|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on June 19, 2020|
As agreed by China and the EU, Premier Li Keqiang of the State Council will hold the 22nd China-EU Summit with Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission through video link on June 22.
CCTV: Could you outline this summit for us? And also, what does China expect from it?
Zhao Lijian: The China-EU Summit plays a guiding role in China-EU relations. During this summit, President Xi Jinping will meet with President Charles Michel of the European Council and President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission through video link. Premier Li will co-chair the virtual meeting with President Michel and President von der Leyen.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and the EU. This is the first official meeting between Chinese leaders and the new EU leaders. China attaches great importance to this meeting and is willing to work with the EU to promote positive outcomes from the meeting, promote the China-EU cooperation on fighting the pandemic and reviving economies, deepen practical cooperation in such fields as economy, trade and investment, connectivity, climate change, and scientific and technological innovation, strengthen policy coordination on international and regional hot-spot issues, jointly uphold multilateralism, and work together to address global challenges. In this way, China and the EU will see a fresh outburst of energy in bilateral relations in the post-COVID-19 era and contribute to maintaining world peace and stability and driving the global economic recovery.
The Globe and Mail: We've seen charges now filed formally against Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. They were arrested 557 days ago. We have seen charges, but we haven't seen any evidence against them. Can you please tell us what they are alleged to have done? What secrets did they allegedly steal? What secrets did they allegedly and illegally provide to overseas entities?
Zhao Lijian: On Michael Kovrig's case, after due investigation, the Beijing Municipality People's Procuratorate Second Branch formally prosecuted Michael Kovrig, who is of Canadian citizenship, in the Beijing Municipality Second Intermediate People's Court on June 19, 2020, for secretly gathering state secrets and intelligence for overseas forces.
The indictment charged the accused Michael Kovrig of secretly gathering state secrets and intelligence for overseas organizations with particularly serious circumstances, which violated Article 111 of the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China. The facts are clear and evidence solid and sufficient. The defendant should be held accountable for criminal responsibilities under the above-mentioned charge.
On Michael Spavor's case, after due investigation, the People's Procuratorate in Dandong, Liaoning Province, formally prosecuted Michael Spavor, who is of Canadian citizenship, in the Intermediate People's Court in Dandong on June 19, 2020, for secretly gathering state secrets and illegally providing them to overseas forces.
The indictment charged the accused Michael Spavor of secretly gathering state secrets and illegally providing them to overseas forces during his stay in China with particularly serious circumstances, which violated Article 111 of the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China. The facts are clear and evidence solid and sufficient. The defendant should be held accountable for criminal responsibilities under the above-mentioned charge.
China Daily: The Chinese anti-epidemic medical expert team to Palestine returned to China on June 18. Could you give us more details on their work in Palestine? In what way has China helped Palestine to fight COVID-19?
Zhao Lijian: To help Palestine cope with the epidemic, the Chinese government sent a medical expert team to Palestine which stayed in the country from June 10 to 18.
During their stay there, the medical expert team shared technologies and experience on COVID-19 with Palestinian government officials, technical experts and front-line medical workers and jointly discussed and studied prevention, control and treatment measures on the ground, visited 23 hospitals, labs and institutes, held 36 interaction and training activities where around 500 people were trained, and signed a telemedicine cooperation framework agreement. The Palestinian side has positively incorporated the proposals and advice of the Chinese medical expert team to strengthen epidemic prevention and control measures and improve capacity building in diagnosis and treatment.
The dispatch of the medical expert team manifests the deep friendship between the Chinese and Palestinian people and marks a new start of the in-depth cooperation in medical and public health sectors between China and Palestine. Upholding the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, China will continue to provide assistance to Palestine and other regions and countries to the best of its capability and make contributions to public health security in the Middle East.
RIA Novosti: US Magazine National Interest published an article of Russian President Vladimir Putin in which he said that it is irresponsible to revoke veto power of the permanent members of the Security Council. He also said that the P5 leaders all support the Russia-proposed initiative to hold a P5 Summit. He called on all countries to declassify and disclose historical files on WWII. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question about UN Security Council permanent members' veto power. The UN Charter grants veto power to permanent members, which shows the special responsibilities they shoulder in upholding world peace and security. As a permanent member, China adopts a prudent and responsible attitude on exercising this power. We will continue doing so.
As to President Putin's call for countries to declassify WWII records, this year marks the 75th anniversary of the victory of WWII and the founding of the UN. As major victorious nations of WWII and permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia both remain committed to the widely-recognized view on WWII history and stand against attempts at misrepresenting history.
As President Xi pointed out in a phone call with President Putin on May 8, WWII is an unprecedented calamity in human history. China and Russia, as the main theaters in Asia and Europe during the war, made tremendous sacrifices for and indelible contributions to its final victory, thus saving mankind from demise. This chapter of history is worth remembering forever.
China believes that all members of the international community should firmly uphold the victory of WWII and international fairness and justice, support and practice multilateralism, and stay committed to building world peace, contributing to global development, and maintaining the international order.
On your third question about a P5 meeting, China has repeatedly stated its positive attitude. We support Russia's initiative to hold a meeting of the five permanent members and stand ready to maintain communication with the other permanent members regarding specific arrangements.
AFP: First, about President Donald Trump. Yesterday he warned that the US maintains the policy option of complete decoupling from China. What is China's view on this? Is this likely to affect the implementation of the phase one trade deal? The second issue is about media reports saying that China has freed Indian soldiers seized in the recent border clash. Can China confirm this?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, in this era of globalization, the interests of all countries are closely intertwined. Global industrial and supply chains are formed and developed in such ways as determined by market forces and business decisions. As such, it is unrealistic and insensible to try to sever them or wish political forces would override economic law. Such practices will not help solve America's domestic problems. Instead, they will only cause more harm to the ordinary American people.
On your second question, my information is that at present there are no Indian personnel detained on the Chinese side.
Shenzhen TV: Australian media reported that while the UN Human Rights Council was holding an urgent debate on US racism, Australia worked behind the scenes, attempted to change the text of the draft resolution before voting, and lobbied for a watered-down approach stressing all lives matter in order to stop the vote on the motion calling for an investigation into US racism and police violence. Australia is deemed as a US proxy as it spared no effort to push for an independent international inquiry of the coronavirus and then did everything it could to thwart a probe into US racism. Does China have a comment?
Zhao Lijian: I have noted relevant reports. This is just another proof that some people in Australia are so hypocritical that they feel no qualms in openly using double standards and unscrupulously making political maneuvers in the international affairs. We also have a piece of advice for the relevant country: if it truly wants to make its presence felt in the management of international affairs, it should learn to make independent, objective and unbiased judgement based on the merits of the matter.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation: The Australian government claimed that a sophisticated state actor has carried out large-scale hacking attacks against Australia. Some are briefing media in Australia that it's China, although the Australian prime minister isn't naming the country. Does China have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: China is a staunch guardian of cyber security and also one of the greatest victims of hacking. We oppose and crack down in accordance with law all forms of cyber espionage and attacks. This position is consistent and clear.
I believe what you were referring to in your question is the ASPI. China has pointed out many times that this institute has long been funded by the US government and arms dealers. It is enthusiastic in making and playing up anti-China stories. Leading the charge in slandering China, it has no credibility to speak of. There is no factual basis to the attack and accusation made by this institute, just nonsense.
CCTV: We noted that CGTN yesterday aired an English documentary on the anti-terrorism fight in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region titled Tianshan Still Standing: Memories of Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang. The same day, the US leader signed into law the "Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act". Why the above-mentioned documentary was released at this particular time?
Zhao Lijian: Xinjiang-related issues are not about human rights, ethnicity or religion, but about combating violent terrorism and separatism. The documentary on anti-terrorism fight in Xinjiang shines a light on the necessity of fighting terrorism and deradicalization in Xinjiang and China's enormous efforts on this front with specific cases and plain facts. The anti-terrorism and deradicalization efforts by the government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are lawful and legitimate, which have effectively reined in the trend of frequent and growing terrorist activities. Xinjiang hasn't seen a single violent, terrorist incident over the past three and a half years. People's right to life, health and development have been effectively safeguarded. Chinese government's Xinjiang policy has been widely commended by the international community.
However, the relevant Act ignores facts and maliciously attacks the Chinese government's Xinjiang policy in an attempt to stigmatize Xinjiang's measures to fight terrorism, separatism and radicalism, which is outright double standard on the issue of anti-terrorism. China firmly opposes that.
Xinjiang affairs are purely China's internal affairs that allow no foreign interference. We are resolute in safeguarding China's sovereignty, security and development interests, as well as upholding Xinjiang's development, stability and ethnic solidarity. The US plot to interfere in China's internal affairs, smear China and contain its development under the pretext of Xinjiang-related issues is doomed to fail.
Reuters: I just want to follow up on the question about the Canadians. We understand from the Chinese envoy in Canada last month that access to consular visits has been cut off during the coronavirus outbreak. Now these men have been formally charged. Do they have access to consular visits?
Zhao Lijian: The Chinese side provides convenience to foreign consular officials in China in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, relevant bilateral agreements, and Chinese laws and regulations. In light of the ongoing pandemic and out of concern for the safety of the detainees, consular visits to detainees have been suspended, and will be resumed when the situation gets better. I refer you to competent authorities for more specifics.
China News Service: Demonstrations against China have taken place in many places in India following the severe situation in the Galwan Valley in the west section of China-India boundary. Some organizations have gathered outside the Chinese Embassy in India to protest, demonstrate and boycott Chinese goods. Reports also say that the Indian government is planning for anti-dumping investigation on over 100 categories of Chinese goods, asking telecom operators to stop purchasing Chinese equipment and advising Indians against using Chinese-made mobile apps. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: I want to reiterate that the right and wrong of the severe situation in the Galwan Valley is very clear and the responsibility rests entirely with the Indian side. The two sides are in communication on easing the situation through diplomatic and military channels. China attaches importance to China-India relations and hopes that India will work with China to jointly maintain the larger picture of the long-term development of bilateral relations.
Global Times: Assistant Secretary David Stilwell said at a briefing on June 18 that Secretary Pompeo and Director Yang Jiechi discussed North Korea in their dialogue, calling it an area of "obvious cooperation". He said "if the US and China can both work together on this, it seems that North Korea would understand the importance and the need to get back to the table and discuss their nuclear program and other (issues)". I wonder if you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: The Chinese side has released information on the dialogue between Director Yang Jiechi and US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo in Hawaii. With regard to the Korean Peninsula issue, Director Yang said that progress in political settlement serves the common interests of all parties. China remains committed to maintaining peace and stability on the Peninsula, to achieving denuclearization, and to resolving issues through dialogue and consultation. We advocate the dual-track approach and a phased and synchronized manner to facilitate a political solution. We hope the US and the DPRK will meet each other halfway, accommodate each other's legitimate concerns, and take concrete steps to advance the political process.
PTI: India has been elected to the non-permanent seat of the UN Security Council. How does China view this particular election of India to the UNSC given the current state of military tensions between the two countries? Also, earlier you have spoken about the P5 permanent member status. Probably this is also an occasion to revisit. Is there a rethinking about the reforms of the UN Security Council's expansion?
Zhao Lijian: On your first question, the Security Council is an important organ mandated by the UN Charter to uphold international peace and security. As a permanent member of the Security Council, China stands ready to strengthen cooperation with all Security Council member, including the newly elected non-permanent members and jointly fulfill our obligations laid out in the UN Charter.
On your second question, China's position on the Security Council reform is consistent and clear.
China Radio International: The US Chamber of Commerce said in a statement on June 18 that it remains "a vocal proponent of open markets and free trade, including with China, that is mutually beneficial, safe, and secure". It also said that "China's customer base of 1.4 billion consumers is the fastest growing market for US companies, large and small, and cannot be ignored". Despite the "considerable national security, political geostrategic, and economic challenges" in US-China relations, maintaining a steady bilateral relationship serves US interests and is conducive to world peace and stability. What's your comment?
Zhao Lijian: I fully agree that maintaining stable development between China and China is conducive to world peace and stability. China-US economic and trade relations are mutually beneficial in nature. The fundamentals of the Chinese economy are stable, promising positive outlook in the long run. The dividends of reform and opening up continue to be released, and the prospects for China's development are bright. US businesses have long reaped huge benefits from the Chinese market. By choosing to strengthen economic and trade cooperation with China, the US business community has made the right and wise decision because their choice brings them opportunities and future.
Both history and reality show that as two major countries, China and the United States benefit from cooperation and suffer from confrontation. The two sides share broad common interests and enjoy broad space for cooperation. There are also some differences between the two sides, which should and can be properly handled on the basis of mutual respect. It is hoped that the US side will work with China to jointly develop a relationship featuring non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation based on the common interests of the two peoples and the fundamental well-being of people around the world.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation: I want to clarify something on my earlier question about the Australian cyber attack. You said, "I believe this comes from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI)." I just want to clarify we are talking about the same case, which was the Australian Prime Minister today saying there had been large-scale attacks. I just want to clarify that you think the accusation comes from ASPI.
Zhao Lijian: I have made clear China's position on this issue.
The Globe and Mail: I just want to ask you to clarify something about the charges against Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. You said that the charges were under "particularly serious circumstances." In China's Criminal Law, says in one section on state secrets that such charges can be punished with life in prison. In another section it says such serious circumstances can be punished with the death penalty. Could Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor be sentenced to death for these charges?
Zhao Lijian: I don't answer hypothetical questions. Charges have been filed now which will then be followed by trials.
The Globe and Mail: Just to clarify. My question was not a hypothetical question. You used very specific language that the charges are under particularly serious circumstances, and China's Criminal Law includes two references to charges that are particularly serious. In one instance, it refers to a maximum penalty of life in prison, and in another instance, it refers to a maximum penalty of the death penalty. And I'm asking to which you are referring.
Zhao Lijian: I have made myself clear. Charges have been filed now which will then be followed by trials. I suggest some patience.
Reuters: Just one further question on the Canadians. This comes quite soon after developments in Meng Wanzhou's case and a lot of people have said that they are linked. Does the ministry have any comment on that and how this decision was coming very close to the recent decision to Meng Wanzhou's case?
Zhao Lijian: On the cases regarding the two Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, China has stated its position repeatedly and I just gave you some updates. China is a country with rule of law. Chinese judicial organs handle the cases independently and protect the two Canadians' lawful rights in accordance with law.
China's position on the Meng Wanzhou case is consistent and clear. The US and Canada abused their bilateral extradition treaty and arbitrarily took compulsory measures against a Chinese citizen. This is a serious political incident that grossly violates the legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese citizen. The Chinese government is steadfast in safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens and companies.
The Globe and Mail: Just one last question. I just wonder what is the Chinese government's position on hostage diplomacy?
Zhao Lijian: That is just one loaded question. I have made our position clear. Maybe you can ask the Canadian side about their take on "hostage diplomacy"
Bloomberg: Are the China-Russia-India foreign minister level talks still on?
Zhao Lijian: I have nothing more to add other than the information we released yesterday.
After the press conference, the following question was raised: can you give us a step-by-step account of the Galwan clash? What is China's position on settling this incident?
Zhao Lijian: The Galwan Valley is located on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control in the west section of the China-India boundary. For many years, the Chinese border troops have been patrolling and on duty in this region. Since April this year, the Indian border troops have unilaterally and continuously built roads, bridges and other facilities at the LAC in the Galwan Valley. China has lodged representations and protests on multiple occasions but India has gone even further to cross the LAC and made provocations. On the early morning of May 6, the Indian border troops crossed the LAC by night, trespassed into China's territory and built fortification and barricades, which impeded the patrol of Chinese border troops. They deliberately made provocations in an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo of control and management. The Chinese border troops were compelled to take necessary measures to respond to the situation on the ground and strengthen management and control in the border areas.
In order to ease the situation, China and India have stayed in close communication through military and diplomatic channels. In response to the strong demand of the Chinese side, India agreed to withdraw the personnel who crossed the LAC and demolish the facilities, and so they did. On June 6, the border troops of both countries held a commander-level meeting and reached consensus on easing the situation. The Indian side promised that they would not cross the estuary of the Galwan river to patrol and build facilities and the two sides would discuss and decide phased withdrawal of troops through the meetings between officials on the ground.
Shockingly, on the evening of June 15, India's front-line troops, in violation of the agreement reached at the commander-level meeting, once again crossed the Line of Actual Control for deliberate provocation when the situation in the Galwan Valley was already easing, and even violently attacked the Chinese officers and soldiers who went there for negotiation, thus triggering fierce physical conflicts and causing casualties. The adventurous acts of the Indian army have seriously undermined the stability of the border areas, threatened the lives of Chinese personnel, violated the agreements reached between the two countries on the border issue, and breached the basic norms governing international relations. China has lodged solemn representations and strong protests to the Indian side.
During State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi's phone conversation with External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, he repeated China's stern position, demanding India to carry out a thorough investigation into the incident, severely punish those who should be held accountable, strictly discipline Indian frontline troops, and immediately stop all provocative actions so as to ensure that such incidents do not happen again. A second commander-level meeting should happen as soon as possible to deal with the situation on the ground. The two sides agreed to handle in a just manner the serious situation caused by the Galwan Valley clash, observe the agreement reached during the commander-level meeting, cool down the situation on the ground as soon as possible, and uphold peace and tranquility of the border areas in accordance with bilateral agreements reached so far.
China hopes that India will work with us, follow faithfully the important consensus reached between the two leaders, abide by the agreements reach between the two governments, strengthen communication and coordination on properly managing the current situation through diplomatic and military channels, and jointly uphold peace and stability in the border areas.