CCTV: We've noticed that the UN Secretariat has recently circulated relevant Belt and Road initiatives as official documents of the 75th session of the UNGA. Does China have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: In June this year, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired the Asia and Pacific High-level Conference on Belt and Road Cooperation. The 29 countries at the meeting jointly launched the Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on COVID-19 Vaccines Cooperation and the Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on Green Development, calling for efforts to strengthen international vaccine cooperation, promote global economic recovery and realize green and sustainable development.
Recently, the UN Secretariat has circulated these two initiatives as official documents of the 75th session of the UNGA under integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields [item 14] and global health and foreign policy [item 131]. This demonstrates support by the Belt and Road Initiative for the UN-championed equitable distribution of vaccines globally, a green, resilient and inclusive economic recovery, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It also shows that the international community attaches importance to and recognizes the positive role of Belt and Road cooperation especially in promoting the equitable distribution of vaccines and realizing sustainable development globally. China will continue to work together with Belt and Road partners to firmly support the UN's leading role in global development and the health sector and seek greater synergy between the BRI and the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
CCTV: For some time, certain US politicians have been playing up the origin-tracing issue to engage in political manipulation to target China, but remained evasive about the US' own early cases and questions about its biological laboratories. What is China's comment on that?
Zhao Lijian: In order to shift its responsibility in poor COVID-19 response and out of the political motive of smearing and suppressing others, the US has been busy with politicization, stigmatization, and turning origin-tracing study into its tool. It has made lying, vilifying and coercing its standard practice without any respect for facts, science and justice. Such despicable behavior of the US will leave a stain in the history of the humanity's fight against diseases.
No country can whitewash itself by smearing others. To prove itself "transparent and responsible", the US should start with the following four things:
First, the US should publish and examine the data of its early cases, including the respiratory diseases of unknown cause in Virginia, the large-scale EVALI outbreak in Wisconsin and the unexplained pneumonia outbreaks in two retirement communities near the Fort Detrick base in July 2019, and vaping-related lung illness cases that doubled in Maryland in September 2019. The US CDC Director openly acknowledged last year that some patients, who were thought to have died of flu, were tested positive for coronavirus in postmortem diagnosis. The US should conduct nucleic acid testing and antibody testing of the blood serum samples of these aforementioned patients. We wonder, how many of these are actually COVID-19 cases?
Second, the US should invite WHO experts to investigate Fort Detrick and its 200-plus bio-labs overseas. In particular, the Fort Detrick base is the headquarters of the US biological militarization activities, and the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases is the principal entity. The international community and the American public have long voiced concerns about the illegal, obscure and unsafe activities in Fort Detrick. The Research Institute, long engaged in coronavirus studies and modification, had serious safety accidents and was shut down in 2019. Soon afterwards, a disease with similar symptoms with COVID-19 broke out in the US. On these questions, the US side has never given any explanations to the its own people and the international community.
Third, the US should invite WHO experts to investigate the University of North Carolina. The US has been accusing the Wuhan Institute of Virology of introducing COVID-19 with its coronavirus studies. In fact, however, the US is the biggest sponsor and practitioner of such kind of researches in the world. The team of Ralph S. Baric, particularly, is the authority of such kind of research with extremely mature capability in synergizing and modifying coronavirus. A probe into Baric's team and lab would clarify whether coronavirus research has created or will create SARS-CoV-2.
Fourth, the US should release the data concerning the sickened American military athletes who attended the World Military Games in Wuhan. In October 2019, the US sent more than 300 people to Wuhan for the Games. Was there anyone with symptoms similar to those of COVID-19? What illness did those reported military athletes have exactly? The cases should be made public as soon as possible.
Prensa Latina: This week, the US promoted a joint declaration to condemn the Cuban government after the incident of July 11. What's China's comment on this movement taken outside the UN framework?
Zhao Lijian: China always opposes unilateral sanctions against other countries by military, political, economic or other means, and opposes interference in other countries' internal affairs under the pretext of so-called "freedom", "human rights" and "democracy". The unilateral sanctions and embargo imposed by the US are the root cause of the medical and energy shortage in Cuba, and have seriously violated the Cuban people's rights to subsistence and development. The US should abide by the purposes of the UN Charter and the basic norms governing international relations, heed the universal voice of the international community, immediately and completely lift its embargo on Cuba and stop its interference in the country.
China firmly supports Cuba in fighting the epidemic, improving people's livelihood and maintaining stability, and in exploring a development path that suits its national conditions. China is ready to work with the international community to continue to contribute to Cuba's efforts to overcome the impact of the epidemic.
Beijing Youth Daily: At a briefing by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response at the UNGA on July 28, the US Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN spoke in the US national capacity to attack China on the issue of origin-tracing, saying that the US supports the WHO in carrying out its duties independently and without interference. He said that the US side was deeply concerned about China's attempts to obstruct the normal work of the WHO, especially China's recent announcement that it would not participate in the plan of the second phase of origin-tracing study led by the WHO. He added that China's cooperation was of great significance to WHO's scientific investigation on the origin of the virus, which is crucial to preventing future pandemics. What is China's comment on that?
Zhao Lijian: By making those remarks, the US deputy representative is staging a farce of a thief crying "stop the thief" and trying to blame the innocent party for what oneself is guilty of.
The US side says China is trying to obstruct the normal work of the WHO. In fact, it was the US that blatantly withdrew from the WHO and threatened to stop paying its dues. It is the US that is openly stigmatizing the epidemic, labeling the virus, and interfering with WHO's global response. It is still the US that uses the WHO and multilateralism when they suit its interests and abandoning them otherwise. At the above-mentioned briefing on the assessment of the epidemic response, the US deviated from the theme of the conference by playing up the issue of origin-tracing to stigmatize China. This is another example of the US interfering with international public health cooperation. The US is the biggest saboteur of WHO's ability to perform its functions independently and without interference.
The US accuses China for refusing to participate in the WHO's plan of the second phase of origin-tracing study. In fact, what China disagrees with is the highly politicized origin-tracing, what China refuses is the origin-tracing that deviates from the requirements of the WHO resolution, and what China denies to participate in is the origin-tracing that disregards the conclusions and recommendations of the first phase of the study. China is actively implementing the recommendations of the first-phase joint mission report, and conducting follow-up complementary studies. In contrast, the US side is engaged in politically-motivated origin-tracing in defiance of authoritative scientific research conclusions, spreading false information and lies, and flagrantly distorting the position of other countries. It is the US that is not taking part in the real science-based origin-tracing. It is also the US that is staying out of the international origin-tracing cooperation.
The US also says that China's cooperation is of great significance to WHO's scientific investigation into the origin of the virus. In fact, China has always taken an open, transparent, scientific and cooperative attitude on the issue of origin-tracing. China has taken the lead in cooperating with the WHO on origin-tracing, and has twice invited WHO experts in for origin-tracing studies, and opened the Wuhan Institute of Virology to international experts. Nearly 70 countries have expressed opposition to politicization of origin-tracing and support of China-WHO joint mission report by writing letters to the WHO Director-General, issuing statements and sending notes. The question now is, when will the US respond to the international community's questions about Fort Detrick, clear the suspicions over its 200 plus biological laboratories around the world, and carry out origin-tracing cooperation with the WHO as China has done?
Finally, I want to emphasize that the coronavirus needs to be traced to its source, and so does the political virus. The US should respect science, stop sabotaging international cooperation on fighting the epidemic and tracing the source of the virus, and adopt an open, transparent and cooperative attitude to invite WHO experts to the US for origin-tracing study.
Bloomberg: Today, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter that Washington is deeply concerned about the harassment and intimidation of journalists from overseas, adding the Beijing can and must do better, in his word. Separately, the US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that Chinese official state media promoted harsh rhetoric toward any news China perceives to be critical of PRC policies. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: We firmly reject these US remarks. The US statement is no different from the one by the so-called FCCC a few days ago. Both disregard facts, distort right and wrong, and attempt to pressure China with unfounded allegations. The erroneous action once again exposed the US side's hegemony, bullying and double standard on media and press freedom. China categorically rejects it. I already made clear our position on the false accusations yesterday. As to the foreign journalists who violated Chinese regulations, we have lodged representations with relevant individuals and institutions.
Speaking of censorship, harassment and intimidation of journalists, the US should not forget the following facts. Since 2018, the US has denied visa to more than 20 Chinese journalists without cause. It has designated several Chinese media's US offices as foreign missions and placed a cap on their number of staff, expelling in all but name 60 Chinese journalists. It has also imposed the discriminatory restrictive measure of issuing to all Chinese journalists' a mere three-month stay visa. Many video records show how journalists covering the demonstrations after the Floyd incident were abrasively stopped by US law enforcement personnel or even physically assaulted. During the storming of the US Congress, many news outlets, including a Chinese one, were attacked by demonstrators at their usual live positions outside Capitol Hill. If these are not suppression, harassment, intimidation and threat against journalists and outright violation of their safety and press freedom, then what should we call them?
The US is just using press freedom as a cover to advance its real agenda of suppressing China. It is only trying to justify its open double standard, hegemony and bullying with a high-sounding pretext. With regard to the US, it is not just a matter of "can do better" on journalists and press freedom, but an urgent need to redress mistakes and seek improvement. The US should reflect upon itself and stop wanton attacks on China. One can only earn respect from others with proper self-conduct.
Global Times: On July 29, Bloomberg released a new edition of its "COVID Resilience Ranking", in which Norway becomes the new No. 1, the US falls to the fifth, and China is put at the ninth. I wonder if you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: Previously, when Bloomberg placed the US at the top of its "COVID Resilience Ranking", I said it will only be shrugged off by people around the world and offer something for small talk.
Like last time, my friends ask me whether the authoritative Bloomberg has misprinted its report again. People can't get around the logic as to how the US could possibly stay in the top 5 when the country continues to have the highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
Bloomberg said that the rankings were based on "data indicators that span Covid containment, quality of healthcare, vaccination coverage, overall mortality and-as of last month-progress toward restarting travel and easing border curbs". Many believe that judging from two indicators of vaccination coverage and overall mortality alone, there's no way the US could make to top 5. Yet Bloomberg insists to place the US at No. 5, saying that deaths in the country "remain a fraction of what they were during previous waves", and social and business activities have largely returned to normal.
Even a schoolboy could tell that's far from the truth. Bloomberg dumbfounds people with its ability to confuse right and wrong, and distort facts to make its self-contradictory report sound plausible. There's no point wasting more time discussing this report, we can just shrug it off and maybe use it for small talks.
China Daily: It is reported that earlier this month, two laboratories in Italy and the Netherlands retested some blood samples taken before the COVID-19 outbreak and found antibodies normally found in coronavirus infections. Italian experts say the result shows that there is a strong possibility that the coronavirus was circulating in Italy much earlier than expected. What is China's comment on that?
Zhao Lijian: In a November 2020 paper, Italian researchers noted that samples that tested positive for the coronavirus antibodies were collected during the first week of October 2019, suggesting that it is likely that infection could well happen in September 2019. The subsequent retesting by WHO also confirmed the presence of antibodies in these samples normally observed after coronavirus infection. This once again proves that it is necessary to trace the source of COVID-19 in multiple places, which should be taken into consideration in the origin-tracing work going forward.
A separate media report says that early outbreak sites in some European countries are linked to US military bases, and that the virus is likely to have spread to Europe through the Armed Services Blood Program, which involves Fort Detrick bio lab with containment breaches and leakage risks. It is astonishing that the biosafety-level lab, in order to save costs, uses a medical waste company with a track record of multiple violation of regulations and poor management to handle its medical waste, including those at bio-weapon level. There are comments that US military personnel and their cold chain blood parcels are a loophole in Europe's coronavirus prevention efforts. Do the problems reflected in the report exist? What is the real situation?
The US side should face up to and respond to relevant doubts, show openness and transparency, and open Fort Detrick to the WHO expert team, so as to demystify the source of the virus at an early date. Finally, for your information, more than 20 million Chinese netizens have signed the petition calling on WHO to investigate the Fort Detrick bio lab.
Hubei Media Group: On July 29, China held a dialogue between COVID-19 vaccine companies. Could you give us more details?
Zhao Lijian: On July 29, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, together with four Chinese vaccine manufacturers, namely, Sinopharm, Sinovac Biotech, CanSino Biologics Inc and Zhifei Longcom, jointly hosted a dialogue for COVID-19 vaccine cooperation, which was attended by more than 30 vaccine companies from more than 20 countries.
The dialogue was held in preparation for the First Meeting of the International Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine Cooperation. The participating companies focused on COVID-19 vaccine trade and joint production, pledging to undertake corporate social responsibility, build international vaccine partnership, further expand vaccine supply, support governments' vaccination policies, and make greater contribution to international cooperation against the epidemic.
Chinese vaccine companies have established good cooperation with the participating enterprises, providing them with over 500 million doses of vaccine and concentrates, and carrying out joint production with many enterprises. During the meeting, Chinese vaccine companies also reached new cooperation intentions with participating parties.
Xinhua News Agency: Alexander Semyonov, a leading Russian virologist and head of the Yekaterinburg branch of the State Research Center of the Virology and Biotechnology Vector Institute, said the other day that the novel coronavirus came from nature and that continued US accusations that a Chinese lab was the source of the pandemic are completely driven by politics. Do you have any comment on this?
Zhao Lijian: Lately more and more experts, academics and media from the international community have spoken up rejecting the US dissemination of political virus. I would like to share some views with you.
First, the WIV lab leak theory is a conspiracy spread by the US. Semyonov said that it was "pure fantasy" to think that a coronavirus could be created using artificial methods. He also slammed the hyping up of the "lab leak" theory by the US as an attempt to falsely blame China. Kenya Broadcasting Corporation carried an article on its website pointing out that the lab leak theory runs counter to facts and the US' false allegation is groundless as the WIV has similar management protocols with other high-level labs. Pamela Bjorkman, a professor of biology at California Institute of Technology, explained why she co-signed an open letter to Science calling for investigation into the lab leak theory. She thought "the letter would have the effect of promoting more funding for searching for natural viruses in animal reservoirs" and "did not anticipate that the letter would be used to promote the lab origin hypothesis". Looking back, she felt she had acted "perhaps naively". Similarly, Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at University of Arizona who also added his name to the letter, explained why he continues to think that "a zoonotic origin of SARS-CoV-2 is more likely than a lab leak scenario" even though signing the letter leaves the opposite impression.
Second, politicization of origin-tracing is US political manipulation targeting China. Uzbekistan Daily ran an article saying that the lab leak theory and the WHO's planned next steps of origin studies are both the result of US political manipulation. Ms. Farhat Asif, President of the Pakistan-based Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies, said that China's anti-epidemic efforts can stand the test of history and that it's despicable of the US and other Western countries to slander China. Jeffrey Sachs, a professor at Columbia University, wrote that origin-tracing should not be used to blame China and exculpate the US. Russia's Sputnik news agency published an article on its website, saying that Washington's attempt to use origin-tracing to smear China will undoubtedly hinder the discovery of the true origin of the virus. Armenian scholar Benyamin Poghosyan said that the US, driven by narrow-minded geopolitical purposes, has used origin-tracing to engage in anti-China propaganda, which undermines the international solidarity against the epidemic, and runs counter to the vision of justice and human rights that the US claims to champion. Herman Tiu Laurel, a political commentator in the Philippines said that while China is supplying hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines to the world, "the United States has repeatedly played politics on major issues related to human well-being. This behavior must stop."
Third, the WHO should investigate Fort Detrick. Herman Tiu Laurel, a well-known political commentator in the Philippines, said in an article that China's initiative to invite a WHO expert group to go to Wuhan for field inspections has shown that "China has nothing to hide" while the US has repeatedly hyped up conspiracy theories against China, and is not transparent or censoring the possible "epidemic epicenter" in its own country, which is very suspicious in itself. Another article published on the website of Sputnik News pointed out that the suspected US-initiated cyber attacks on the server hosting an online petition by Chinese netizens calling on the WHO to investigate Fort Detrick made Fort Detrick look more suspicious. The infamous Fort Detrick has long been fraught with security issues. China's call for an investigation there is justified. Anwar Adams, President of the Democratic Independent Party in South Africa, said that reports suggest the Fort Detrick lab saw "a leakage incident in the autumn of 2019, just before the global outbreak of COVID-19" and that the WHO should take this into full consideration and investigate the lab.
China News Service: According to US media The Palm Beach Post and the Miami Herald, Florida on the night of May 4, 2020 removed data from the Department of Health website that showed 171 patients had coronavirus symptoms or positive test results in January and February. Later Florida's Department of Health found that the deletion caused a gap in the serial number of cases and had to restore the data. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: I've noted relevant reports. The deletion of patients data of such great importance once again reveals the political plot of the US to cover up the epidemic.
First, the US attempted to create a false sense of security by falsifying anti-epidemic progress. The government of Florida, in disregard of the great risk to public health posed by the raging virus, hastily proposed a three-step plan toward reopening on April 29. The first phase was scheduled to start on May 4. The removal of the data has no other objective than to present a false narrative that reopening the economy is solidly based on well-managed epidemic response. The aim is to fish for political capital.
Second, the US attempted to engage in blatant political manipulation with top-down coordination. Former US President Donald Trump claimed on April 30 that he has seen evidence that the virus originated from a Wuhan lab. On May 4, he alleged that the virus spread from the Wuhan region. Time and again the epidemic was used as a tool for political manipulation to suppress China. According to the reports, none of the 171 cases you mentioned had travel history to China, which is clearly inconsistent with the official line promoted by the US government. It is no surprise that relevant data was deleted. The report also recorded that the data manager at Florida's Department of Health who was ordered to delete the data registered her objection to the decision, only to be removed from her post.
Third, the US attempted to destroy evidence and conceal early cases. The first officially-confirmed case in Florida was on March 1. But according to the reports, the 171 cases appeared in January and February, with the earliest on January 1. Many people in Florida say they developed symptoms as early as January and February. However, the state and federal governments both remain reticent on this. This fully attests to the confusion and lack of transparency in tracing and testing of early cases in the US.
The data concerning early cases removed by the Department of Health of Florida may only be the tip of the iceberg of the US cover-up. Washington University research put the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the US at 65 million and 900,000 respectively, adding that about 60% of infections were left out. While some politicians congratulated themselves on the fake progress and claimed the credit, the great masses suffered the consequences and the global fight against the pandemic was made even harder. These US politicians owe the world a responsible explanation for what they have done in callous disregard for facts, science and human life.
TASS: The Chinese side cites international researchers as saying that for one thing that artificial origins of coronavirus is a conspiracy theory and lab leak of the coronavirus is also a kind of conspiracy theory, and at the same time, China urged to check Fort Detrick lab in the US. Is there any contradiction between these two points?
Zhao Lijian: The US is pointing finger at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. By "lab leak", it's implying that "Wuhan lab leak".
China has twice invited WHO to China for origin-tracing study, and opened the Wuhan Institute of Virology to the expert team. With more and more suspicions pointing to the Fort Detrick bio lab, it is time for the US to invite WHO experts to investigate Fort Detrick.
Bloomberg: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has restored the nation's Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States more than a year after moving to terminate it. The decision to take steps toward ending the agreement last year was seen as a pivot toward China. Does the ministry have a comment on the restoration of the agreement between the US and the Philippines?
Zhao Lijian: I have noted relevant reports. China always maintains that state-to-state exchanges and cooperation should not only benefit the countries concerned but also regional and global peace and stability.
Shenzhen TV: Some US researchers on Native Americans spoke up on US media and exposed the dark history of US residential schools for Native Americans. The scholars said, most Americans are unaware that the tragedies in Canada's Indian residential schools also happened in the US between 1869 and 1978. Tens of thousands of Native children were removed from their tribal communities, forced into the boarding schools run by government and churches, and rammed with the notion that Native people should be ashamed of their identity. What's your comment?
Zhao Lijian: I have read relevant reports. Ted Gover, Associate Director of the Tribal Administration Certificate Program at Claremont Graduate University, wrote in The Hill that for over 100 years between 1869 and 1978, 350-plus institutions in the US tried to replace Native American values, languages and ways of life with Christianity, Western traditions and the English language. At its peak, an estimated 83 percent of American Indian children were attending these boarding schools where they endured physical and sexual abuse in addition to hard labor and disease.
Jackie Thompson Rand, Professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said in the summertime, children would be farmed out to white households. Boys would be sent to workplaces and girls would work in the house as servants and domestic help. Starvation, disease, physical penalty and sexual abuse led to many deaths and suicides of Native American children. Rand said, "by the end of the 19th century, there were 250,000 Native people left in the US. If that isn't genocide, I don't know what is." But many Americans are unaware of the history and truth hidden from them by the US government due to the need for colonialism and cultural genocide.
The dark history of the American Indian boarding schools is only a drop in the ocean compared to the systemic racism and human rights issues in the US. It committed deplorable genocide and crimes against humanity of American Indians. Many African and Asian Americans, still living in the shadows of racial discrimination and hate crimes, find it "hard to breathe".
Facts have proven time and again, the US is in no position to be a human rights defender, still less a condescending lecturer. What it needs to do is to do some soul-searching, scrutinize the history of American Indian boarding schools, return justice and truth to the Native Americans that they deserve and earnestly address its own grave human rights issues.
Reuters: I wanted to ask about a bipartisan US congressional commission that's called for Hilton Worldwide, the hotel chain, not to allow its name to be associated with a hotel project on the site of a mosque that was destroyed by authorities in Xinjiang. That's following a report made on this hotel by The Telegraph earlier this year. Does the Chinese side have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: The US congressman concerned has been keen to spread lies and rumors about Xinjiang. The relevant remarks are full of arrogance and ignorance. The intention of seeking political gain through slander is known to all.
I would like to point out that most of the mosques in Xinjiang were built in the 1980s and 1990s or even earlier. In recent years, as urbanization gathers speed and the rural revitalization strategy is implemented, some local governments, responding to local Muslim community's call and application, took measures including building new facilities, relocation and extending existing buildings to solve the issue of dilapidated buildings and make mosques safer and better situated. The mosques in Xinjiang can well meet the needs of believers.
Relevant US lawmakers should face up to the fact about Xinjiang's development and progress, stop slandering and smearing China's ethnic and religious policies, and stop interfering in China's internal affairs under the pretext of so-called human rights issues.
NHK: The German Navy plans to send ships to the Indo-Pacific region, including the South China Sea, in early August to strengthen military cooperation with Japan and Australia. What is China's comment on that?
Zhao Lijian: We have noted the relevant report. We hope that the military vessel of the relevant country will earnestly abide by international law when passing through the South China Sea, respect the sovereignty, rights and interests of littoral countries, and refrain from doing things that would undermine regional peace and stability.
The regular press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be in recess from Monday, August 2 to Friday, August 13 and resume on Monday, August 16.
During the recess, journalists may raise questions to the Spokesperson's Office by fax, E-mail or WeChat. Notice on any special press briefing will be put on the website of the IPC.
May all media friends enjoy a good summer vacation!