CCTV: Can you share more information on the extended meeting of the China-US-Russia consultation mechanism on the Afghan issue?
Zhao Lijian: On March 31, the extended meeting of the China-US-Russia consultation mechanism on the Afghan issue was held in Tunxi, Anhui Province. The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Yue Xiaoyong, Special Envoy for Afghan Affairs of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and attended by special representatives for the Afghan issue of Russia, the US and Pakistan. The four representatives had in-depth exchange of views on the current situation in Afghanistan and ways to enhance coordination on issues related to Afghanistan. They also held talks with representative of the Afghan interim government.
The four parties agreed that Afghanistan enjoying peace and stability is in the interest of the international community and the country should be a platform of international cooperation, not an arena for geopolitical tussle. They reaffirmed their staunch support to the Afghan people and stressed that they will provide more humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. They called on parties in Afghanistan to conduct substantial talks and negotiation for national reconciliation, and work for a more broad-based, inclusive and united political structure in the future. They emphasized that various terrorist forces in Afghanistan remain a threat to regional security and demanded that relevant sides in Afghanistan take more visible measures to live up to its counter-terrorism commitments, and dismantle and eliminate all forms of terrorist organizations. They encouraged all sides to work with Afghanistan in such fields as economy, trade, investment, connectivity and infrastructure through business-led and market-oriented efforts to enhance practical cooperation, and help Afghanistan improve capacity for self-generated development and achieve economic independence.
All participants highly commended China’s hosting of meetings of foreign ministers of the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, including the extended meeting of the China-US-Russia consultation mechanism on the Afghan issue. They gave full recognition to China’s constructive role on Afghan-related issues. The representative of the Afghan interim government said that they are committed to stabilizing the situation and ensuring peace for the people, developing economy and improving people’s livelihood, and will actively promote all social undertakings including education. They hope to see more assistance to the country. Afghanistan will honor its commitment to the international community and will by no means allow any terrorist forces to use its territory to harm other countries.
CCTV: Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Maria Zakharova said that the NATO summit in Brussels demonstrated the absolute loyalty of the organization’s member states to Washington, their readiness to follow the total containment of Russia and the alliance’s interest in continuing hostilities between Russia and Ukraine. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: As a product of the Cold War, NATO should have been disbanded after the collapse of the former Soviet Union. In the early 1990s, former US Secretary of State James Baker made his “not one inch eastward” assurance regarding NATO expansion to then President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev. As the culprit and the leading instigator of the Ukraine crisis, the US has led NATO in pursuing five rounds of eastward expansion in the two decades or so since 1999. NATO’s membership has increased from 16 to 30 countries and the organization moved over 1,000 kilometers eastward to somewhere near Russia’s borders, pushing the latter to the wall.
Neither the world nor Europe needs a new Cold War. The Ukraine crisis has dragged on for more than one month, and the overwhelming majority of the international community hope to promote peace talks and stop hostilities as soon as possible. NATO should reflect on what role it played in the European security issue and the Ukraine crisis.
Phoenix TV: My first question is on China-EU Summit. It is reported that the EU is keen for assurances from China that it will neither supply Russia with arms nor help Moscow circumvent Western sanctions. EU officials said any help given to Russia would damage China’s international reputation and jeopardize its trade relations with the EU and the US. What is your response? Second question, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Australia will invest more to find new buyers for its exports in an effort to ease trade dependence on China in the face of “economic coercion” from China. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: Let me start with your first question. Uncertainties are apparently mounting amid the rising volatility in the international situation. China and the EU both have global influence. Maintaining strategic communication, enhancing strategic mutual trust, and expanding consensus on cooperation between the two sides helps to promote sustained and sound development of China-EU relations, and injects stability and positive energy into the international situation. This China-EU Summit bears great significance and draws wide attention. We hope the EU side can work with China to ensure a smooth and successful meeting.
As for the Ukraine issue, I want to reiterate that China is committed to an independent foreign policy of peace and makes a conclusion independently based on the merits of each matter. We have been easing the situation and working for peace talks in our own way, and played a constructive part in preventing a humanitarian crisis. At the same time, every country has the right to independently decide its own foreign policy. Forcing others to take a side is ill-advised. Adopting a black-and-white, friend-or-foe approach is unwise. And the Cold War mentality and bloc confrontation, in particular, should be rejected. This position of China on the Ukraine issue is shared among many countries including developing countries.
On sanctions, China always opposes unilateral sanctions. The problem now is not about who wants to help Russia circumvent the sanctions, but about the fact that the normal trade exchanges between countries, China included, and Russia have already been unnecessarily hurt. Also, some forces are trying to use the issue of sanctions to escalate tensions and divide the world. I have heard that a Russian conductor was fired by a certain Western orchestra for refusing to condemn his motherland, Russian movies were excluded from film awards, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s works are banned in university courses, and the usage of the letter “Z” is deemed illegal in some countries just because the letter is painted on Russian tanks. Western politicians often say that literature, art and music know no borders. What have Russian writers and musicians done to deserve all this? They also stress the inviolability of private property. And yet the private property of so many Russian individuals has been frozen or even confiscated. Did they ever think about their principles when all this is happening?
Their irrational moves will not do anything good for cooling the situation. It is hoped that all parties can calm down and focus on promoting talks for peace, rather than scale up sanctions and escalate tensions.
Now coming to your second question. In the spirit of openness, inclusiveness and mutual benefit, China is committed to building an open world economy and sharing development opportunities with other countries. Australia has benefited greatly from its cooperation with China and is a beneficiary of China’s development. The accusation of “economic coercion” cannot be leveled against China. Instead, it is Australia that stands guilty of the following. It has taken measures against market principles and even bullying acts, and imposed unwarranted restrictions on normal exchanges and cooperation between the two countries, disrupting the good momentum of bilateral practical cooperation. Meanwhile, it has played the victim to put the blame on China, ganged up to pressure China, and grossly interfered in China's internal affairs and harmed China's core interests in violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations.
The responsibility of the current difficulties in China-Australia relations lies entirely with the Australian side. It is imperative that Australia face up to the crux of the setbacks in bilateral relations, abandon the Cold War mentality and ideological bias, respect basic facts, take an objective and rational look at China and its development, earnestly follow the principles of mutual respect and equality when handling bilateral relations. The Australian side should also stop playing up “China coercion” narrative for selfish political gain and do more to enhance mutual trust and strengthen cooperation.
Xinhua News Agency: The 2022 Hong Kong Policy Act Report released by the US Department of State on March 31 made irresponsible remarks on the Hong Kong policy of the central government of China, threatening that Hong Kong’s status as a global financial hub will continue to be affected. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China and Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs which brook no foreign interference. This report released by the US made irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong affairs and made groundless accusations against the central government of China and the HKSAR government in total disregard of facts. China deplores and rejects this. The US should stop its erroneous acts and speak and act with prudence on issues related to Hong Kong.
Since Hong Kong’s return to China, the policy of One Country, Two Systems under which the people of Hong Kong administer Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy has been earnestly implemented. The rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents have been fully protected in accordance with the law. The Chinese government is firmly resolved in acting in strict accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law and fully and faithfully implementing the policy of One Country, Two Systems.
China enacts and implements the Law of the PRC on Safeguarding National Security in the HKSAR and improves the electoral system in Hong Kong in accordance with law, in an effort to uphold Hong Kong's stability and prosperity and One Country, Two Systems. The national security law cracks down on a handful of criminals endangering our national security and protects lawful rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people and foreign nationals in the SAR. Since the implementation of the legislation, rule of law in Hong Kong has been earnestly improved and better safeguarded, the SAR’s rule of law index continues to rank among the top in the world, and foreign investors’ confidence in Hong Kong has been further enhanced. These facts are undeniable.
Global Times: Recently, Russia has spoken about the US’ bio-military activities in Ukraine on multiple occasions, saying that relevant activities violate the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), designating US-funded labs in Russia’s neighboring countries as “bio-weapons labs” and stressing that more and more evidence indicates that the US has conducted synthetic biology research for military purposes in Ukraine. It also expressed hope that the BWC state parties will have consultation on the issue of compliance and launch investigations into possible violations of the convention. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: I noted relevant reports and the fact that the US has not yet made any constructive response to Russia’s accusations.
The US has conducted the most bio-military activities in the world, yet it is the only country opposing the establishment of a multilateral verification mechanism. The international community has good reason to question the US’ bio-military activities. As a state party to the BWC, the US has the obligation to abide by the stipulations of the convention and endeavor to address the international community’s concerns by making clarifications or through consultations.
We welcome a fair, objective and professional assessment by the international community on the documents disclosed by the Russian side under the framework of the BWC and the United Nations, during which the US’ clarifications will also be included and considered. Through such process, the international community will be able to make a fair judgment on the US' compliance with the Convention. We hope the US will give constructive responses so as to restore the international community’s confidence in its compliance with the convention.
I want to stress that the US has been apt to point fingers at others. Without solid evidence, it accused other countries of not observing the convention and demanded that they accept verification, using that as a pretext to impose illegal unilateral sanctions and even waging wars while circumventing the UN Security Council. However, when it comes to its own compliance, the US has tried to muddle through, which is unacceptable. The question of whether a country complies with the BWC or not bears on international peace and security, and thus can by no means decided by the US alone with double standard.
In the meantime, ensuring compliance through verification is a consensus of the international community. Setting up a verification mechanism is the best means to ensure the authority and efficacy of all treaties in the fields of arms control and disarmament, and there should no exception for bio-safety. Such endeavor should still less be held back due to the opposition from the US, the one and only country doing so. The US should stop standing alone in obstructing the resumption of the negotiations on a verification protocol under the BWC.
Reuters: The government of the Solomon Islands has said that it will not allow a Chinese military base despite the initialed but not yet signed security deal between the Solomon Islands and China. What’s the Chinese government’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: The aim of China and Solomon Islands’ security cooperation is to protect people’s life and property safety and has no military undertones. Relevant remarks and speculations in the media are groundless and ill-intentioned. Speaking of militarization in the South Pacific region, certain countries, regardless of the strong opposition of regional countries, have put the region at the risk of nuclear proliferation and insisted on creating a military clique, which poses serious threats to regional security and stability. This is wanton affront to and sabotage of the existing mechanism for stability in the region.
RIA Novosti: Financial Times said that Chinese tech companies risk violating sanctions if they keep shipping phones and telecom gear to Russia. What is China’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: I haven’t seen the reports you mentioned. China has stressed its position on the issue of sanction on many occasions. China does not approve of resolving issues through sanctions, and opposes unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction that have no basis in international law. We have said many times that sanctions, like war, solve no problems and create new ones. We also urge relevant politicians in the US to stop threatening to use sanctions at every turn. They should take concrete measures to help cool the situation down in Ukraine and resolve the Ukraine crisis through peaceful consultations.
The Paper: The Yemeni-Yemeni Talks hosted by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is ongoing in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. This meeting aims to offer a dialogue platform for the political settlement of the Yemeni issue. What is China’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: China welcomes the Yemeni-Yemeni Talks hosted by the GCC, and supports the positive role of the GCC in easing tensions in Yemen and promoting the political settlement of the Yemeni issue. We hope this meeting can help restore security and stability in Yemen at an early date.
AFP: The President of the Philippines Duterte said the Chinese leader has requested a meeting with him next Friday. Do you have any confirmation of this?
Zhao Lijian: On the high-level interactions between China and the Philippines, I don’t have any information to offer at the moment. We will release information if there is any in a timely manner.
Shenzhen TV: The UK released a Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong, the 50th of its kind, on March 31 and criticized China’s Hong Kong policy, especially the Law of the PRC on Safeguarding National Security in the HKSAR. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: In disregard of China’s solemn position, the British side once again released the so-called Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong, which distorts facts and confounds right with wrong as always, grossly interferes in Hong Kong’s affairs and China’s internal affairs, and gravely violates international law and basic norms governing international relations. China strongly condemns and firmly opposes this.
Since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, the Chinese side has been committed to fully and faithfully implementing the policy of One Country, Two Systems under which the people of Hong Kong administer Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy. Hong Kong residents enjoy far more rights and freedoms in accordance with law than they did before 1997. Since the implementation of the national security law, national security has been protected, rule of law and justice have been upheld, and the legitimate rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents and foreign nationals in Hong Kong have been better protected. We believe that with the full support from the Central Government and the joint efforts of all communities of Hong Kong, the SAR will enjoy lasting prosperity and stability, and its status as an international financial, shipping and trading center will be further consolidated. Any attack and smear against the national security law cannot hold back the trend of Hong Kong’s transition from chaos to stability and prosperity. The British side’s attempt to disrupt Hong Kong's public opinion will never succeed, whether by publishing reports, manipulating the BNO passport, or pressuring judges to resign.
I also want to stress that, after Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, the UK has no sovereignty, no jurisdiction and no right of supervision over Hong Kong. And there is no “historical responsibility” whatsoever. The British side has repeatedly cited the Sino-British Joint Declaration and passed judgment on Hong Kong affairs with the so-called semiannual report. The UK is hurting its own image by lecturing others and replaying its same old tune. The UK should face squarely the fact that Hong Kong returned to the motherland nearly 25 years ago, abandon the colonial mindset, respect China’s sovereignty and unity, stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and other internal affairs of China, and avoid making more trouble for China-UK relations.
Dragon TV: It is reported that according to data published on March 30 on the website of the Gun Violence Archive, a US non-profit organization, at least 10,362 people were killed and 8,172 wounded by gun violence in the US in the first three months of this year, both up from the same period last year. However, the US government has been peddling its democracy and human rights across the globe. In this context, do you have any comment on the report?
Zhao Lijian: I have noted the figures you mentioned. It means that in the first three months of this year, more than 115 people lost their lives and more than 90 people were injured in the US due to gun violence on an average day. Other studies estimate that the US, a country which accounts for only 5% of the world’s population, owns 46% of the world’s guns. There are as many gun stores in US as drugstores. In the US, civilians own nearly 400 million guns of all kinds, or about 120 guns per 100 people. These statistics show that the US, as the world’s leading power, is riddled with the most severe gun violence.
According to reports, gun manufacturing and trading in the US has formed a huge industrial chain. Relevant interest groups make generous political contributions to the US presidential and congressional elections. In the US, the military-industrial complex featuring “politicians plus arms dealers” has a profound influence on US policy and public opinion. Because of the joint manipulation of multiple players in the military-industrial complex, previous US administrations were unable to restrict the use of guns no matter how much they would like to, and different forms of gun control bills eventually fell apart due to various reasons. With increasing number of cases, gun violence has become a typical example of the drawbacks of the US system. The US government should restrain the demon of gun violence and let the American people enjoy “democracy and human rights” free of gun violence.
Reuters: You just said that as part of the security pact, there was no plan on China’s part of any sort of military element there. How about in the future? Does China have any hope of establishing any kind of military base in the Solomon Islands?
Zhao Lijian: We have made clear our position on China-Solomon Islands policing and security cooperation on many occasions. In November last year, serious unrest broke out in Solomon Islands, putting the lives and property of the people at great risk. China firmly supports the Solomon Islands government in ending the violence and chaos and maintaining stability. China has provided multiple batches of police equipment and sent an ad-hoc police advisory team to the country to conduct training and help its police strengthen capacity-building, which has been widely praised by the Solomon Islands government and all sectors of society. As two sovereign and independent states, China and Solomon Islands conduct normal law enforcement and security cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, which conforms to international law and international customary practice. Such cooperation is conducive to upholding social order in Solomon Islands, promoting regional peace and stability, and enhancing the common interests of China, Solomon Islands and other countries in the region. We hope relevant sides can view this in an objective and calm manner and avoid reading too much into it.
Reuters: China has given out visas to several Americans representing the NTSB to take part in the continuing investigation into the China Eastern plane crash. Will these American experts have to do quarantine and if so, for how long?
Zhao Lijian: I am not aware of the specifics of the issue you mentioned and refer you to civil aviation authorities.
In observance of the Qingming Festival (Tomb-sweeping Day), our press conference will be adjourned for April 4 (Monday) and April 5 (Tuesday) and resumed on April 6 (Wednesday). During the adjournment, you may reach the spokesperson’s office by fax, email or WeChat as usual.