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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Daily Briefing Online on February 20, 2020

I'd like to share the latest numbers with you first. According to this morning's update from the National Health Commission, February 19 saw 1,779 patients cured and discharged from hospital in China's mainland, bringing the total number of cured cases to 16,155. New confirmed cases in China excluding Hubei Province stood at 45 on February 19, marking a decline for the 16th consecutive day.

Q: In his statement on February 19, US Secretary of State Pompeo condemned China's "expulsion" of three Wall Street Journal foreign correspondents and said that China should not restrict freedom of speech. Do you have any comments?

A: This is not a matter of freedom of speech as Mr. Pompeo claimed.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an article that smeared China with a racially discriminatory title, which reflects a disregard for basic facts and professional ethics. It has triggered indignation among the Chinese people and condemnation from the international community.

Mr. Pompeo talks about freedom of speech all the time. Does the US version of it entitle one to publish an openly racist and discriminatory article insulting a whole country or nation and then refuse to admit the mistake and apologize?

I want to ask Mr. Pompeo this question: if the WSJ has the freedom to insult, don't the offended have the right to fight back?

Q: Is China's decision to revoke the press cards of three Wall Street Journal journalists solely because of the headline of the article that WSJ published, or was it also in response to US restrictions on five Chinese media? Will China take further actions in response to the US measures?

A: I talked about the revocation of press credentials of three WSJ correspondents yesterday. I need to stress that China deals with affairs related to foreign journalists in accordance with laws and regulations. Media agencies that publish articles blatantly insulting China, endorse racial discrimination, and maliciously smear China must pay the price.

I also responded to the US decision to designate five Chinese media organizations as foreign missions yesterday. We reserve the right to make further responses.

Q: Recently certain Western individuals and media have suggested that COVID-19 may have originated from China's biological warfare program and it is a bio-weapon leaked from a lab. What's your comment?

A: At present, the Chinese people are fighting an all-out war against COVID-19 not just for its own sake, but also for global public health security. At this particular time, it is either with malicious intentions or absurd ignorance that certain individuals and media outlets are spreading such sensational hearsay.

The WHO has said repeatedly there is no evidence that COVID-19 was engineered in a laboratory or created by the manufacture of biological weapons. Besides the war on virus, we're also battling conspiracy theories. Many of the world's leading medical experts also believe that such allegations as "laboratory leakage" or "biological weapons development" have no scientific basis whatsoever.

Just the day before yesterday, on February 18, the Lancet, an authoritative international medical journal, published a joint statement signed by 27 of the world's leading scientists in the field of public health in support of the Chinese research, health and medical professionals fighting the outbreak, which strongly condemns the conspiracy theories circulating online. The statement said scientists from multiple countries have analyzed genomes of the causative agent, and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have other emerging pathogens. Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors, and prejudice that jeopardize global collaboration in the fight against this virus. These scientists also call for respect for the professional advice of the WHO.

I want to emphasize that what we need in the face of an epidemic is science, rationality and cooperation. We must seek the triumph of science over ignorance, dispel rumors with truth, and replace prejudice with cooperation. We hope the international community, while fighting COVID-19 together, will continue to combat conspiracy theories and other "political viruses".

Q: ROK's new Consul-General to Wuhan Kang Seung-seok has already arrived to assume office. Considering the ongoing epidemic there, do you have anything to say on this?

A: The newly-appointed ROK Consul-General to Wuhan Mr. Kang Seung-seok arrived in the early hours today aboard a chartered plane carrying donated medical supplies from his country. We welcome Mr. Kang and will do everything we can to facilitate his work.

As the fight against the epidemic in China enters a crucial stage, the ROK arrangement showcases the great importance it attaches to bilateral relations and its support for China. Domestic media says that CG Kang is a contrarian. I think this is quite fitting.

Since the outbreak of the epidemic, President Moon Jae-in and other ROK politicians have said that as close neighbors, we should help and support each other in times of difficulty. The ROK will spare no efforts in assisting and coordinating with China to counter this challenge. The ROK Embassy in China put up a banner saying "we take China's difficulty as ours". Seoul's landmark buildings are lit up with the words "Stay strong, Wuhan and China". These are strong messages that the ROK stands together with China. The ROK government and people from all walks of life have made generous donations. Many contacted the Chinese Embassy there to do so. We are deeply touched by this enormous outpouring of compassion during this challenging time.

I believe there is a saying in the ROK to the effect that "the earth becomes more solid once it dries after a heavy rain". The epidemic will only bring the Chinese people closer. We are confident that under the strong leadership of the Chinese government and with the strong support of the international community including the ROK, the Chinese people will surely win this fight at an early date. The friendship and mutual trust between China and the ROK will also be consolidated as we work together to prevail over this epidemic.

Q: The WSJ article was published by the opinions section, not the news section the three correspondents are with. Did China ask the WSJ for an apology over the offensive column, or were any other mediation efforts attempted, before expelling the three journalists with no connection to that column?

A: After the WSJ published the derogatory article, the Chinese side lodged stern representations with it repeatedly to make clear our solemn position and demand that it recognize the severity of its mistake, make an official apology publicly and hold those involved accountable. Meanwhile we reserve the right to take further actions. However, regrettably, what the WSJ has done so far is nothing but fudging the issue and dodging its responsibility. It has neither issued an official apology nor done anything on accountability.

We are not interested in the structural divide within the WSJ. There is only one media agency by this name, and it must take full responsibility for its own behavior.

Q: Indian Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah visited a disputed area in the east sector of China-India boundary today. He attended "statehood day" activities in the so-called "Arunachal Pradesh". I wonder if you have any comment?

A: China's position on the east sector of the China-India boundary, or Zangnan (the southern part of China's Xizang), is consistent and clear. The Chinese government has never recognized the so-called "Arunachal Pradesh".

We are firmly opposed to Indian politicians' visits to Zangnan (the southern part of China's Xizang). The move you mentioned violated China's territorial sovereignty, undermined stability along the border, sabotaged political mutual trust, and violated bilateral consensus.

The Chinese side urges the Indian side to stop taking any action that may complicate the border issue and take concrete actions to uphold peace and tranquility in the border area.

Q: Will China be able to comment on a letter published by Czech media, saying that Czech companies with economic interests in China will have to pay for a business visit to Taiwan? The letter said Czech firms whose representatives visit Taiwan will not be welcomed in China or by Chinese people.

A: I don't know where you got this information. What I can tell you is that the one-China principle is a common consensus of the international community and upholding this principle is a basic norm in the international community.

In recent years, China and the Czech Republic have enjoyed fruitful cooperation in various fields. We stand ready to work with it to deepen cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and win-win results to deliver benefits to the two peoples.

Q: Why were these three journalists chosen?

A: Perhaps you can ask the WSJ why it chose to publish an article that maliciously attacks and smears a whole country and nation? Why did it pick an obviously racist title? Why hasn't anyone been held accountable? Why has it refused to make an official apology publicly?

China handles issues relating to foreign journalists in accordance with laws and regulations. Media agencies that run articles blatantly insulting China, endorse racial discrimination, and maliciously smear China must pay the price.

We are not interested in the structural divide within the WSJ. There is only one media agency by this name, and it must assume full responsibility for its own behavior.

Q: The WSJ publisher Dow Jones CEO said that the opinion division published the article and the WSJ simply offers a platform to publish all kinds of opinions. What is your response?

A: Like I said, the Chinese side has lodged stern representations with the WSJ repeatedly to make clear our solemn position on this. However, what the WSJ has done so far is nothing but fudging the issue and dodging its responsibility. We are not interested in the structural divide within the WSJ. There is only one media agency by this name, and it must take full responsibility for its own behavior.

Does freedom of speech entitle one to publish openly racist and discriminatory articles insulting a whole country or nation? In fact, this WSJ article has not only triggered indignation among the Chinese people, but also condemnation from the international community.

Q: When did the Chinese government learn that five Chinese media organizations were being designated as foreign missions by the US State Department?

A: I talked about China's position earlier and have nothing to update you at the moment.

Q: The three WSJ journalists are from the news section, not opinions division, and were not involved in the op-ed with the offensive headline, so why did China decide to revoke their press cards, and what rules or laws allow China to take such an action against foreign journalists?

A: I talked about the revocation of press credentials of three WSJ correspondents yesterday. I need to stress that China deals with affairs related to foreign journalists in accordance with laws and regulations.

Media agencies that run articles blatantly insulting China, endorse racial discrimination, and maliciously smear China must pay the price.

We are not interested in the structural divide within the WSJ. There is only one media agency by this name, and it must take full responsibility for its own behavior.

Q: Dow Jones said in a statement that "It was not our intention to cause offense with the headline on the piece," "However, this has clearly caused upset and concern amongst the Chinese people, which we regret." I wonder if you have any further comment?

A: I'd like to reiterate that this WSJ article has triggered indignation among the Chinese people and condemnation from the international community. However, as we speak, the WSJ still hasn't realized the severity of its mistake. It has neither made an official apology publicly nor held anyone accountable.

We urge it to treat our concerns seriously and respond to our demands. We reserve the right to take further measures.

Q: When you said the article triggered condemnation from the international community, which countries do you refer to? Who has talked about this?

A: Anyone with conscience and morality will condemn WSJ's racially discriminatory article.

Q: Can you please tell us what your "stern representations" involved? Did you send a fax? Make calls? Did your diplomatic staff in the US have meetings with WSJ executives or editors? Or was this all conveyed from the podium of the MFA spokesperson's regular press briefings and the pages of the Global Times?

A: I assure you our representations were not made on the podium or through any media.

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