Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on May 27, 2021
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the People's Republic of China
Reuters: Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen said yesterday that China intervened to stop a deal that would provide Germany's BioNtech vaccine to the island. Can the foreign ministry confirm and give any explanation why it made this decision?
ZhaoLijian: I took this question at this podium yesterday and you may refer to my reply in case you were not here then.
Reuters: This morning, a Beijing court barred Australia's ambassador from attending the trial of the Australian citizen Yang Jun. Can the foreign ministry clarify why this was the case?
Zhao Lijian: After examination in accordance with law, the Second Branch of Beijing People's Procuratorate initiated a public prosecution to the Beijing No.2 Intermediate People's Court on October 7, 2020 regarding the case of the Australian citizen Yang Jun who is suspected of espionage. Pursuant to law, Beijing No.2 Intermediate People's Court held a trial on May 27. Currently, the case is under trial and the court will pronounce judgement when the case is closed. China's judicial authorities handle this case in strict accordance with law, fully protect Yang Jun's litigious rights, and fully respect and ensure the Australian side's consular rights, including visits and notifications.
Chinese law stipulates that the cases involving national secrets shall not be tried in an open court or sit in by anyone. This is a common practice in many countries. It is reasonable and legitimate that the Australian citizen Yang Jun's case is not heard in an open court and no one is allowed to sit in, because it involves national secrets. China firmly opposes Australia's unjustifiable obstruction in China's handling of the case in accordance with law, and its gross interference in China's judicial sovereignty. China has lodged its solemn representation to the Australian side.
NPR: US President Biden yesterday ordered an intelligence report to look into whether the novel coronavirus began from an infected animal or potentially from a Chinese laboratory. Do you have any comment about this new report commission?
Zhao Lijian: I note relevant reports.
I also noticed that President Biden said that "the United States will keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation".
Yesterday I shared China's efforts in support of WHO's global study of the origins of COVID-19. On the China lab leak hypothesis, the joint WHO-China study mission report clearly states that "a laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be extremely unlikely". This is an authoritative and official conclusion based on science. International experts on the joint mission spoke highly of China's openness and transparency on different occasions.
However, some in the US, turning a blind eye to facts, science, the questionable study of origins and botched response at home, kept clamoring for additional investigation in China. This shows that they don't care about facts or truth and have zero interest in a serious science-based study of origins. Their aim is to use the pandemic to pursue stigmatization and political manipulation to shift the blame. They are being disrespectful to science, irresponsible to people's lives, and counter-productive to concerted global efforts to fight the virus. With 33 million confirmed cases and 600,000 deaths from COVID-19, both the highest in the world, the US, instead of examining its own behavior, attempted to scapegoat China. What are they up to? Can their conscience really be at ease?
What secrets are hidden in the suspicion-shrouded Fort Detrick and the over 200 US bio-labs all over the world? In July 2019, there were reports on the unexplained outbreaks of respiratory disease in northern Virginia and on the subsequent EVALI outbreaks in Wisconsin. What's hidden there? When will the US release detailed data and information on relevant cases? It owes an explanation to the world.
The US keeps saying that it wants "China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation". Then we ask it to follow China's example and immediately start science-based cooperation with WHO on study of origins, conduct a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation in the US, fully respond to international concerns, and contribute to mankind's early victory over the pandemic and better preparedness in the face of future public health emergencies.
I would like to stress one final point. The motive and purpose of the US-driven "investigation" relying on its intelligence apparatus is crystal clear. In fact, US intelligence has a notorious track record, as the world has learned a long time ago. Its masterpieces include the test tube of laundry powder cited as evidence for Iraq's posession of weapons of mass destruction and the staged "White Helmets" video cited as evidence for chemical weapon attack in Syria. Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even boasted, "I was the CIA director, we lied, we cheated, we stole. We had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment." How can anyone trust the findings from an "investigation" conducted by such an intelligence organ with no credibility to speak of?
AFP: Trade officials from the US and China have held candid and pragmatic talks. Does the foreign ministry have any comment on what this signals for China-US trade relations, as well as the trade war. Are we likely to see any roll-back of tariffs?
Zhao Lijian: On the morning of May 27, member of Political Bureau of CPC Central Committee, Vice Premier of the State Council, chief of the Chinese delegation to China-US Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, Liu He, held a telephone conversation with the US trade representative, Katherine Tai. The two sides were engaged in candid, pragmatic and constructive communication with an attitude of equality and mutual respect. Believing that bilateral trade is of great significance, the two sides exchanged views on issues of each other's concern, and agreed to keep in contact. As for the detailed information, please refer to competent authorities.
China Review News: Speaking at the World Health Assembly video conference held on May 25, ROK Minister of Health and Welfare Kwon Deok-chul urged the Japanese government and the international community to strictly verify the safety information related to the Fukushima nuclear contaminated water disposal decision. Pakistani Senator Dr. Afnan Ullah Khan has also denounced Japan's unilateral decision to release nuclear contaminated water into Pacific Ocean, and urged Japan to reverse its wrong decision. On top of that, Pakistani fishermen staged a protest at Gwadar Press Club against Japan's wrong decision. What is China's comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: We have noted relevant reports. The statements by the ROK and Pakistani sides prove once again that the international community is far from being convinced by Japan's one-sided story about the "safety" of its disposal plan. Japan's wrong decision is met with objection from more and more countries.
I have a few questions for Japan: first, is Japan's claim of safety and reliability of its disposal verified by stakeholders? Second, given TEPCO's poor record of tampering with data and covering up truth, how can Japan guarantee the authenticity of the information and data it unilaterally provides? Third, certain Japanese politician has alleged that the treated nuclear contaminated water "is safe for drinking", why hasn't he taken a sip yet? Fourth, when will Japan withdraw its wrong decision in the face of questions raised at home and abroad?
How the nuclear contaminated water is handled bears on the global ecological and environmental safety and concerns the lives and health of people in all countries. Naturally, Japan is obliged to have full consultation with all stakeholders, especially its neighbors before making any decisions. The matter also needs to be assessed and discussed within the framework of the United Nations, the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency. At present, the IAEA is working on a technical working group that will include experts from China and ROK. China will give full support to the relevant work, and push Japan to respond to the concerns of China, other stakeholders and the rest of the international community. Japan should show sincerity, take up responsibility, protect the environment vital to humanity, and refrain from taking steps that will harm the present and future generations.
Bloomberg: I have three questions. One way for the virus controversy over its origins to be cleared that would be for China to provide all of the data about the coronavirus that scientists around the world want. I'm not speaking about the US here, but scientists around the world. Will China consider this option? If not, why not? Second question, Kurt Campbell, the White House top official for Asia, said the US is entering a period of intense competition with China. He said that "the period that was broadly described as engagement has come to an end ... the dominant paradigm is going to be competition." Does the foreign ministry have a comment on Kurt Campbell's comments? Finally, I'm hoping you can clear some confusion about the trial of the Australian writer Yang Jun in Beijing. On the one hand, the court has told Australia's Ambassador Graham Fletcher that he wasn't allowed in because of COVID measures. At the same time, he apparently said that the foreign ministry told him that the trial was closed for national security issue. I wonder if you could clear the confusion here.
Zhao Lijian: I will first respond to Yang Jun's case. We have made clear explanation to the Australian side that the case is about national security and involves national secrets. As I said just now, China firmly opposes Australia's unjustifiable obstruction in China's handling of the case in accordance with law and gross interference in China's judicial sovereignty. China has lodged its solemn representation to the Australian side.
On your first question, as we repeatedly stated, from January 14 to February 10 this year, China responded to the request of the international experts on the joint mission in an open, transparent and cooperative manner by arranging field visits to different biosafety laboratories, including Wuhan Institute of Virology, and holding in-depth, candid and science-based discussions between international experts and experts from relevant laboratories. The experts learned in detail of lab management, work specification and latest progress on virus research. It is fair to say that they went to every place they asked to see.
China has set a good example for the global origin-tracing effort. Now the question is whether the US has the confidence and willingness to invite international experts to Fort Detrick, as well as its more than 200 bio-labs all over the world. We hope that the US will follow China's example, and cooperate with WHO in origin-tracing study with a science-based attitude so as to respond to the concerns of the international community.
On your second question, China and the US are two major countries that share broad-based common interests in upholding world peace and stability and promoting world economic recovery and development. The two sides stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. It is only natural that China and the US experience some competition in their relationship, which is the case in any major-country relations. However, using "competition" define or dominate China-US ties is a total mistake that will only lead to confrontation and conflict. Even if there is competition, it should be a sound one that helps to reinforce each other and pursue common progress, rather than a vicious competition to beat each other. China firmly rejects US moves to exclude and contain China in the name of competition.
The US should follow the trend of the times, abandon the obsolete cold war and zero-sum game mentality, and view China in a objective and reasonable light. It should adopt a positive China policy, and work with China to enhance dialogue, manage differences and focus on cooperation, so as to move forward the bilateral relations along the track of sound and steady development.
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