belarus despite the fact that this may cause huge economic losses for Lithuania. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: The approval rate of the Lithuanian government is the country’s internal affairs that I would not comment. A plain truth is that no government stands a chance of succeeding without its people’s support. The sanctions on Belarusian potash you mentioned are unilateral sanctions imposed by the US, right? Any rational and responsible government should when making decisions and taking actions, it must serve the interests of the nation and the people. It should not take advantage of state power to reap selfish gains by sacrificing the interests of the nation and the people, or even brown-nosing others. Otherwise, it will only bring disgrace upon itself and may even be digging its own grave.

CCTV: Chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis of the Farmers and Greens Union (LVŽS), the second biggest party at the Lithuanian parliament, said on December 28 that investors are asking whether their government is in its right mind. The current Lithuanian government is crazy. Some people of the ruling party have successfully made the country’s China policy so complicated. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: I noted relevant reports. Lately insightful people in Lithuania have bluntly criticized the irrational words and deeds of the Lithuanian government and relevant politicians on relations with China. Indeed, the Lithuanian government could have followed a simple and clear China policy, that is, to pursue friendly cooperation with China on the basis of the one-China principle that is universally recognized by the international community. Regrettably, some Lithuanian politicians, either failing to grasp the trend of the times or out of selfish political gains, have fawned on the forces that back them and led Lithuania’s China policy further and further astray from the right path, adding many complicating factors to bilateral relations. Former Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius wrote in a recent article that the souring Lithuania-China relationship gets rewarded with its foreign minister’s two visits in Washington. This explains it all.

The Lithuanian government and relevant politicians should listen more to the rational voices at home, bear in mind the fundamental interests of their country and people and stop being a cat’s paw for a certain major country.

Hubei Media Group: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Pakistan. The two sides held a host of celebrations. Do you have more on that?

Zhao Lijian: This year marks the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan. The two sides held a series of events in celebration and commemoration of this important occasion. The events have taken on several features. First, great popularity. The two sides originally planned for about 120 activities, but end up co-hosting about 140 events, well above the target. The celebrations last throughout the year and retained high popularity. Second, wide coverage. There was the exchange of congratulatory messages between the leaders and high-profile receptions to celebrate the anniversary. Besides, the two sides also held activities such as the signing of friendship deals between provinces and cities, a short video contest and exchanges covering a wide range of areas including the political, diplomatic, economic, sub-national, education, scientific, cultural and health sectors. These activities have attracted many young people to share their stories of China-Pakistan friendship and renewed the friendship in the new era. Third, good results. Be it virtually or in-person, the celebrations deepened political mutual trust, strengthened the two peoples’ friendship and promoted practical cooperation in various sectors despite COVID-19 restrictions. 

China and Pakistan are iron-clad brothers. Our friendship is unbreakable and rock-solid. Looking ahead, China is ready to work with Pakistan to deepen political trust, jointly promote the high-quality development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and enhance exchange and cooperation across the board. Together, we will build a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era and bring our all-weather strategic partnership to a new height. 

Dragon TV: On December 28, the ROK foreign ministry expressed indignation over Japan’s decision to propose a number of former gold mines on the Sado Island as a candidate for the UNESCO World Heritage List and urged Japan to immediately retract this decision. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: Forced recruitment and enslavement of laborers is a grave crime committed by the Japanese militarism during its overseas aggression and colonial rule. In a similar bid previously, Japan admitted that there was forced labor at some of these sites involving workers from China, the Korean Peninsula and other Asian countries, and promised to set up an information center to honor the victims, but it never fulfilled the promise. Now ignoring the painful memories of its neighbors, Japan is trying to make a similar new bid, which has naturally triggered indignation and opposition.

Japan should face up to history, adopt an honest and responsible attitude and take concrete actions to properly handle issues left over from history and win the trust of its Asian neighbors and the international community.

MASTV: According to reports, the Japanese and Australian governments are in consultations on revising the Japan-Australia Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation signed in 2007 to strengthen joint efforts to deal with China, including responding to a so-called Chinese attack against Taiwan. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: Hmm, interesting. A slew of reports have emerged about this bilateral declaration that is allegedly under discussion and has yet to be published. I wonder, is this the result of poor management of confidential information by government departments of relevant countries, or is the information deliberately released to “set the tempo”? 

We believe that no bilateral arrangement should target any third party, and we firmly oppose any collusion that undermines China’s interests and regional peace and stability.

What we need in the Pacific is the joint efforts of countries in the region to uphold peace, not attempts to drum up the so-called “threat” theories or stir up trouble. All moves against the tide are doomed to fail.

Macau Monthly: A latest review of the Australian Department of Defence has reportedly found no national security grounds to recommend that the federal government overturn the 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin to Chinese company Landbridge in Shandong province. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: The economic and trade cooperation between China and Australia is mutually beneficial and win-win in nature. The Chinese government encourages Chinese enterprises to conduct investment cooperation overseas in line with market principles, international rules and local laws. Australia should stop overstretching the concept of national security and provide a fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese enterprises operating in the country. 

People’s Daily: The US Department of State and Department of the Treasury 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 not long ago. What’s China’s response?

Zhao Lijian: I already stated China’s solemn position on this the other day. The Chinese side firmly opposes and strongly condemns the US act of sanctioning Chinese personnel and interfering in China’s domestic affairs based on its domestic law.

In July this year, the US already announced sanctions on seven Chinese officials including the five deputy directors of LOCPG you just mentioned when it issued the so-called “Hong Kong Business Advisory”. The Chinese side took reciprocal countermeasures on relevant US personnel. Now the US just dusted off the old sanctions and announced them again. It is merely hyping up Hong Kong-related issues to serve its political agenda of containing China. This has laid bare the truth that the US is not really interested in human rights in Hong Kong but actually seeks to undermine its stability and prosperity.

In response to the erroneous practice of the US side, China has decided to take reciprocal countermeasures and impose sanctions according to the Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law on five US individuals including former US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Louis Ross, Chairman of US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) Carolyn Bartholomew, former Staff Director of Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) Jonathan Stivers, DoYun Kim at National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), and senior program manager of the International Republican Institute (IRI) Adam Joseph King. 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. Anti-sanctions decisions that China made earlier in response to other wrong moves by the US concerning Hong Kong, including the targets sanctioned and specific measures, remain in effect.

Once again we urge the US to remove the so-called sanctions on Chinese personnel and stop meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs, which are China’s domestic affairs. The Chinese side will continue to take all necessary measures to defend its national interests and dignity.

Kyodo News: According to reports, Germany’s foreign minister and interior minister said they would not attend the Beijing Olympics, adding that it’s a personal decision. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: Lately we have repeatedly stated China’s position on the issue of attending or not attending the Beijing Winter Olympics. The attempts of certain politicians in a few countries to use the Games for political manipulation won’t succeed. We have every confidence that Beijing 2022 will be a streamlined, safe and splendid Olympic event.

AFP: Hundreds of people in Mexico and other Latin American countries have recently signed an international legal claim against China and the World Health Organization, seeking compensation for losses due to what they claim was China’s negligence in the management of COVID-19 pandemic. Does the foreign ministry have any comment? 

Zhao Lijian: China’s COVID-19 response is beyond reproach. Most of you, including foreign journalists, have lived through this battle fought in China. The Chinese people have secured a strategic victory, which I’m sure you’ll agree is most reassuring. All frivolous lawsuits and allegations against China on COVID-19 will prove to be nothing but a farce.

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