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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on May 13, 2022

CCTV: On May 12 local time, the US co-hosted the second virtual Global COVID-19 Summit alongside a few countries. Do you have any comment? Why didn’t China participate in the meeting?

Zhao Lijian: China welcomes all efforts that help members of the international community fight COVID-19 together in a science-based manner and opposes political manipulation of anti-epidemic efforts by any country. Since the US insists on inviting Taiwan to the meeting in disregard of China’s stern position and in defiance of the international community’s consensus on the one-China principle, China could not attend the second virtual Global COVID-19 Summit. 

In the wake of COVID-19, China proposed the vision of a global community of health for all, fully leveraged its strengths, ensured stability of global anti-epidemic supply chains and actively advanced international cooperation in vaccines to contribute to the global fight against the coronavirus. Here are some numbers. By early May, China has provided 4.6 billion protective gears, 18 billion testing kits and over 430 billion facial masks to 153 countries and 15 international organizations. China was the first country that has announced to make vaccines a global public good, supported waiving intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines, and conducted joint production of vaccines with developing countries. China has supplied more than 2.2 billion doses of vaccines to more than 120 countries and international organizations. China also actively participated in the WHO’s COVAX plan and Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator initiative. We have donated $100 million to COVAX and joined the Vaccine Manufacturing Working Group of the ACT Accelerator initiative. At the end of last year, President Xi Jinping announced that China will donate another 600 million and 150 million doses of vaccines to Africa and ASEAN countries respectively. The relevant work is well underway. With these efforts, China is making important contributions to promoting the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in developing countries. Besides, China sent 37 medical expert teams to 34 countries, and shared anti-epidemic experience with more than 180 countries and international organizations. 

The coronavirus raging across the globe requires joint response of all countries. China will continue to work with the rest of the international community to take concrete actions to make contributions to bridging the immunization gap, building a line of defense and eliminating the virus at an early date. 

Hubei Media Group: Yesterday, US President Joe Biden released a statement marking one million American lives lost to COVID-19. At the same time, some in the US are still criticizing China’s pandemic prevention and control policies. What is China’s comment on this? 

Zhao Lijian: To start, I want to express our deep grief for the tragic loss of one million lives, for whom the Washington National Cathedral rang its bell 1,000 times. The toll of the bell signaled remembrance and mourning, and sounded alert with soul-searching query. Facing the pandemic, does capital or human life matter more? Do politics or lives come first? Who is mouthing the empty slogan of human rights and who is actually putting people first? The answers are self-evident.

In the spirit of putting people and life first, the Chinese government gives priority to people’s life, safety and health. It follows the “dynamic zero-COVID” policy, and adopts targeted and science-based protocols for the most effective COVID-19 containment at the lowest cost possible. Any anti-COVID measure comes at a cost to the economy and society. But it is only temporary and worthwhile compared to priceless and irretrievable lives. Only by containing the spread of the virus as soon as possible can sound and sustainable economic development be secured. With joint efforts of the Chinese government and the people, progress has been made in stemming the latest wave of COVID-19. Now the overall pandemic metrics in China are trending downward with a few upticks. Production and other business activities have resumed in an orderly fashion.

I also noted that among the one million COVID-19 deaths in the US, about 200,000 lives were lost after contracting the Omicron variant, meaning it’s ill-advised to play down the variant’s danger and premature to let the guard down. The world is still not out of the woods with COVID-19, China will continue to uphold the idea of a community with a shared future and make greater contributions to eliminating the global immunization gap while consolidating its own defense against the virus. We also stand ready to work with other countries to claim an early victory over the pandemic.

YTN: Yesterday, you said China is very prepared for supporting North Korea. Question one is, does the Chinese government have any plan to support North Korea and to help them overcome the Omicron virus in the near future? And the second one is, does the Chinese government have any possible plan to evacuate Chinese people from North Korea? I think the Chinese government is taking care of your people in North Korea.

Zhao Lijian: On your first question, I fully expounded on the Chinese government’s position yesterday. Fighting COVID-19 is a common task facing the entire humanity. China and the DPRK have a fine tradition of offering support to each other. China is ready to work with the DPRK, support each other and strengthen cooperation against the pandemic.

On your second question, the Chinese government attaches great importance to the safety and health of Chinese citizens in the DPRK. We will continue to closely follow the DPRK’s COVID-19 situation, stay in contact with the DPRK, and protect the life and health of Chinese citizens.

Phoenix TV: Two questions on the US. It is reported that the White House released a fact sheet on the US-ASEAN Special Summit on May 12, saying that President Biden announced at the summit over $150 million in initiatives covering such areas as infrastructure, security and pandemic preparedness to deepen US-ASEAN relations. Do you think the cooperation initiatives put forward by the US is aimed at countering China’s cooperation with ASEAN? Also, can you share some details on China-ASEAN cooperation? Second, according to the latest data released by the UN in May, the US owes more than $1 billion dues for the UN’s regular budget and over $1.4 billion peacekeeping assessment. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: On the US-ASEAN summit, as ASEAN’s good neighbor and good partner, China always takes ASEAN as a high priority in its neighborhood diplomacy, develops friendly and cooperative relations with ASEAN and promotes common development in the spirit of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness. Over the past 31 years since the establishment of our dialogue relations, the bilateral relations between China and ASEAN have achieved leap-frog development, delivering tangible benefits to over two billion people in the 11 countries. In November 2021, President Xi Jinping announced at the Special Summit to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations that China is ready to provide ASEAN with another 150 million doses of COVID vaccines, another $1.5 billion of development assistance in the next three years to support ASEAN countries’ fight against COVID-19 and economic recovery. Also, China will buy up to $150 billion worth of agricultural products from ASEAN in the next five years. China always honors its words and will continue to do its utmost to implement in earnest our comprehensive strategic partnership, and work with ASEAN to build a peaceful, safe and secure, prosperous, beautiful and amicable home together. Since the beginning of this year, bilateral dialogue and cooperation in various sectors has kept growing rapidly and deepening. In the first four months of this year, the bilateral trade increased by 9.4% year-on-year to nearly $290 billion. ASEAN remains China’s largest trading partner. 

I want to stress that China advances ASEAN-led regional cooperation in the spirit of equal-footed consultation following the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. China-ASEAN cooperation is defined by mutually beneficial cooperation, openness and inclusiveness. Our cooperation is rooted in the shared need for deepening good neighborliness and enhancing mutually beneficial cooperation and focused on maintaining regional stability. China and ASEAN do not seek zero-sum games or push for bloc confrontation. China welcomes all cooperation initiatives as long as they can promote long-term and sustainable development and common prosperity in the region.

You may ask the US side whether the relevant initiatives are aimed at countering China. On my part, I want to say that both China and the US are Asia-Pacific countries. There is no reason why we cannot share regional friends. It is important to heed the call of regional countries to maintain peace, deepen cooperation and seek common development, and uphold the principles of mutual respect and win-win cooperation. It is necessary that we bear in mind the common and long-term interests of the region, play a positive and constructive part in regional peace, stability and development and do more concrete things for regional cooperation in Asia-Pacific with a healthy mindset and constructive approach.

On your second question, the US owing dues to the UN and other international organizations is nothing new. I noted that some media call the US a “deadbeat” country at the UN. 

Whether the US, one of the UN’s founding members and the largest contributor, pays in full and on time its assessed contributions matters to the normal operation of the UN. The payment is also an important way for the US to serve its international obligations and practice multilateralism. However, since 1980s, the US has always owed the largest amount of dues to the UN. In recent years, it often owes up to one billion dollars, accounting for 60% or 70% of the total unpaid dues. In terms of peacekeeping assessment, the US often owes the largest share of contributions for years. In 2019, it owed as much as $2.378 billion, accounting for 66% of the total unpaid assessment. 

The Biden administration promised “a return to multilateralism” and claimed to defend a “rules-based international order”. At the same time, it refuses to pay its huge share of UN budget. How would the US respond to this? Instead of paying its huge arrears of regular budget and assessment, the US has been using financial means to serve its political agenda, pressure the UN and shift responsibilities onto other UN member states. By what rules is the US playing? The US has been missing deadlines of US assessment payment, but has spent huge sums waging wars, transferring weapons and fanning the flame all over the world. Is this how the US defines defending multilateralism? Is this defending “rules-based international order” by the US standard?

The arrears the US accumulates to the UN regular budget and peacekeeping assessment doesn’t go away; it is mounting as days go by. The greater deficit in the US credibility, the longer the US would live with the label of “the biggest debtor nation” in the UN. The US should shoulder responsibilities, pay its assessments in full and on time, make up for the arrears, take the lead in fulfilling its financial obligations to the UN, and act upon its commitment to multilateralism.

Bloomberg: The US State Department has outlined plans to boost pressure on China over the latter’s policy on Uyghur and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. In a report to Congress, the department explained how the US would raise relevant concerns in meetings with other nations, multilateral institutions such as the G7, and the private sector. Does the foreign ministry have a comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: As the Chinese side has repeatedly stressed, the allegation of “genocide” in Xinjiang is nothing but the lie of the century concocted by some people in the US in total disregard of facts. It has been debunked time and again when confronted with the truth. The US keeps spreading rumors and smearing China in an attempt to tarnish China’s image and contain its development, but such plots will not succeed.

The international community has a fair judgement as to who is truly guilty of genocide. The US also knows the answer very well itself. We hope the US will do some earnest soul-searching regarding the 500,000 child laborers working on American farms and all those Native American lives lost to genocide over the past decades. We also urge the US to stop meddling in China’s internal affairs and put an end to its sinister agenda of containing China by fabricating malicious lies.

China Daily: It is reported that on May 12, leaders of Japan and the EU held a summit and released a joint statement in which they expressed concerns over the situation in Diaoyu Dao, the East China Sea, the South China Sea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and human rights in Xinjiang. President Von der Leyen of the European Commission said that Russia is today the most direct threat to the world order with the war against Ukraine and its worrying pact with China after the summit. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: Japan and the EU hyped up China-related issues at the meeting to smear and denigrate China, interfere in China’s internal affairs and stoke regional confrontation. China firmly rejects this and has lodged solemn representation with parties concerned. 

Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands are China’s inherent territory since the ancient times. No matter what others say or do, the fact that Diaoyu Dao is part of China can never be changed. On maritime issues, China resolutely upholds territorial integrity and maritime rights and interests. In the meantime, China is ready to properly settle disputes through negotiations and consultations with relevant countries, and safeguard regional peace and tranquility. Issues relating to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang are all China’s internal affairs that brook no foreign interference. We urge relevant countries to focus on getting their own house in order and take their mind off China’s internal affairs. 

I want to stress that China is always a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development and a champion of international order. China’s development is an important opportunity for the world. In recent years, China has contributed about 30% to the world's economic growth and achieved strategic outcome in COVID-19 prevention and control, making important contribution to the global fight against the virus and maintaining the stability of global supply chains. China put forth a series of proposals including the community with a shared future for mankind, the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative, which won widespread praise and warm response across the world. The Belt and Road Initiative is delivering benefits to more than 180 countries and organizations. All these facts have debunked the “China threat” theory which now enjoys no popularity. 

At a time when the world faces multiple challenges presented by the resurgence of COVID-19 and sluggish economic recovery, we need solidarity, cooperation and a joint response to the challenges more than ever. We hope Japan and the EU can avoid drawing ideological lines, and stop seeking bloc politics and zero-sum game. They need to respond to the international community’s common aspiration for peace, cooperation and development, practice true multilateralism, and inject more positive energy into the world. 

Shenzhen TV: We noted that a survey released on May 12 by Hong Kong’s Bauhinia Institute found that 83.2% of those polled were following the SAR’s sixth-term chief executive election; 81.6% found the election, the first held under the new electoral system, satisfactory; and 75.3% agreed with chief executive-elect John Lee Ka-chiu’s policy priorities. Do you have any comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: I have noted the survey results. This fully attests to the broad endorsement across Hong Kong of the new electoral system and the new chief executive as well as his policy priorities. It speaks volumes about Hong Kong residents’ ardent expectation for the SAR to embark on a new journey to prosperity underpinned by stability. The findings stand in stark contrast with the smear campaign conducted by certain Western countries in collusion with some institutions to fabricate “public opinion” and denigrate the election.

Throughout the entire process of the Chief Executive’s election, Hong Kong residents have demonstrated their solidarity and endeavoring spirit, which is a true embodiment of the ideal of democracy and a vivid illustration of the Hong Kong people’s Lion Rock Spirit. The improved electoral system ensures the full and faithful implementation of the One Country, Two Systems principle and the Basic Law. Together with the sound implementation of the Hong Kong national security law, it has brought greater social solidarity and harmony, improved the business environment, and provided a strong institutional buttress for the SAR’s enduring stability, security and development. Any attempt to disrupt and undermine Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity is futile.

Looking ahead, Hong Kong, by integrating into the national development blueprint, will embrace immense development space, and its strength as a mature international hub and market economy with rule of law will be better leveraged. As the lyrics of a household song depict, the Lion Rock bears witness to our pursuit of a shared dream; with sweat and grit, we shall leave our mark in history. We are convinced that Hong Kong will achieve new splendors from a new starting point and wish it all the best.

China News Service: In a recent virtual meeting with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed the hope that the consultations on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) will maintain the positive momentum and a consensus on the COC can be reached as soon as possible. Experts and scholars at a panel discussion on the South China Sea of the Boao Forum for Asia held recently also showed their interest in the process of the COC consultations. How does China assess the prospects of the COC? What outcomes can be expected in this year?

Zhao Lijian: Twenty years ago, China and ASEAN countries signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in Cambodia, which is the first political document guiding and regulating regional countries’ handling of the South China Sea issue. Over the past 20 years, under the DOC framework, all parties have strengthened dialogue and consultation, promoted maritime cooperation, boosted mutual trust, and effectively defended peace and stability of the South China Sea.

Establishing a COC is clearly stipulated in the DOC, and represents the common aspiration and need of China and ASEAN countries. A step forward from the DOC, the COC will provide more solid guarantee of rules for lasting tranquility of the South China Sea. China is fully confident in reaching a COC. In the latter half of this month, China and ASEAN countries will have face-to-face consultations of the COC in Cambodia despite the impact of COVID-19. This fully shows China and ASEAN countries’ determination in steadfastly advancing the COC consultations. We hope the talks in person can make progress, and expect that all parties can accelerate the consultation process both online and offline for an early conclusion of a COC.

AFP: I have two questions. First, can you offer more details as to why China voted against a probe into possible war crimes by Russian troops in Ukraine? This vote was taken at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The second question is, how does China react to the appointment of the new Prime Minister in Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe? And also, are there any updates on what kind of debt relief or debt restructuring that China may offer Sri Lanka?

Zhao Lijian: To answer your first question, Ambassador Chen Xu, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva, has elaborated on China’s position at the Human Rights Council. China maintains that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries including Ukraine should be respected, that the purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be upheld, that the legitimate security concerns of all countries should be taken seriously, and that all efforts conducive to a peaceful resolution of the crisis should be supported. Putting an early end to the fight is the urgent expectation of the international community. It is also what China is striving for. The international community should create enabling conditions for Russia-Ukraine negotiations, and do more to facilitate a political settlement, rather than lay down obstacles or increase impediments, still less to add fuel to the fire and escalate tensions. As no country can base its security on the insecurity of other countries, we should stay committed to the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and build together a balanced, effective and sustainable global and regional security architecture.

In recent years, politicization and confrontation at the Human Rights Council has been on the rise, so has “double standards” and selectivity. While the HRC frequently holds Special Sessions regarding certain countries, it fails to take effective actions regarding those countries that have long been slandering and making rumors about the human rights situations in others, that willfully waged wars of aggression on others, killing civilians in overseas military operations, that abused unilateral coercive measures, and those where racism is rampant, gun violence goes incessant and where refugees and migrants are subject to abuse. This has severely undermined confidence in the objectivity and impartiality of the HRC, tarnished the HRC’s credibility and entailed division within the HRC. That is why China voted against the resolution. We call upon all parties to get back to the founding mission of the HRC, uphold true multilateralism, and work together to promote the sound development of the international human rights cause.

On your second question, China and Sri Lanka enjoy traditional friendship. We have been following closely the developments of the situation in Sri Lanka. We support the Sri Lankan government and relevant political parties’ latest efforts to stabilize the situation. It is our sincere hope that all sides in Sri Lanka will put the fundamental interests of the nation and the people first, stay united, safeguard stability, and tide over the current difficulties together.

As to your question concerning Sri Lanka’s debt issues, the Chinese side has made clear its position on several occasions. We will maintain communication and consultation with the Sri Lankan side, and help it restore political and economic stability at an early date.

Reuters: The Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said the sailing of a Chinese spy ship off its west coast was an act of aggression. What’s China’s comment?

Zhao Lijian: I am not aware of the specifics you mentioned. I would like to state that China always follows international law and common practice. The Australian politician concerned should view the situation with objectivity and calm, instead of making sensational comments aimed at fear-mongering.

Reuters: Just to follow up on North Korea. You said earlier the China is going to be working with North Korea together to fight COVID-19. Are there any specific plans?

Zhao Lijian: China and the DPRK are friendly neighbors sharing borders. We pay great attention to the pandemic in the DPRK. We believe that under the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the government of the DPRK, the people of the country can surely defeat the pandemic. China is ready to strengthen anti-pandemic cooperation with the DPRK, and provide our support and assistance in light of the DPRK’s need. 

Follow-up: Has the DPRK requested any assistance in this regard?

Zhao Lijian: I’m not aware of relevant information.

Reuters: Just again on the UN vote there. You mentioned that China believes that in the past, the UN has looked into and targeted certain countries, but not others. Does that mean China objects to what the UN Human Rights Council has done in the past? But when it comes to this specific resolution, if we were just to ignore the previous issues that China has, does China have any issues at all with this current resolution?

Zhao Lijian: I just gave a very detailed explanation. What you said is your own interpretation. Politicization at the Human Rights Council has been on the rise, so has “double standards” and selectivity. China voted against the resolution based on its principled position on the Ukraine issue. We have made it clear on many occasions.

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