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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on June 10, 2022

CCTV: President Alberto Fernández of Argentina, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica, Prime Minister Johnny Briceño of Belize, among other leaders of Latin American and Caribbean countries, expressed criticisms in their remarks at the Ninth Summit of the Americas. They said that the US exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the summit is unforgivable and incomprehensible, and that being the host country does not give it the right to decide the list of participation. They also urged the US to end its blockade and sanctions on the countries concerned. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: I have noted the relevant remarks of the summit’s participants from Latin American and Caribbean countries. I also noted that among those not attending the summit, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel described this Summit of the Americas as a neocolonial spectacle that serves the US domestic politics. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that countries should not remain silent about the hegemonic policies, and that the Americas should commence a new stage that rejects exclusionary policies. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said that the era is over in which the US sees Latin America as its backyard and believes it can dictate the actions of countries in this region.

What they said represents the legitimate concerns and just calls from the majority of regional countries. The US should not turn a deaf ear to them and needs to stop doing whatever it likes. The US needs to abandon its attachment to the outdated Monroe Doctrine and highhanded approach, stop bullying, coercion, blockade and sanctions, and develop its relations with other regional countries on the basis of mutual respect, equality and non-interference in others’ internal affairs.  

People’s Daily: Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the end of NATO’s bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. After an international legal team filed lawsuits against NATO on behalf of 3,000 victims over the horrific consequences of up to 15 tons of depleted uranium bombs NATO dropped in 1999, NATO responded by saying it has immunity from prosecution. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: Twenty-three years ago, US-led NATO blatantly bombarded the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for 78 days without the approval of the UN Security Council. In total, NATO dropped nearly 420,000 bombs weighing 22,000 tons, including 15 tons of depleted uranium bombs. Over 2,500 people including 79 children were killed and more than one million people became refugees as a direct result of the bombings. 

What is more heart-wrenching is that death and agony brought by the war lingered for generations till this day. As noted by experts, exposure to radiation emitted by depleted uranium bombs can show no symptom for years and depleted uranium bombs have long-term impact on the environment and human food-chain. In the 10 years after the bombing, about 30,000 people in Serbia developed cancer, among whom 10,000 died. According to the Institute of Public Health of Belgrade, by the end of 2019, the number of registered cancer patients in Serbia was as high as 97,000. A study of the Serbian emergency center shows that among children born in Serbia after 1999, many aged between one and five suffered from ectodermal tumors, many aged between five and nine contracted hematological malignancies, and there is a clear uptick in the morbidity rate of brain cancer among those aged between nine and 18. Besides, by May 2019, 366 Italian military personnel who participated in the NATO military operations have died of cancer, and 7,500 have fallen sick. 

However, till this day, the US -- the country that sent military aircraft to drop depleted uranium bombs over Serbia and the inventor of this type of bombs as well as the only country that has ever used them -- continues to deny that depleted uranium bombs can directly cause Gulf War syndrome and Kosovo syndrome. During the Gulf War, the US dropped far more depleted uranium bombs over Iraq. NATO is also trying to get away with it by claiming immunity from prosecution. Such moves by the US-led NATO are shocking. Neither the Serbian people, nor people elsewhere in the world seeking justice, will ever agree to this. The US-led NATO should earnestly reflect on its war crimes, and provide a reasonable explanation and compensations to the victims of depleted uranium bombs as soon as possible. NATO must also seriously learn the lesson and stop creating new turmoil and division across the world. 

Bloomberg: A group of advisers to the WHO have said in a report that more information and research are needed to investigate, first of all, the possibility that a laboratory incident in Wuhan was the source of the coronavirus strain that set off the global pandemic. In addition, they’re also saying that further study of the market in Wuhan that has been identified as another possible source is also necessary. Does the foreign ministry have any comment on this report by the group of advisers to the WHO?

Zhao Lijian: China’s position on the study of the origins of SARS-CoV-2 is consistent and clear. We always support and participate in science-based global origins-tracing. At the same time, we firmly oppose all forms of political manipulation. Since COVID-19 broke out, the Chinese side has twice received WHO experts for origins-tracing cooperation, which produced a scientific and authoritative joint report and laid a solid foundation for global origins-tracing. After the WHO established the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins on Novel Pathogens (SAGO), China recommended experts to join the group and organized events for Chinese experts to share research findings with the WHO Secretariat and SAGO.

China is the only country that has invited more than once WHO expert groups to come into the country to conduct joint SARS-CoV-2 origins study. It is also the only country that has provided multiple opportunities for its experts to share progress on origins-tracing with SAGO. China has shared more data and research findings on SARS-CoV-2 origins study than any other country. This fully demonstrates China’s open, transparent and responsible attitude and its support for the work of the WHO and SAGO.

I would also like to stress the following points. First, origins study must be conducted on the basis of science and free from political interference. The lab leak theory is a false claim concocted by anti-China forces for political purposes. It has nothing to do with science. The Chinese side has invited WHO experts to visit the Wuhan lab, and the joint report reached the clear conclusion that “a laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be extremely unlikely”. Since the SAGO report has called for investigation into biological laboratories “located worldwide where early COVID-19 cases have been retrospectively detected” for the next phase of study, investigation should first target highly suspicious laboratories such as those at Fort Detrick and the University of North Carolina in the US.

Second, more and more clues from the international science community are pointing the origins of SARS-CoV-2 to sources around the world. The WHO and SAGO should take a close look at these clues, effectively cooperate with these relevant countries, and share research findings with all parties in a timely way.

Third, according to its mandate, SAGO should focus more on emerging pathogens with epidemic and pandemic potential in the future while conducting SARS-CoV-2 origins study. The recent outbreaks of hepatitis of unknown cause in children and monkeypox reported in the US, the UK, Canada and elsewhere have drawn much attention worldwide. The WHO and SAGO must take prompt action accordingly.

In a word, we hope the WHO Secretariat and SAGO will keep their position on this issue objective and just, and contribute their part to science-based global origins research and a united response to COVID-19.

China News Review: According to reports, at a hearing on the Jan 6 Capitol riot on June 9 local time, the US House committee said the assault was an “attempted coup”. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: The attack on the Capitol over a year ago shocked the world, and sparked wide concerns and strong questioning from the American public and the international community over the US-style democracy. An incident like this is called an “attempted coup” when it takes place in the US, but becomes “a beautiful sight to behold” or a “democratic movement” when it occurs elsewhere. This once again exposes the nature of the US’s double standards when it comes to democracy and how the US uses it to engage in political manipulation.

I want to stress that no democracy should be considered as superior to others, and that to stereotype, politicize or weaponize the concept of democracy would only end up hurting others and hurting oneself. The US should earnestly reflect on its democracy deficit, and stop creating turmoil and division in the world in the name of democracy. 

Shenzhen TV: According to sources cited by media reports, recently, the US forces illegally stationed in Syria have looted oil from the oil fields they occupy, smuggled and sold it abroad to make profits. Bassam Tomeh, Syrian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, condemned the US for acting “just like pirates”. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: I have also noticed relevant reports. They remind me of how the US brazenly seized the seven billion US dollars of Afghan people’s life-saving money 20 years after it invaded the country.

Today, more than a decade after the Syrian crisis broke out, there is no end in sight to US military and economic interference in Syria. According to statistics, the confirmed war-related civilian deaths from 2016 to 2019 amounted to 33,584 in Syria. In 2017, the US troops launched what they called the “most precise air campaign in history” in Raqqa, killing 1,600 civilians. A US raid in Idlib in February 2022 killed at least 13 people, including six children and four women.

Unfortunately, the US government, rather than reflecting upon its war-related crimes and responsibilities, has flagrantly plundered Syria’s national resources, plunging the country into an unprecedented humanitarian disaster. According to the latest statistics, 90 percent of the Syrian population live below the poverty line, two thirds rely on humanitarian assistance, and 55 percent are food insecure. The Syrian people’s wealth is being plundered by the US in broad daylight. At the same time, US sanctions deprive the country of the opportunities for development. The Syrian people have decried the suffocating pirate-like behavior and economic blockade of the US.

Under US hegemony, it was not only George Floyd who could not breathe. People in Syria, Afghanistan and other countries that have fallen victim to US military intervention cannot breathe either. It is increasingly clear to the international community that inside the US’s package of “rules-based international order” is in fact the ambition to perpetuate “American interests-first” global hegemony.

China News Service: The European Parliament adopted a resolution on June 9, claiming that there is a “serious risk of genocide” in Xinjiang. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: Spokespersons for China’s Mission to the European Union and the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress have already made their response. The European Parliament’s so-called resolution on Xinjiang has no basis in facts and lacks basic knowledge about relevant laws. The resolution deliberately smears China, grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs, and blatantly violates international law and basic norms governing international relations. China deplores and firmly opposes this.

The issues related to Xinjiang are not about ethnicity, religion or human rights. They are about countering violent terrorism, radicalization and separatism and have everything to do with protecting China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security. Over the past 60 years and more, the Uyghur population grew from 2.2 million to about 12 million, and the average life expectancy increased from 30 years to 74.7 years. The so-called resolution of the European Parliament is purely based on the “lie of the century” concocted by extreme anti-China forces. This is just another preposterous show designed to smear and stigmatize China. Any lie and show like this will not change tranquility and unity in Xinjiang. 

The European Parliament was lying through its teeth when it adopted the so-called resolution on Xinjiang. Certain members of the European Parliament should respect facts, stop using Xinjiang-related issues to engage in political manipulation and interfering in China’s internal affairs, and stop stoking ideological confrontation in the name of human rights. China will continue to firmly defend its own sovereignty, security and development interests.

Bloomberg: There’s a Al Jazeera report that the Czech Republic’s parliament is mulling a decision on whether it will quit the 16+1 mechanism. And the move is seen as reflecting a broad level of dissatisfaction with 16+1 from a number of Central and Eastern European countries.Does the foreign ministry have any comment on the Czech Republic’s consideration of the 16+1?

Zhao Lijian: China-CEEC cooperation is a cross-regional platform jointly built by China and CEE countries including the Czech Republic, and has made positive contribution to win-win cooperation and common development of countries on both sides. China-CEEC cooperation, bilateral relations between China and regional countries and China-EU relations are the three major platforms for China-CEEC relations, and an integral part of and a positive complement to the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. 

Despite the impact of COVID-19, trade volume between China and the 16 CEE countries in 2021 rose to a historic high of $133.55 billion by 32 percent year-on-year, which was far higher than that between China and the EU during the same period. Facts speak louder than words. Such an outcome epitomizes the fruitful China-CEEC cooperation over the past decade. These statistics are gathered from public sources. Anyone without bias could tell that China-CEEC cooperation is practical and truly delivers.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of China-CEEC cooperation. China is ready to work with CEE countries to take this historic juncture as a new starting point and further deepen this cooperation mechanism for more solid progress and greater benefits to the people of all countries.

China Review News: Foreign ministry spokespersons made comments on bio-military laboratories run by the US many times. The US has released a fact sheet which mentioned its WMD threat reduction efforts with Ukraine and other countries. Do you have any further comment? Do you think this is the US’ response to the questioning of the international community?

Zhao Lijian: I took note of the document released by the US Department of Defense. This fact sheet tells at length Ukraine’s compliance record but very little about how the US has done. It provided no answer to questions of biggest concern to the international community. For example, did the US conduct activities inconsistent with the Biological Weapons Convention through its cooperation with Ukraine? What exactly is the “sensitive” information that Ukraine is not allowed to make public according to the US-Ukraine cooperation agreement? How many biological samples did the US ship out of Ukraine according to bilateral agreement and for what purpose? Nothing is said about these questions in this fact sheet.

As I stressed time and again, the US conducts more bio-military activities than any other country in the world. Moreover, the US is the only country opposing the establishment of a verification mechanism for the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). The international community has long had concerns over this. Recently, Russia has further revealed the US’s bio-military activities in Ukraine, and raised clearly that the US has violated the BWC. According to the stipulations of the BWC, the US is under an obligation to provide clarifications on Russia’s allegation so as to restore the international community’s confidence in the US’s compliance.

We again urge the US to make full and detailed clarifications regarding not just Ukraine’s but the US’s own compliance, which is the responsible thing to do. The US also needs to stop single-handedly opposing the establishment of a verification mechanism for the BWC.

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