|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Regular Press Conference on April 27, 2020|
The COVID-19 pandemic is fast spreading in Africa, posing daunting challenges to African countries. To provide further technical support to Africa, the Foreign Ministry and the National Health Commission will organize a series of video conferences on technical exchange on COVID-19, during which Chinese medical professionals will share their know-how with African officials and experts on epidemic prevention and control, clinical diagnosis and treatment, test methods, border quarantine and risk assessment. The first conference will be held at 4pm (Beijing time) today.
China deeply relates to what Africa is experiencing in face of challenges posed by the spread of COVID-19. We have provided and will continue to provide our utmost support and assistance to African countries through various means. In light of the development of the epidemics and African countries' needs, China will offer more anti-epidemic supplies, send more medical teams, accelerate the building of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and step up China-Africa cooperation in public health and disease prevention and control. We are ready to work with Africa to achieve the final victory against COVID-19.
KBS: It is reported that China recently sent a medical team to the DPRK to help it deal with COVID-19. But there are also reports that the team was to treat Chairman Kim Jong Un's condition. Has China sent a medical team to the DPRK? If so, does it have something to do with Chairman Kim's health?
Geng Shuang: You put the two things together, but I'm afraid I'll answer them separately.
First, after the COVID-19 broke out, as far as I know, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international institutions gave the DPRK anti-epidemic supplies. China has also provided the DPRK with testing reagents in case they might be needed. As the pandemic is spreading rapidly around the world, while containing it at home, China will continue to provide assistance to countries in need to the best of our ability.
As for your second question, I recall a similar one was asked last week, and I said I don't know the source of the news story. To your question, I don't know where such news came from either, and I have no information to offer at the moment.
NHK: Has China sent a medical team to the DPRK to help deal with COVID-19?
Geng Shuang: What I just said is that the Chinese side has provided the DPRK with some testing reagents in case they might be needed. Testing reagents and a medical team are two different concepts. I have also said that as the pandemic is spreading rapidly around the world, while containing it at home, China will continue to provide assistance to countries in need to the best of our ability.
Reuters: There are reports that China sought to block a EU report alleging that Beijing was spreading disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak. Why did China do that?
Geng Shuang: First I must stress that China stands against the creation and spread of disinformation by any individual or institution. China is a victim rather than a source of disinformation.
Since the pandemic broke out, in an open, transparent and responsible manner, the Chinese government has been sharing information and experience, participating in anti-pandemic international cooperation, and providing support and assistance to other countries to the best of our ability, which has won acclaim from the international community.
It is fair to say that the we earned the international recognition with our arduous efforts, sincerity and fulfillment of responsibilities, not through spreading disinformation.
Disinformation and recriminations are not good for global cooperation in this fight. The international community should cooperate in good faith to assist each other, vanquish this pandemic at an early date, and jointly safeguard global public health security.
Shenzhen TV: More people in the US are casting doubts on the US government's response to the pandemic. On April 4, Washington Post published an in-depth investigative article that gives a panoramic view of how and why the US government handled the epidemics poorly at the early stage. On April 13 and 19 at the White House press briefings, CBS and CNN journalists questioned the delay in the US government's response to COVID-19 when it already knew the potential risks of the global spread. On April 14, The Atlantic said in an article that the main reason for the huge outbreak of cases in the US is a lack of forceful government measures. On April 21, the Los Angeles Times reported that according to the autopsy results released by Santa Clara County health officials, the first death case from the novel coronavirus was actually on February 6, almost one month early than the first known death declared by the US CDC. Santa Clara officials also said that people in California may already be infected as early as last December. What is your comment?
Geng Shuang: Indeed, many in the US have been questioning and worrying whether the US government has responded timely and effectively to the outbreak. They want to get the facts straight: when did the first case occur in the US? Is the US government hiding something? Why is it so desperately seeking to pin the blame on other countries and international organizations?
We hope the US government can timely respond to the concerns of its own people and the international community. The WHO may also be invited to help review this process.
Infectious diseases are the common enemy of all mankind, and both the Chinese and American people are victims. Only through solidarity and cooperation can the international community win the war against the virus. We hope the US will adopt an open, transparent and responsible attitude, take effective measures to safeguard the life and health of its people, and work with the international community to safeguard global public health security.
Reuters: You mentioned that perhaps the WHO may be called in to investigate the US, so exactly what do you think should be investigated about the US response to COVID-19?
Geng Shuang: The Chinese journalist cited some doubts on the US government from US media, thinktanks and professionals. Upon hearing those doubts, people have good reason to express concerns. We hope the US government can timely respond to the concerns of its own people and the international community.
The Paper: As exposed by American media on April 24, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has sent campaigns a detailed, 57-page memo advising GOP candidates to address the coronavirus crisis by aggressively attacking China. The memo stresses three main lines of assault: that China caused the virus "by covering it up," that Democrats are "soft on China," and that Republicans will "push for sanctions on China for its role in spreading this pandemic." It also suggests that Republicans have indicated they plan to make China a centerpiece of the 2020 campaign. I wonder if you have any comment?
Geng Shuang: I noted reports on that. It's just all too obvious why some political forces in the US have been obsessively attacking China using the pandemic as a weapon.
The US claimed time and again that "China spreads disinformation." If those reports are true, we must ask: who exactly has been the source of disinformation?
We firmly oppose the attempts of some people in the US to grab votes and undermine China's interests by smearing China in the context of the pandemic and the US presidential elections.
JoongAng Ilbo: Reports say Song Tao, Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, has traveled to the DPRK. Can you confirm that? Also, can you confirm whether a medical team of about 50 doctors and nurses have been dispatched to the DPRK?
Geng Shuang: Like I said to your colleague, I don't know what your source is, and I have nothing to say about that.
Reuters: Given these accusations flying about the different handling of the virus in various countries, is there a time in the future where China would support an independent investigation into the virus and how it began in China?
Geng Shuang: First I must underscore that being the first country to report COVID-19 cases doesn't necessarily make China the origin of the novel coronavirus. Like we said repeatedly, the origin of the novel coronavirus is a complicated scientific matter that should be the subject of study for scientists and medical experts. Some politicians are trying to make political maneuvers over the origin to smear other countries, but their unpopular attempts will never succeed.
Since the epidemics broke out, China has been fighting COVID-19 in an open, transparent and responsible manner. We reported the cases to the international community, shared the genome sequence of the virus, and carried out international cooperation to contain the virus, all at the earliest time possible. In this process, China has accumulated valuable experience and made significant contributions to the global fight, which has been witnessed and applauded by the international community.
Against such a backdrop, the so-called "investigation" proposed by some people is not consistent with the general trend of concerted international efforts against the virus. Their political manipulation will make no waves.
China will continue standing firmly with the international community to defeat the pandemic. We will continue helping other countries as much as we can. Like I announced earlier, there will be video conferences between China and African countries. We will also offer greater, more concrete support to them.
The urgent task for all countries is still focusing on international cooperation rather than pointing fingers, demanding accountability and other non-constructive approaches.
Follow-up: Is it correct to say that under the current political situation, an independent investigation is not possible into China or any other country?
Geng Shuang: Like I said, the urgent task for all countries is to coordinate and cooperate to defeat the pandemic. Political maneuvers are just unhelpful and non-constructive.
Reuters TV: Firstly, as far as China understands, what state of health is the North Korean leader in at the moment? Secondly, does China welcome the idea of an independent investigation into the origin of the virus a few months down the line when things have calmed down a bit internationally?
Geng Shuang: Your first question was also raised by several other journalists. I'm afraid I have nothing to say on that. Like I said last week, China and the DPRK are close neighbors, and we will work with the DPRK to advance bilateral relations.
As for the second question, tracing the origin of a virus is a scientific matter that should be studied by scientists and professionals. The research of the origin of virus cannot be truly completed without forming a chain of mutually-corroborating evidence with a large amount of biological information and epidemiological findings.
In the meantime, tracing the origin is a difficult scientific problem, and it often takes long to reach a clear conclusion, and there are also uncertainties. The process to trace the origins of many diseases in human history has taken over ten years or even decades. Although some progress has been made, definitive answers are yet to be found, with research still underway today.
Scientists all over the world are carrying out research on the origins of the novel coronavirus. They put forward various viewpoints, hypotheses and speculations. However, the international preliminary research findings are unable to identify the initial transmission routes of the novel coronavirus. Therefore, at present, any definitive conclusion of the origin just lacks scientific evidence and is against the spirit of science.
Here, I would like to point out that the origin of the virus itself is a scientific issue, the purpose of which is to prevent such outbreaks from happening again and causing harm to the human society, rather than to blame others, let alone to pursue recriminations and retribution. There is no such precedent or legal provision internationally.
As the COVID-19 is still spreading around the world, countries should focus on pandemic containment, diagnosis and treatment. Politicizing the origin of the virus is inconsistent with the purpose of relevant scientific research. It will only disrupt international cooperation in tracing the origin, undermine mutual trust between countries, and hinder global efforts to combat the pandemic.