|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on March 18, 2021|
At the invitation of State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Lavrov Sergey Viktorovich will pay a visit to China from March 22 to 23.
Reuters: The Canadian foreign ministry said that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor will be put on trial tomorrow in Dandong and next Monday in Beijing respectively. Can you confirm this?
Zhao Lijian: China has repeatedly stated its position on the cases involving the Canadian citizens. Chinese judicial organs handle cases independently in accordance with the law and fully guarantee the lawful rights of the individuals concerned. China always handles relevant matters including consular notification in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Consular Agreement between China and Canada as well as Chinese laws and regulations.
Xinhua News Agency: Could you share China's expectations for Foreign Minister Lavrov's upcoming visit you just announced?
Zhao Lijian: Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov will visit China from March 22 to 23. As comprehensive strategic partners of coordination, China and Russia maintaining close interactions between foreign ministers is important for moving the bilateral relations forward. This year is of milestone significance in China-Russia relationship as it marks the 20th anniversary of the Treaty of Good-neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation between China and Russia. In this context, it is important for the two sides to step up communication to lay the foundation for the growth of the bilateral ties this year.
During Foreign Minister Lavrov's visit, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will have talks with him, where the two sides will compare notes on the bilateral relationship and recent high-level exchanges, and share opinions on international and regional issues of common concern. We believe this visit will further cement the sound momentum of China-Russia relations growing from strength to strength and enhance the two countries' strategic coordination in international affairs.
Yonhap News Agency: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during his first visit to South Korea, said that both pressure and diplomatic options are on the table for dealing with North Korea. Blinken also said he hopes China will use influence effectively on North Korea's nuclearization. What's the foreign ministry's comment?
Zhao Lijian: We noticed this. China holds that the hard-won situation of dialogue and detente on the Korean Peninsula in recent years should be cherished. Relevant parties need to meet each other half-way, commit themselves to managing differences, work actively for dialogue and engagement and safeguard regional peace and stability. Following the dual-track approach in advancing political settlement of the issue is in the interest of all parties. China will continue to play a constructive role in this regard.
China Review News: The US side used its visits to Japan and the ROK to mount pressure on China and ramped up sanctions on China over Hong Kong-related issues, right in the run-up to the China-US high-level strategic dialogue. How do you look at these developments? Are you still looking forward to a fruitful dialogue with positive outcomes?
Zhao Lijian: It indeed invites some serious thoughts that right before the opening of the high-level strategic dialogue, the US side has chosen to speak and act in ways that gravely disappoint China. The US side proposed to have this dialogue with China, and China accepted this proposal, a constructive gesture showing our sincerity towards resuming China-US dialogue and exchange and improving and developing China-US relations. The Chinese side will make clear its positions and concerns on relevant issues during this dialogue. All topics that can be discussed are on the table. On issues that bear on China's sovereignty, security and core interests, no one shall expect China to make any compromise or trade-offs. China is determined and resolute in safeguarding its core interests.
I'd like to stress that it takes efforts from both parties to make this dialogue a fruitful one. Thus, the US should work with China and enter into talks with China with a sincere and constructive attitude. It is a fool's errand that serves no purpose at all to try to set the tempo for the dialogue through "megaphone diplomacy", or to gang up on China.
The Chinese side is walking into this dialogue for thorough communication and exchange with the US side to promote the sound and steady development of China-US relations. We never expect that this one dialogue will magically resolve all the outstanding issues between China and the US. But the US side shall entertain no illusions as regards China's firm position on upholding its sovereignty, security and development interests.
FSN: The Canadian Embassy was informed about the trial of the two Michaels going ahead. And reports have speculated that the timing is linked to the talks in Alaska. What do you say to such speculation?
Zhao Lijian: I have already elaborated on China's position on the relevant issue. It is not linked to China-US high-level strategic dialogue.
Bloomberg: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission took a step toward barring China Unicom Americas, Pacific Networks and its wholly-owned subsidiary ComNet from the United States, saying that the Chinese telecom companies are security risks controlled by the Beijing government. This continues a security crackdown that has involved Huawei and ZTE. Does the foreign ministry have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: I've also noted the reports on that. China firmly opposes it. We urge the US side to abide by market economy principles, stop the wrong approach of abusing the national security concept and politicizing economic issues, stop resorting to state power to suppress Chinese companies, and provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese businesses investing and operating in the United States. China will continue to take necessary measures to uphold the legitimated rights and interests of Chinese companies.
FSN: What does China expect the US to do with regards to the case of Meng Wanzhou, if that's to be brought up in the talk in Alaska?
Zhao Lijian: China's position on the Meng Wanzhou incident is clear-cut and has been repeated time and again. As facts have fully proven, this is a political incident from the very beginning. We urge the US side to correct its mistake without further delay and ensure Ms. Meng's safe return to China at an early date.
Shenzhen TV: According to a report released on March 16 by Stop AAPI Hate, from March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021, Asian Americans reported 3,795 hate-related incidents, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assaults, because of their ethnicity. Chinese are the largest ethnic group that report experiencing hate. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: Discrimination against Asian Americans, including against the Chinese, has been on the rise in the US over the past period of time. The number of violent hate crimes has also been increasing. Defenceless elders of Asian ethnicity have been brutally attacked, their lives put in grave danger. Such despicable actions, born out of senseless discrimination, make us furious and sad. In fact, racial discrimination has been in the US system for such a long time, without being attended to, and it is not just the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are the victims. The "Black Lives Matter" protests, ignited by African American George Floyd's death after a white police officer knelt on his neck, have engulfed 50 states in the US and shocked the whole international community. Such an atrocity was also denounced by the UN Human Rights Council. We hope that the US side will lend an ear to the cries of its own people and the international community.
I must point out that some politicians in the last US administration and some anti-China forces inside the US, holding onto their zero-sum game mindset and ideological prejudice, have been fabricating and spreading lies and disinformation about China, fanning racism and hatred, condoning discriminatory behaviors against Chinese nationals in the US including Chinese students, and even spying, harassing, cross-examining and arresting them for no cause at all. The Chinese side is deeply concerned over this. The US side should take concrete steps to address its own problems of racism and discrimination, and ensure the safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens in the US.
The Paper: During the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council, the Chinese representative expressed deep concerns over the continuous worsening of human rights situation in the United States, and urges the US to take the UPR as an opportunity to stop human rights violations in all forms. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: Some in the United States have been acting as self-styled judges of human rights for too long. For way too long, this self-anointed "beacon of human rights" has been casting the scrutinizing light on others while keeping itself from it. They have chosen to turn a blind eye to deep-seated domestic human rights issues. Here are some facts I'd like to share with you.
First, the phenomenon of racial discrimination and police violence is very serious in the United States. Ethnic minorities, Muslims, refugees and immigrants are threatened by discrimination and xenophobia, and the poisonous legacy of "white supremacy" still lingers. Statistics show that between January and November 2020, only 17 days passed without anyone being killed by the US law enforcement.
Second, under the guise of democracy and human rights, the United States has been practicing "interventionism". Since 2001, it has carried out so-called anti-terrorism operations in 80-plus countries around the world. More than 800,000 people, including 335,000 civilians, have died from direct war violence and tens of millions of people have been displaced. Today, about 21 million people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other countries are still displaced or living in extreme conditions. The United States has also imposed unilateral sanctions on relevant developing countries, leading to serious humanitarian crises.
Third, the United States should reflect on its history of genocide of native Indians, who were expelled and killed during the Westward Expansion, and their population nosedived by 95% from 5 million at the end of the 15th century to merely 250,000 at the beginning of the 20th century.
The United States should carefully listen to and take a close look at the criticism and suggestions of the international community on its human rights situation, reject the wrong practice of double standards, take concrete actions to promote and protect human rights.
Bloomberg: Can I just go back to the Alaska visit? Top diplomats from the US and China are going to meet there soon. We'd like to know, is a potential meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden a topic for those talks? And afterwards, will there be a meeting of the two presidents?
Zhao Lijian: As far as I know, there is no such arrangement at this point.
Follow-up: I'm sorry, if there is no such arrangement at this point, do you mean you're not sure if this is a topic for the conversation?
Zhao Lijian: During the upcoming China-US high-level strategic dialogue, the two sides can exchange views on any and all issues of common concern, including with regard to high-level exchange.
Bloomberg: China has said that any EU sanctions of its officials over the Xinjiang issue would be a big mistake. The EU and China recently approved the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. Does the EU's move to blacklist Chinese officials over human rights issues put that investment agreement in jeopardy?
Zhao Lijian: The Chinese people are in the best position to judge how China's human rights conditions are. Today, with sustained social stability in Xinjiang, residents of various ethnicity live harmoniously side by side and enjoy their work and life. Their basic rights including the right to life, health and development are effectively guaranteed. This is a fact that cannot be denied.
The so-called allegations of "forced labor", "forced sterilization" and "human rights abuses" in Xinjiang are monstrous lies deliberately fabricated and spread by a few "academics" and institutions with ulterior motives. They defy all senses of justice and morality and have triggered strong indignation among the Chinese people. Anyone willing to respect and get to know China, anyone free of malicious intentions or bias against Xinjiang, should stay vigilant and reject such preposterous lies. A French author Maxime Vivas exposed how those who have never been to Xinjiang are conspiring to cook up fake news in his book Uyghurs: To Put an End to Fake News. I suggest that certain people read this book carefully to get truly informed.
In essence, Xinjiang-related issues are about countering violent terrorism and separatism. They are purely China's domestic affairs. We urge the EU side to stop citing human rights as a pretext and using Xinjiang-related issues to smear and malign China and interfere in China's internal affairs. I reiterate, China is firmly determined to safeguard sovereignty, security and development interests. If the EU makes erroneous decisions based solely on the lies concocted by a small faction of anti-China forces who harbor ulterior motives, then it shows clearly that this is political manipulation. Should the EU insist on taking wrong actions detrimental to Chinese interests, China would surely react with a firm hand every step of the way.
The China-EU investment agreement is a balanced, high-level and mutually-beneficial agreement that will bring greater market access, better business environment, stronger institutional guarantee, and brighter cooperation prospects for mutual investment. To sign and ratify the deal serves the common interests of both sides. The earlier it takes effect, the earlier Chinese and EU businesses and people can feel the benefit. What the EU should do is to work for the early ratification and entry into force of the agreement, not meddling in China's internal affairs or making wanton comments on China's domestic matters.