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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on July 28, 2022

CCTV: A grand inauguration ceremony was held yesterday for the Peljesac Bridge in Croatia. Premier Li Keqiang and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic both addressed the ceremony. Could you share more about this project and its significance for China-Croatia and China-Europe cooperation?

Zhao Lijian: Yesterday, Premier Li Keqiang delivered an address via video link for the inauguration ceremony of the Peljesac Bridge in Croatia. He extended congratulations to the Croatian government and people on behalf of the Chinese government and commended the outcomes of China-Croatia and China-Europe cooperation. He stressed that the Peljesac Bridge embodies the friendship between China and Croatia and the fruitful cooperation between China and Europe and brings confidence and hope to our two peoples. Croatian leaders attending the ceremony spoke highly of the role played by Croatia-China and Europe-China cooperation in facilitating Croatia’s development and improving its people’s well-being and stressed that the Croatian people will always remember the Peljesac Bridge as a symbol of the profound friendship between Croatia and China.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Croatia. The completion of the bridge is an important highlight in commemorative activities marking the occasion. The bridge has helped the Croatian people to realize a centuries-old dream. The southern coast is now connected with the rest of the country, reducing the travel time from three hours to just several minutes by car. Despite tough construction conditions and the challenges posed by the pandemic and local susceptibility to earthquakes, the project was completed as scheduled four years after construction began. The Chinese engineering team undertaking the project solved multiple technical difficulties, overcame challenges and delivered a high-quality bridge. In this process, they formed a deep bond of friendship with their Croatian cooperation partners and engineering staff from other European countries who were participating in the construction. Just as Premier Li Keqiang put it, the Peljesac Bridge has added a new landmark to the friendship between our two countries and peoples.

I would also like to stress that an international tender was held for the Peljesac Bridge project, which was won by a Chinese company. They built the bridge according to EU standards and used mainly funding from the EU. The success of China-Croatia-EU tripartite cooperation in this project is a vivid demonstration of the concept of openness, inclusiveness, win-win results and shared benefits. The inauguration of the bridge is another inspiring message showing that China and Europe, as two major forces, big markets and great civilizations, have every reason and possibility to enhance cooperation to achieve common development on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.

China Daily: According to reports, nearly 1,000 Chinese and foreign NGOs sent a co-signed letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and voiced their opposition to the release of an assessment on Xinjiang. What is China’s comment?

Zhao Lijian: Recently nearly 1,000 NGOs from China and other countries and social organizations of various sectors in Xinjiang sent a co-signed letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. They wrote that during her visit in China, Ms. Bachelet had an extensive exchange with people across all sectors in Xinjiang. She saw with her own eyes the facts and truth that people from all ethnic background in Xinjiang enjoy human rights under the law. They expect that Ms. Bachelet can share her experience in China, including Xinjiang, with the international community in an objective and fair way, and strongly oppose the release of an “unauthorized and untruthful” assessment of Xinjiang. 

The so-called assessment of Xinjiang is a show choreographed and staged by the US and a few other Western countries. As you are aware, some Western countries first pressed for a visit by the High Commissioner to Xinjiang for a so-called “investigation”. After the decision to visit China was made, these countries made a series of demands asking for “unfettered access” of the visit. After the High Commissioner began her visit, they asked her to cancel the visit. And during her stay in China, they demanded her to act the way they wanted. Upon concluding her visit, the High Commissioner issued an official statement on her visit to China, including her trip to Xinjiang. And those countries refused to recognize the statement and openly pressured the Office of the High Commissioner to issue a so-called assessment containing false information. All of this fully exposes these countries’ political agenda.

Today’s Xinjiang enjoys security, stability and a sustained momentum of development. Life there is peaceful and pleasant. Any rumor or disinformation about Xinjiang would easily fall apart before facts. And the attempt of some countries to smear China by manipulating Xinjiang-related issues will lead nowhere. 

This co-signed letter speaks for the just voice of fair-minded people in and outside China. We call on the Office of the High Commissioner to respect the serious concern of the Chinese people and everyone speaking for justice in the world, stand on the right side of history and reject publishing an assessment on Xinjiang based on false information and false accusations.

Shenzhen TV: Many countries in the northern hemisphere have been hit by extremely high temperature this summer. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that it is high time that actions were taken to respond to climate change. Otherwise, every year will be hotter than before in the future. What efforts has China made in climate response?

Zhao Lijian: What you mentioned has indeed been a media focus. I want to tell you that China is a country of action on climate change. I’d like to share some statistics with you. Non-fossil fuel accounted for 16.6% of China’s energy consumption in 2021, making China the top non-fossil fuel consumer in the world. The scale of application and the installed capacity of renewable energy in China both hit record highs. China generates and has installed more hydro, wind, solar and biomass power than any other country in the world. China has been leading the world on new energy vehicles sales for seven years running. In 2020, the share of coal-fired power in China’s installed power capacity dropped to a historic low of under 50%; total emissions of the coal-fired power industries reduced by nearly 90% over a decade; coal consumption by power generation units has been slashed, saving over 700 million tonnes of raw coal over the past decade.

China has made important contribution to the sustainable development of energy worldwide. Let me give you some statistics. By 2021, in a period of nearly eight years, China had conducted more than 200 foreign assistance programs on climate response, provided energy-saving and new energy products and equipment to nearly 40 countries, and helped countries launch meteorological satellites, build hydro, solar and wind power stations. For example, we have built all these power plants in Pakistan, a country to which I was once posted. China has trained some 2,000 officials and professional personnel specializing in climate response from 120 developing countries.

I want to stress that climate change is a global challenge. China hopes that all parties will actively honor their commitments, join hands to turn the green and low-carbon vision laid out in the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement into reality. Developed countries need to step up to their historical responsibilities, follow the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, come up with greater ambition and actions, and meanwhile give more tangible support to developing countries in terms of funding, technology and capacity building.

China Review News: On July 27, the US Senate passed the CHIPS and Science Act in a 64-33 vote. It is reported that this act is aimed at improving the US’s advantage in chip and other high-end industries and help the US compete with China. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: We have noted relevant reports. The so-called CHIPS and Science Act is purportedly aimed at bolstering the competitive edge of the US’s sci-tech and chip industries. However, certain provisions in the act restrain normal sci-tech cooperation between China and the US. China is firmly against it. It is up to the US how it wants to develop itself, but it should by no means create hurdles for normal technological and people-to-people exchanges and cooperation with China, still less deprive China of or undermine China’s legitimate development rights and interests. China-US science and technology cooperation serves the interests of both sides and promotes the progress of humanity. Imposing restrictions and seeking decoupling will only hurt others and oneself alike. In the meantime, China stresses reliance on our own efforts to drive the nation’s development. No restriction or suppression will hold back China’s sci-tech development and industrial progress. 

China News Service: The US, the UK and Australia recently submitted a working paper to the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to justify their nuclear submarine cooperation. Indonesia also submitted a working paper expressing concern over the nuclear submarine cooperation. What’s China’s comment?

Zhao Lijian: The announcement of nuclear submarine cooperation by the US, the UK and Australia has sparked serious concern in the international community. China has made clear its opposition to such cooperation on various occasions. We submitted a working paper on this matter to the Tenth NPT Review Conference last December. We noted that recently Indonesia also submitted a working paper to the Tenth NPT Review Conference to raise concerns over the nuclear proliferation risks arising from the nuclear-powered submarine cooperation.

Regrettably, however, the US, the UK and Australia have yet to acknowledge and address the concerns of various parties. No matter how hard they try to justify themselves, the three countries cannot alter the basic fact that their cooperation comes with serious nuclear proliferation risks and runs counter to the object and purpose of the NPT. Besides, the international community is deeply divided over the issue of safeguards for nuclear submarine power reactors. Any arrangement in this regard would constitute a precedent. This is a matter that bears on the interest of all IAEA member states and therefore should be discussed and decided by all stakeholders.

As called for by China, the IAEA Board of Governors Meeting has included issues related to the AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation in its official agenda for three times in a row. China proposes that an intergovernmental process be initiated under the IAEA framework according to established practice to discuss the political, legal and technical issues concerning the cooperation. The three countries and the IAEA Secretariat should not negotiate safeguards arrangement for the nuclear submarine cooperation until consensus is reached by all parties. In the meantime, we call on the US, the UK and Australia to respect the will of regional countries and rescind the decision of pursuing nuclear submarine cooperation to avoid undermining peace and security in the region and beyond.

Bloomberg and Anadolu Agency: Can you confirm whether President Xi Jinping and President Biden will speak by phone? And can you tell us when the call is scheduled for? Can you confirm it is going to be today and what will be on the agenda?

Zhao Lijian: The heads of state of China and the US maintain communication in various formats. The Chinese side will release relevant information in a timely way. 

Beijing Daily: At this year’s Beijing Forum on Human Rights that opened on July 26, participants said that, during the fight against COVID-19, the Chinese government has always put the Chinese people’s life, safety and health first and protected human rights to the largest extent. Do you have any comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: We fully agree with these remarks. 

The Chinese side always believes that a happy life for all is the biggest human right. Safety and health is the prerequisite for a happy life. The Chinese government puts people’s lives and health front and center, and has rallied the support of the entire country for epidemic prevention and control, and promoted economic development while putting in place effective COVID control measures. Infection rate and mortality rate in China have remained the lowest in the world. All this has effectively protected the lives and health of more than 1.4 billion Chinese people and foreign nationals in China. This is a case in point for how China ensures maximum protection of individual rights by aligning and combining individual and collective rights. It is also an important part of what the forum’s theme on fairer, more equitable, reasonable and inclusive global human rights governance is all about.

In addition, China has advanced a vision of a global community of health for all and made indelible contribution to the global fight against COVID-19. China reported the epidemic to the World Health Organization at the earliest opportunity, released the genome sequence of the virus as soon as we mapped it and shared with the world our containment experience and protocols for diagnostics and treatment. China has provided COVID response assistance to over 150 countries and 15 international organizations, fulfilling its responsibility as a major country and putting in practice international humanitarianism. To end the global pandemic and keep everyone on the planet safe, China will continue to enhance  cooperation against COVID with the international community and be part of the effort to defeat COVID and achieve wider and greater human rights progress for humanity. 

Global Times: According to reports, Samantha Power, Administrator of USAID, said on July 27 that China has provided Sri Lanka with “opaque loan deals at higher interest rates than other lenders” and financed infrastructure projects that often served little practical use over the past 20 years. She added that China should participate in debt relief transparently and on equitable terms with all other creditors. What is China’s comment?

Zhao Lijian: China-Sri Lanka practical cooperation has always follows the principle of being Sri Lanka-led. All cooperation projects have gone through scientific planning and thorough assessment and are never attached with any political strings. The cooperation has contributed to Sri Lanka’s economy and brought tangible benefits to the Sri Lankan people. Sri Lanka’s foreign debt is made up of multiple components. The share of China-related debts is far lower than that of the international capital market and multilateral development banks. Besides, China mostly extends to Sri Lanka preferential loans with low interest rates and long-term maturity, which have helped improve Sri Lanka’s infrastructure and livelihood. Shortly after Sri Lanka’s announcement to suspend international debt payments, Chinese financial institutions reached out to the Sri Lankan side and shown full readiness to find a proper way to handle the matured debts concerning China and help Sri Lanka to overcome the difficulties. 

I want to stress that the global economic and financial markets have suffered enormously as a result of the US’s recent sudden interest rate hike and balance sheet reduction, which have rapidly siphoned off dollars on top of the US’s long-running quantitative easing policy and irresponsible massive stimulus. The US’s wayward unilateral sanctions and tariff barriers have undermined the security of global supply and industrial chains, and worsened the price surge of energy, food and other bulk commodities. This has further aggravated the economic and financial condition of developing countries including Sri Lanka. US and other Western capital speculation in Sri Lanka and manipulation of the credit rating of the country seriously undermined Sri Lanka’s financing credibility and channels. The US should ask itself: What has it done for the sustainable development of developing countries like Sri Lanka? What harm have US unilateral economic, financial and foreign policies brought to other countries? We hope the US will genuinely help Sri Lanka overcome the current difficulties, ease debt burden and realize sustainable development, instead of unscrupulously latching onto every opportunity to shift the blame, smear other countries and advance geopolitical contests.

Reuters: The US Navy has said that US aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and its strike group are now operating in the South China Sea. What’s China’s comment?

Zhao Lijian: China’s position on the relevant issue is clear and consistent. This is not the first time that the US has sent its aircraft carrier to the South China Sea to flex its muscles. It is clear to us all who exactly poses the biggest threat to peace and stability in the South China Sea and the Asia-Pacific.

Dragon TV: On July 27, British Foreign Secretary Truss said at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games that the 54-nation Commonwealth would take centre-stage in a post-Brexit “Global Britain” and be a “vital bulwark” against China. “We must ensure there are clear benefits to remaining a member of the Commonwealth and offer nations a clear alternative to growing malign influence from Beijing,” she added. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: There’s a Chinese idiom which means to box oneself in just like a silkworm wrapping itself in a cocoon. It is used as a metaphor for misguided, self-defeating acts. Forming exclusive blocs and inciting confrontation is not what the world needs and is against the trend of the times. Acts like this failed in the past and will fail again today. We advise certain British politicians to stop their laughable acts of making irresponsible remarks about China and projecting China as an imaginary enemy and stop misleading the public.

Phoenix TV: According to reports, the UN Human Rights Committee on July 27 published the concluding observations on the periodic report of Hong Kong’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee expressed concerns over Hong Kong’s National Security Law and urged Hong Kong to take action to repeal the National Security Law and, in the meantime, refrain from applying it pending the repeal of the National Security Law. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: We noticed the concluding observations published by the UN Human Rights Committee. I’d like to stress that China is not a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights yet. After the return of Hong Kong and Macau to China, according to the basic laws of the two Special Administrative Regions, the provisions of the Covenant as applied to Hong Kong shall remain in force and be implemented through the laws of the SARs. In accordance with the principle of One Country, Two Systems and in the light of the Covenant, the Chinese government has transferred the reports drafted by the Hong Kong SAR and the Macau SAR by themselves to the UN Human Rights Committee and facilitated its dialogue with the two SARs.

Over the past 25 years since Hong Kong’s return, the constitutional order of the SAR, which is based on China’s Constitution and the Basic Law of the SAR, has functioned smoothly, and the extensive rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents in accordance with law have been fully protected. The continued success of One Country, Two Systems in Hong Kong is there for all to see. The review process of the reports should have opened a window for the international community into the major achievements of One Country, Two Systems and the important progress in the Hong Kong SAR’s human rights protection. But regrettably, certain members of the UN Human Rights Committee, being ideologically biased and oblivious to facts, chose to trust false information and narratives instead and commented irresponsibly on One Country, Two Systems and human rights in Hong Kong in the concluding observations. This is rather partial and unfair. China strongly rejects this. 

To safeguard national security is the duty and responsibility of the government of a country. National security legislation is a widespread practice among countries. No country or region in the world will allow behaviors or activities that jeopardize its sovereignty and security. Since the implementation of the National Security Law, Hong Kong’s economic and social development has returned to the right track, its legal system has been improved, and its people’s rights and freedoms have been better protected in a safer environment. The enactment and implementation of the National Security Law is an important cornerstone for ensuring long-term peace, stability and prosperity in Hong Kong and ensuring that the cause of One Country, Two Systems keeps advancing steadily.

Bloomberg: Who will be representing China at the ASEAN-plus foreign ministers’ meetings in Cambodia starting Sunday?

Zhao Lijian: Thank you for your interest in the ASEAN-plus foreign ministers’ meetings. We will release information in due course.

MASTV: Newt Gingrich, who visited Taiwan when he was the US House Speaker, said on July 25 that Nancy Pelosi absolutely has to go to Taiwan so that China understand the US is not a “paper tiger”. “We had a lot of tension in 1996, 97, and President Clinton and I collaborated in trying to send very strong signals, including putting American aircraft carriers in the Taiwan Strait,” he said. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: Newt Gingrich has a serious track record on issues related to Taiwan. There is no merit in his extremely irresponsible remarks. This only proves once again how some US politicians would stoke tensions in China-US relations, turmoil across the Taiwan Strait and instability in the world only to benefit themselves.

Over the past few days, the Chinese side has repeatedly made clear to the US side its firm opposition to the potential visit of Speaker Pelosi to Taiwan. Apart from the foreign ministry spokesperson, China’s Ministry of National Defense and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council also made statements on the issue. The Defense Ministry Spokesperson said that if the US side insists on making the visit, the Chinese military will never sit idly by, and will certainly take strong and resolute measures to thwart any interference by external forces and secessionist attempts for “Taiwan independence”. We Chinese mean what we say.

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