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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Regular Press Conference on March 12, 2020

2020/03/12

According to the latest figures from the NHC, March 11 saw 1,318 patients cured and discharged from hospital in China's mainland, bringing the tally to 62,793.

China and Central and Eastern European Countries will hold a video conference on COVID-19 on March 13. Officials from the Chinese Foreign Ministry and National Health Commission and experts in disease control, clinical treatment, civil aviation, customs and community-based quarantine will share information and exchange experience with their counterparts from 17 CEECs, namely Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Since the outbreak of the epidemic, China has been sharing information in an open, transparent and highly responsible way with relevant countries and regions, including the CEECs, responding to their concerns and strengthening international cooperation to jointly ensure regional and global public health security. The governments and peoples of the CEECs have also expressed their support and offered us assistance. We thank them for that.

The epidemic has taken footholds in many places around the world including Europe and is still spreading. This accentuates the importance and urgency for all countries to strengthen communication and coordination and step up international cooperation in prevention and control. We are fully aware that CEECs face various challenges in this area and we'd like to help them to the best of our capability to overcome this epidemic together and promote the building of a community with a shared future for all.

Q: WHO Director-General Tedros said on March 11 that WHO is deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction. WHO has therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic. I wonder if you have any comment?

A: According to the latest update on WHO website, over 100 countries are affected and some of them are in a severe situation. WHO therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic. It also stressed that describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO's assessment of the threat posed by this virus or what WHO and countries should do. Its aim is to call on all member states to make greater political pledges and devote more resources to change the course of this pandemic.

Since the outbreak, with a highly responsible attitude towards our people and people around the globe, the Chinese government has adopted the most comprehensive, thorough and rigorous measures of prevention and control. Thanks to these arduous efforts, the situation is increasingly trending in a positive direction and we have made some major progress for the current stage.

China's efforts are an important part of the global response and our endeavors and progress are important contributions. Going forward, while combating the disease at home, China will make contributions to the global fight against COVID-19. Yesterday I talked about China's pledges in five areas, including greater communication and collaboration with WHO and other countries, know-how sharing, dispatch of health specialists to countries in need, donation of supplies and cooperation in science and technology. We will maintain close communication and cooperation with the international community to roll out measures in these five areas.

Virus is an enemy of all human beings as it knows no borders. China will work hand in hand with other countries and contribute our strength and wisdom to securing a final victory against the pandemic and to building a community with a shared future for mankind.

Q: On March 11, the US State Department released the 2019 country reports on human rights practices. At the press conference on the release, Secretary of State Pompeo criticized China's human rights conditions and Xinjiang policy. What's your comment?

A: The China part of the so-called "country reports on human rights practices" released by the US is a mere repetition of old rhetoric. In disregard of facts, it confuses right and wrong. The report and Pompeo's remarks are filled with political lies and ideological prejudice. We are firmly against it.

The Chinese government always attaches high importance to protecting and promoting human rights. Since the founding the People's Republic of China, our human rights cause has achieved tremendous progress, as has been witnessed by the international community. China's human rights situation has never been better. The Chinese people is in the best position to judge it. This fact cannot be negated by a few remarks or any report by some individuals in the US.

Xinjiang affairs are purely China's internal affairs that brook no foreign interference. The Chinese government's lawful counter-terrorism and deradicalization efforts in Xinjiang have the backing and endorsement of people of all ethnic groups. They have also been recognized and commended by the international community. The US is in no place to make wanton comments on them.

We urge the US to reflect upon and correct its mistake. It should stop interfering in China's domestic affairs using human rights as a pretext, or else it will only be met with stronger opposition of the Chinese people.

Q: Robert O'Brien, the White House national security adviser, said yesterday that China covered up the virus outbreak in Wuhan, and this likely cost the world two months of time to prepare. What's your comment on this?

A: The World Health Organization has just made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic, indicating that it has become a common challenge to all human beings. We hope certain US officials could focus on domestic response and international cooperation instead of trying to shift the blame to China by denigrating the Chinese government and people's efforts to fight the epidemic. This immoral and irresponsible behavior will in no way help mitigate COVID-19 in the US.

The US official accuses China of "covering up" the disease. Well, the world knows better that China released information in an open and transparent manner. It identified the pathogen within a record short period of time and shared the genetic sequence of the virus with WHO and other countries including the US. Not long ago, China hosted a WHO mission including US experts for a nine-day visit, after which they highly commended China's transparency. Here we do not comment on whether the US response is open and transparent, but obviously, someone in the US still turns a deaf ear to international appraisal on China.

This official blamed China for costing extra time for the US and the larger international community to respond. Well, the world has acknowledged China's signature speed, scale and efficiency. It is China's forceful measures and Chinese people's huge sacrifice that stemmed the outward spread of COVID-19, thus buying valuable time for the world to respond. According to WHO's recent statement, countries like Singapore and the ROK took necessary measures and put the epidemics under control because they made full use of this precious time China bought for the world. As for whether the US availed itself of this window to enhance preparedness, we do not comment, but I believe the fact is witnessed by all in America and across the globe.

Faced with the pandemic, the guiding consensus for all countries is to join hands and overcome difficulties together. Pointing the finger at others is certainly not constructive, nor will it get any backing. To quote an ancient Chinese saying, "Turn inward and examine yourself when you encounter difficulties in life." We urge the US official to respect facts and the common understanding of the international community. Every minute wasted on smearing and complaining would be better spent on enhancing domestic response and international cooperation.

Q: Lately Europe, especially Italy has seen fast spread of COVID-19 with surging confirmed cases and fatalities. What have China and Europe done in terms of cooperation on prevention, control, diagnosis and treatment?

A: Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China and Europe have all along maintained close communication and cooperation. China's National Health Commission (NHC) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention set up with the European Commission's Directorate-General for Health and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control a joint expert team in response to the the epidemic. Only yesterday the team held its third telephone conference, where experts exchanged in-depth views on the latest developments of the epidemic in European countries and China, as well as prevention and control measures, diagnosis and screening, etc. They agreed to strengthen experience-sharing and exchange of know-how to jointly fight the virus and uphold regional and global public health security. Earlier, Zhong Nanshan, head of an NHC high-level expert group and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, also shared China's progress and experience in fighting COVID-19 through video link with head of the European Respiratory Society.

At the same time, the Chinese side has been conducting medical and health cooperation and sharing treatment experience with Italy and other countries. Experts at China's NHC and Red Cross Society held a video conference with their counterparts in WHO and Italy's health ministry. Chinese medical institutions at provincial and municipal levels are working with the Italian side through such means as telemedicine. Besides, the Chinese government has sent out a team of medical experts to Italy to help it combat the virus. I just heard that the team of nine will leave Shanghai today for Rome with medical supplies for combating COVID-19.

In the face of the pandemic, international cooperation and solidarity matters. We stand ready to further facilitate information flow, exchange experience and know-how, and cooperate in diagnosis and treatment solutions and medicine and vaccine development. To quote the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca, "we are waves of the same sea, leaves of the same tree, flowers of the same garden". We are convinced that through the concerted efforts of the international community including China and Europe, the world will surely secure a final victory over the virus.

Q: Do you have any comment on the US decision to cut off flights to Europe?

A: We are closely monitoring the development of the epidemic across the world and will take science-based and appropriate measures in light of the changing situation. We will work with relevant countries to coordinate control and screening efforts to jointly ensure the health and safety of the people and strive for an early victory over the epidemic.

Q: Does China have proof that the coronavirus didn't originate in China? If so, where did it originate and if not, is it dangerous for understanding how the virus spread to say that without evidence?

A: I answered the same question from AFP yesterday and may repeat it here.

The origin of the virus can only be determined by science. We need to rely on scientific and professional views. We don't hope to see anyone making an issue out of this to stigmatize other countries. With COVID-19 developing into a pandemic, the world should come together to fight it instead of leveling accusations and attacks against each other, which is not constructive at all.

Q: US President Trump in his televised speech today said that the virus started in China and spread to other places. What's China's comment?

A: China has been acting in an open, transparent and highly responsible way since the outbreak of the epidemic. United as one, we have taken the most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough measures in this all-out, people's war against the epidemic. Such extraordinary efforts have resulted in a growing positive momentum in epidemic control across the country with important outcomes achieved for the current stage, making important contributions to the global response. China's efforts and achievements have received wide support and acclaim from the international community.

At present, the virus has taken footholds in many places around the world and is still spreading. China will strengthen cooperation with the international community to secure an early victory against the epidemic.

Q: US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said yesterday that the US is working to ensure that funds from the IMF and World Bank are not used by countries in the Belt and Road Initiative to repay the debt they owe to China. Can you comment on that?

A: International financial institutions have all spoken positively of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). According to the World Bank's report "Belt and Road Economics", the full roll-out of the initiative in transportation will boost trade in participating economies by anywhere between 2.8 percent to 9.7 percent and lift 7.6 million people out of abject poverty.

China and BRI partners are committed to high-quality development under the initiative. Together with 27 countries, we have joined the "Guiding Principles on Financing the Development of the Belt and Road". We have also released for the benefit of anyone in need the "Belt and Road Debt Sustainability Framework", which the IMF spoke highly of.

The international financial institutions you mentioned are important cooperation platforms, not political tools subject to the will of a few countries. Global affairs should be handled by members of the international community through consultation. No individual or country should attempt to impose its own will or rule upon others.

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