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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on May 16, 2022

Helsingin Sanomat: Finland is applying to join NATO. What is China’s opinion about that? Is this going to affect somehow relationship between Finland and China?

Zhao Lijian: China’s position on the European security issue is consistent and clear. We hope all sides will follow the principle of indivisible security, and build a balanced, effective and sustainable regional security architecture through dialogue and negotiation on the basis of respecting each other’s legitimate concerns and guided by the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. This is the only way to realize lasting peace and true security in Europe.

We have noted Finland’s application to join NATO. China and Finland enjoy very friendly relations. Finland’s application to join NATO will naturally add new factors to the bilateral relations.

China Daily: Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said in a signed article in The Washington Post that nearly 25 years after Hong Kong’s return to China, the Chinese government has utterly abandoned its pledge of “a high degree of autonomy” for the city. The recent arrests, including that of Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, are an affront to religious freedom, political freedoms and human rights. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: The US politician’s remarks constitute denigration of Hong Kong’s rule of law, unwarranted attack against China’s Hong Kong policy and grave interference in China’s internal affairs and judicial sovereignty. We deplore and reject that. The Chinese Embassy in the US and the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) have both made solemn refutations. The HKSAR government has already released a press statement saying that the police arrests are law enforcement actions based on evidence and in strict accordance with the law. The relevant individuals are suspected of committing the offence of conspiracy to collude with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security, in contravention of Article 29 of the National Security Law.

I want to stress that since the implementation of the National Security Law, Hong Kong has taken on a new look. The so-called “beautiful sight” in Hong Kong the US politician hopes to behold has proven to be nothing but a pipe dream. With surging inflation, rampant gun violence, and one million lives claimed by COVID-19 in the US, the politician concerned had better spend her time and energy on these domestic issues, rather than concern herself with Hong Kong.

CCTV: The G7 released a Foreign Ministers’ Communiqué on May 14, which contains various items relating to China including Hong Kong, Xinjiang, human rights, maritime issues, the situation in Ukraine, peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, among others. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: China’s position on Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan and maritime issues is consistent and clear. We have expressed our firm opposition to the G7 presidency. The lengthy G7 communiqué is filled with preposterous allegations not even worth refuting. In total disregard of China’s solemn position and objective facts, it grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs, maliciously slanders and smears China, and once again exerts pressure on China using such pretexts as the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

We urge the G7 to uphold the international system with the United Nations at its core, the international order based on international law, and the basic norms governing international relations underpinned by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. We urge the G7 to respect China’s sovereignty, stop maligning China or meddling in China’s domestic affairs in any form, and stop bullying other countries with the rules of their own clique.

We urge the G7 to act in the interest of world peace and development, stop applying double or multiple standards, stop sending military aircraft and warships to other countries’ doorsteps to flex muscles at every turn, stop wantonly instigating color revolutions in other countries, stop arbitrarily resorting to illegal sanctions or long-arm jurisdiction, and stop fabricating and spreading lies and rumors about China.

We urge the G7 to assume its responsibility, fulfill its due international obligation, safeguard true multilateralism, focus on global governance, strengthen cooperation with the UN, G20 and other multilateral mechanisms, and play a positive role in addressing global challenges and promoting world economic recovery, instead of clinging to the Cold War mentality and ideological bias, pursuing “small clique” group politics, creating confrontation and division, and bringing chaos to the world.

Global Times: On May 15 this year, the Palestinians marked the 74th Nakba Day. Against the backdrop of frequent clashes between Palestine and Israel recently, what is China’s comment on the current Palestine-Israel situation?

Zhao Lijian: Lately there has been ongoing tension between Palestine and Israel with frequent violent clashes. Both sides, Israel in particular, should stay calm and exercise restraint to prevent the situation from further deteriorating. The Palestine question is at the root of issues in the Middle East. The long denial of the Palestinian people’s legitimate appeal for establishing an independent state has led to recurrences of tragic Palestinian-Israeli clashes. The over 70-year-old historical injustice should not continue. The international community should take actions with a greater sense of urgency and work for the early resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel on the basis of the two-state solution, so as to achieve the comprehensive, just and lasting resolution of the Palestine question at an early date.

Al Jazeera: On May 13, at the funeral for Shireen Abu Aqleh who was killed by Israel, the Israeli forces again bloodily beat the Palestinian pallbearers and sought to take away Shireen’s body. Amid the provoked scuffles, her coffin was dropped to the ground. I want to stress, as a Chinese saying goes, nothing is more important than laying the deceased to rest. Israel’s barbaric acts have gone beyond the limit of human evil, as they attacked not only the living, but also the deceased. How does China view the actions of Israel? The facts are as plain as day with no need for any investigation. What is China’s position on this issue?

Zhao Lijian: I have noted relevant reports. The President of the UN Security Council has issued a statement that strongly condemned the killing.

You’ve made a point. Indeed, people in China believe that nothing is more important than laying the deceased to rest. The deceased should be respected. The scenes of mourners carrying the coffin being attacked and beaten were indeed unsettling and heart-wrenching. We deeply regret the acts of the Israeli police. Again we deeply mourn the passing of the journalist, and express our sincere condolences to her families and colleagues including you.

China firmly rejects and strongly condemns all attacks on civilians, including acts of violence against journalists doing their job. China believes the case should be handled in accordance with law and in a just manner.

Shenzhen TV: In a report to Congress, the US State Department outlined plans to boost pressure on China over what it called “horrific abuses” of Uyghur and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region. The US government will combat “forced labor” in Xinjiang and counter intrusive surveillance, forced population control measures, detention and coercive assimilation, the report said. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: The US State Department repeatedly releases reports to spread the lies of the century on “forced labor”, “detention camps” and “coercive assimilation” in Xinjiang, in an attempt to smear Xinjiang and contain China’s development. However, this plot will never succeed. Not long ago, the US Interior Department issued a report acknowledging the forced separation and cultural genocide that lasted for decades in federal Indian boarding schools. This once again reveals that the US is adept at presuming other’s behavior based on its own history and hurling accusations based on its presumptions.

In fact, the US has serious problems of human trafficking and forced labor. Nearly 100,000 people are smuggled into the US for forced labor every year. As we speak, there are at least half a million people enslaved in the US; and roughly 240,000 to 325,000 women and children in the US are victims of sexual slavery. The 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2021 and the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights together with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in April 2021 expressed concern over the human trafficking and forced labor in the US.

While falsely claiming that there are “detention camps” in Xinjiang, the US itself stands out as an old hand at arbitrary detention and abuse of torture as well as the evil hand behind a network of black sites overseas. Over the years, the CIA has set up black sites in at least 54 countries and regions where hundreds of thousands of people are put under detention. Many US black sites are caught up in prisoner abuse scandals, with the use of brutal and horrifying torture. A group of independent human rights experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council called this “a stain on the US Government’s commitment to the rule of law”.

At present, Xinjiang enjoys social stability and tranquility and economic prosperity and development. Residents there are leading happy and fulfilling lives and the human rights of people of all ethnic groups are fully protected. We believe that lies and disinformation will just collapse in front of the facts. The US should face squarely and reflect upon its serious human rights problems including genocide, racial discrimination, human trafficking, forced labor, arbitrary detention and abuse of torture, and stop meddling in other countries’ internal affairs in the name of human rights.

YLE News: Chinese English-speaking newspaper Global Times said earlier that Sweden and Finland joining NATO would make Europe a new gunpowder keg. Does the Foreign Ministry of China also see it like this? What would be the risks of Finland and Sweden joining NATO? And does China view NATO expansion as a risk to itself?

Zhao Lijian: China’s position on NATO and its eastward expansion is very clear. The Chinese side has repeatedly elaborated on that.

CCTV: It is reported that Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, passed away on May 13. Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was elected as the new President. In February, the then-Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan came to China for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics. What is China’s expectation for the future of China-UAE relations?

Zhao Lijian: President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan was dedicated to maintaining political stability and promoting economic and social development in the UAE. He was deeply revered and loved by the UAE people. He committed himself to deepening China-UAE friendship and made active efforts to promote the development of bilateral relations. President Xi Jinping has sent a message of condolences to the new President of UAE Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to mourn for the death of President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and express sincere sympathy to the UAE government and people as well as the bereaved family.

President Xi Jinping also sent a congratulatory message to the new President on assuming the role as the President of the UAE. As President Xi Jinping pointed out in his congratulatory message, since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the UAE, bilateral relations have grown in breadth and depth. The two sides have supported each other firmly on issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns. We have achieved fruitful results in practical cooperation across the board, secured remarkable achievements in joint efforts to fight COVID-19, and deepened the friendship between the two peoples. In February, the then-Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited China to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. President Xi Jinping held successful talks with him and the two sides reached important common understanding on the future development of bilateral relations. China attaches great importance to the development of bilateral ties and is ready to work with the UAE to deepen our comprehensive strategic partnership and bring more benefits to the two countries and peoples.

CRI: Former Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was re-elected as the President of Somalia, defeating incumbent President Mohamed Farmajo on May 15. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: China congratulates Somalia on the successful presidential election and extends congratulations to Hassan Sheikh Mohamud over his election as the new president. We hope that under the leadership of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Somalia will open a new chapter in its cause of peace and development and that China-Somalia relations will achieve further development. China stands ready to work with the international community to continue to play a constructive role in helping Somalia realize lasting peace and national reconstruction.

Kyodo News: According to some media reports, the DPRK has requested anti-epidemic supplies from China. Can you confirm this? If so, has China provided such supplies to the DPRK?

Zhao Lijian: China and the DPRK have a fine tradition of offering assistance to each other. Fighting COVID-19 is a common task facing the entire humanity. China is ready to work with the DPRK and the rest of the international community to support one another, enhance cooperation and secure a joint victory in the battle against the pandemic.

China News Service: On May 13, US President Biden signed a bill to direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization. What’s China’s comment?

Zhao Lijian: The bill gravely violates the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, severely contravenes international law and basic norms governing international relations, and grossly interferes in China’s domestic affairs. China rejects and deplores that the US should insist on signing it into law.

The Taiwan question is China’s domestic affair. The one-China principle is a basic norm of international relations. According to relevant UNGA and WHA resolutions, the participation of China’s Taiwan region in WHO activities must be handled in accordance with the one-China principle. Attaching high importance to our Taiwan compatriots’ health welfare, the Chinese central government has made proper arrangements for the region’s participation in global health affairs under the precondition of following the one-China principle.

We urge the US to adhere to the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, comply with international law and basic norms governing international relations, prudently and properly handle Taiwan-related issues, and not to use this bill to help Taiwan expand its so-called “international space”. Otherwise it will cause further damage to China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Phoenix TV: First, the joint statement of the ASEAN-US Special Summit released on May 13 said that “We are dedicated to maintaining peace, security, and stability in the region, ... as well as freedom of navigation and overflight”; “We further reaffirmed the need to pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS”; “We underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety...We welcome further progress towards the early conclusion of an effective and substantive COC”. Do you have any comment? Second, an 18-year-old white gunman opened fire at civilians in a serious shooting incident on May 14 in Buffalo, New York. Local authorities said 11 of the victims are Black and the shooting was a typical case of “racially motivated violent extremism”. Besides, 10 separate shootings took place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 13. Some people say gun violence incidents in the US seem to be getting more and more rampant. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: To answer your first question, the South China Sea is the shared home of countries in the region. With the concerted efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the South China Sea is stable on the whole. Formulating the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) is a common aspiration and need of China and ASEAN countries. In the latter half of May, the two sides will hold face-to-face COC consultations. As always, we are fully confident in the prospect of concluding the COC.

As a country outside of the region, the US should respect the joint efforts of regional countries to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea and refrain from disrupting the conclusion of the COC. I noted that the US likes to invoke the authority of UNCLOS at every turn, but has not joined the convention itself. One cannot help but doubt how credible and convincing the US’ UNCLOS argument is, and question if the US is in a position to criticize others citing the convention.

On the multiple shooting incidents in the US you mentioned, I have noted relevant reports. I’m shocked by the incidents. The question on everyone’s mind now is: Why is gun violence so serious a problem in the US, a country that boasts about freedom, democracy and the rule of law? Why is it that Americans live in constant fear of gun injuries or death?

As of May 12, 15,569 people have been killed in gun violence in the US this year, according to US media reports. As you may recall, there were 20,726 deaths from gun violence in the US in 2021. Five months into this year, the number of people killed as a result of gun violence is already more than three-quarters of last year’s total. Gun violence is getting worse in the US.

One cannot help but wonder: Why are more and more Americans buying, carrying and using guns? According to statistics, incidents of racial discrimination and hatred have been on the rise in the US in recent years. There was a 58.2% increase in gun purchases among Black people, a 43% increase with Asians in 2020. Is the prevalence of gun violence in the US related to the rising sense of insecurity caused by racial discrimination among minorities? What’s behind the rise in gun ownership for Black Americans?

A record high number of over 500 people were killed or injured in road rage shootings across the US in 2021. That means one American is injured or killed every 17 hours. What is the source of the American people’s anger and resentment when they pull the trigger at the slightest disagreement? With 4.2% of the world’s population, the US has 46% of the world’s civilian-owned guns, or 393 million. Are the frequent gun violence incidents related to the convenience in acquiring guns? Some US groups have criticized the US government for unsatisfactory gun-control legislation for many times.

Gun-related injuries and deaths have added strain to the US health care system that is already overwhelmed by COVID-19. Gun violence has become another ghost haunting the Americans in addition to COVID-19, threatening their lives and safety. The US government should shoulder its responsibility to the people and earnestly take effective measures to resolve the gun violence issue. With such a deplorable human rights track record, the US should first and foremost get its own house in order rather than preoccupy itself with criticizing other countries’ human rights conditions.

AFP: I have two questions. Is Foreign Minister Wang Yi planning a visit to Solomon Islands and other Pacific Island countries later this month? Do you have any details to share? Second, the G7 has urged Beijing not to undermine international sanctions against Russia, or to justify Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. How do you respond to this?

Zhao Lijian: On your first question, I don’t have any information to release.

On your second question, China decides its position and policy based on the merits of the matter itself and opposes the imposition of unilateral sanctions on other countries circumventing international law and without UN mandate. Sanctions are not an effective means to resolve the issue and will only accelerate the spill-over of the Ukraine crisis and bring new complications. China calls on all parties to do more to encourage and promote peace talks and create space for political settlement. When handling the Ukraine issue and relations with Russia, relevant countries shall not harm China’s legitimate rights and interests in any way.

MBC: Could you be more specific on how China intends to help the DPRK with regard to the COVID-19 situation?

Zhao Lijian: I just stated China’s position and have no specific information to offer.

Reuters: The World Health Organization has announced that it would be holding the first in-person World Health Assembly in Geneva later this month. Will China be sending somebody to attend this? And if so, who?

Zhao Lijian: I don’t have anything on that at the moment.

Beijing Youth Daily: The ASEAN-US Special Summit released a Joint Vision Statement on May 13, which says the two sides commit to establish an ASEAN-US Comprehensive Strategic Partnership at the 10th ASEAN-US Summit in November. What’s China’s comment?

Zhao Lijian: We would be glad to see non-regional countries including the US play a constructive role in promoting peace and development in the region, but any acts that undermine peace, stability, solidarity and cooperation in the region are unacceptable.

A senior US official said frankly the other day that initiatives designed for competition won’t succeed in Asia. We hope the US will discard the Cold War mentality and stop the erroneous practice of inciting bloc confrontation in Asia. The US should heed regional countries’ aspiration for upholding openness, inclusiveness, peace and win-win results, follow the principle of mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit and non-targeting of any third party, respect regional countries’ independently-chosen development paths, support ASEAN centrality with concrete actions, and make tangible contributions to Asia-Pacific cooperation with a healthy mindset and in a constructive manner.

Reuters: How many Chinese citizens are currently in North Korea and what has the Chinese government done in the last few days or does it plan on doing in the next few days for Chinese citizens in North Korea?

Zhao Lijian: The Chinese government attaches high importance to the safety and health of Chinese citizens in the DPRK. We will closely monitor the evolving epidemic situation in the DPRK and maintain communication with the DPRK side to safeguard the life and health of Chinese citizens there.

The Paper: Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia said at a Security Council meeting the other day that, “Given that the American party refuses to engage in any constructive discussion on this subject, we plan to utilize the mechanisms stipulated in Articles 5 and 6 of the BWC” to investigate US biolabs in Ukraine. Russia will present all material to the United Nations as soon as it is collected, he added. Does China have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: The Russian side has voiced its concern about the US’ biological military activities on multiple occasions at the UN Security Council and BWC meetings. China’s position is clear-cut. The BWC must be fully and effectively implemented. This bears on international peace and security. No exception should be allowed.

We once again urge the US to adopt a responsible attitude and offer clarifications according to BWC stipulations so as to restore the international community’s faith in its compliance. We welcome an international review of relevant issues under such frameworks as the BWC and the UN.

The issue of US compliance has drawn much attention from the international community, which once again highlights the necessity of establishing a BWC verification mechanism. The BWC review conference will be held at the end of this year. We hope state parties will take the opportunity and resume multilateral negotiations aimed at establishing the verification mechanism. Once again we call on the US to stop standing alone in thwarting the efforts of the international community.

Reuters: Last Friday you said that if the DPRK were to ask China to provide anti-epidemic assistance, China would be willing to help. Have such requests been made over the past few days? If so, is China going to send medical personnel or provide vaccines?

Zhao Lijian: China and the DPRK are friendly neighbors linked by mountains and rivers. We have been closely following the epidemic situation in the DPRK. We believe that under the leadership of their party and government, the DPRK people will surely defeat the epidemic. As I have been stressing, China stands ready to enhance anti-epidemic cooperation with the DPRK and to maintain close coordination on this. As to the specific points you asked about, I don’t have the exact information at this moment.

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