Beijing Youth Daily: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement on May 28, saying that the US is concerned about the conditions China imposed on the visit to China by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and China’s efforts to restrict and manipulate the visit. What is China’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: At the invitation of the Chinese government, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet visited China from May 23 to 28. China believes that this visit has enhanced understanding and cooperation, and clarified misinformation. After meetings and talks, conversations and field trips in Guangzhou and Xinjiang, the High Commissioner had a deeper understanding and recognition of China’s path for human rights development, and had first-hand experience of Xinjiang’s reality with social security and stability, sound and sustained development and people’s well-being.
All lies and rumors related to Xinjiang have fallen apart in front of facts and truth. But as the saying goes, “You cannot wake up someone who is only pretending to be asleep.” Turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the facts and truth about Xinjiang, the US rehashed the false claims that had already been debunked countless times in an attempt to smear and attack China. Ridiculously, this time they made up new lies that China has restricted and manipulated the visit. In fact, all the activities and arrangements of High Commissioner Bachelet during her stay in China were decided in accordance with her will and based on full consultation of the two sides. The High Commissioner also said at the press conference that she had unsupervised and extensive meetings during the visit. Where is restriction and manipulation to speak of? To find the one trying to manipulate this visit, look no further than the US. It is the one and the same US that was most vocal about the High Commissioner’s visit to China at first, imposed various kinds of conditions for the agreed visit, and ultimately attacked and slandered the visit after it was made. This once again proves that the US does not care about human rights conditions whatsoever. What it really wants is to use human rights as a pretext to constantly denigrate China and hold it down. Such hypocrisy and political scheme of the US has long been seen through by the whole world.
By contrast, the human rights conditions in the US are like “the emperor’s new clothes”. The recent malicious shooting at a school in Texas is particularly heart-wrenching. The right to life of ordinary people, including children and teenagers, cannot be guaranteed in the US. I’d like to share some figures with you. Since 2001, the US waged wars or conducted military operations in about 80 countries in the name of counter-terrorism, which killed more than 800,000 people including about 300,000 civilians. The US set up black sites like the Guantanamo Bay prison across the world, where people are arbitrarily detained without trial for long periods of time and subject to torture and ill treatment. Racism in the US is deeply entrenched and racial minorities like African Americans and Asian Americans have to live with systemic racial discrimination. Shutting eyes to grave human rights violations at home, what rights does the US have to act like a patronizing judge and interfere in other countries’ affairs? We ask the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to conduct investigations into and submit reports on US’ human rights problems.
Bloomberg: In relation to the press conference on Saturday evening, what’s the takeaway for China on this? There were some recommendations from the High Commissioner. For example, she talked about how anti-terrorism and de-radicalization should not be in conflict with human rights. What’s your comment?
Zhao Lijian: I briefed you on High Commissioner Bachelet’s visit to China just now. She also held a press conference on that. During High Commissioner Bachelet’s visit here, especially in Xinjiang, the authorities of the Autonomous Region has made comprehensive presentation on the measures and achievements of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization. High Commissioner Bachelet toured an exhibition on counter-terrorism and de-radicalization, learning in detail the legal and policy frameworks, practices, and achievements of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization in Xinjiang. Violence and terrorism have inflicted the greatest harm on the human rights all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, and counter-terrorism and de-radicalization is the greatest protection for the human rights of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang. I can tell you that there has been no violent terrorist attack in Xinjiang for five consecutive years. The region now enjoys security, stability, development and prosperity, and the people there live a happy and fulfilling life. This is the best illustration of the effectiveness of Xinjiang’s counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts. I believe that foreigners from all walks of life who have visited Xinjiang, like the High Commissioner herself, will be able to draw objective and fair conclusions.
I also want to say that China attaches great importance to the UN human rights affairs and stands ready to contribute to advancing the international human rights cause. During the visit, the Chinese side and the OHCHR had thorough exchange on deepening cooperation and reached broad consensus. The two sides have agreed to hold annual senior strategic meetings to discuss national, regional and international human rights issues of common interest. And the two sides have agreed to establish a working group to facilitate human rights cooperation in such areas as development and human rights, business and human rights, poverty alleviation and human rights, counter-terrorism and human rights, rights of minorities, digital space and human rights, judicial and legal protection and human rights. China is willing to provide greater support to the human rights work of the UN. Such concrete measures not only are conducive to the cooperation between China and the OHCHR, but also represent China’s new contribution to the international human rights cause.
Shenzhen TV: In his recent speech on the US administration’s approach to China, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that China poses “the most serious long-term challenge to the international order” and that the US “must defend and reform the rules-based international order”. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: This speech misrepresents facts with a long list of lies. The attacks on China mirror exactly what the US has been doing. It is no other than the US that poses “the most serious long-term challenge to the international order”. The “rules-based international order” it touts is actually the “US rules-based international order”, a hegemonic order to dominate the world with its house rules. Last week my colleague already responded to the speech. Today I would like to take this opportunity to further reveal the hypocrisy of the US by debunking some of its lies and fallacies with facts and figures.
To start, the US has zero reverence for the international order underpinned by the UN Charter and international law. Throughout its over two-century-long history, the country has only witnessed 16 years free from war. It is the largest source of disruption threatening the international peace and stability and the greatest destabilizing element in the international order. The US claims that it will defend “concepts like self-determination, sovereignty, the peaceful settlement of disputes” enshrined in the UN Charter. However, it always says one thing and does another. As the American writer William Blum pointed out in his book America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, since the end of World War II, the US has attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments and grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries. According to a report by Brown University, since 2001, the US-waged wars and military operations in the name of counter-terrorism have claimed over 800,000 lives and turned more than 20 million people into refugees in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria alone.
Second, the US is the top saboteur of the international order, who sticks to US centrism and exceptionalism and wantonly withdraws from treaties and organizations. It refuses to sign or ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, voted against the Global Compact for Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees, and remains the sole party obstructing negotiations for a verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention. Since the 1980s, the US has withdrawn from 17 international organizations or treaties, including the UN Human Rights Council, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Paris Agreement, the JCPOA, the Arms Trade Treaty, the INF Treaty, the Open Skies Treaty, among others with flip-flops regarding some of them. Such a country now shamelessly disguises itself as a referee of international rules, shining a spotlight on where others come short while turning a blind eye to its outright violations. When American politicians eloquently cite the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to criticize other countries, are they aware of the fact that the US is not even a state party to the Convention?
Third, the US is in no position whatsoever to talk about rules. In the eyes of the US, international rules must be subordinate to and serve its interests and hegemony. When international rules happen to be consistent with US interests, they are cited as authority. Otherwise they are simply ignored. Here are some questions for the US to answer: when the US flagrantly waged wars on sovereign nations and instigated "color revolutions", was it following rules? When the US grossly slapped illegal unilateral sanctions, plunging people in the affected countries into disaster, was it following rules? When the US refuses to pay its long overdue $1 billion assessed contributions to the UN regular budget and $1.4 billion peacekeeping assessments, is it following rules? When the US strengthens AUKUS and Quad, and attempts to build an Indo-Pacific version of NATO to mess up the Asia-Pacific and undermine the international nuclear non-proliferation system, is it following rules? When the US hosted the so-called Summit for Democracy, which divided the world into two camps by inviting half and excluding the other half, was it following rules? When the US refused to implement the WTO ruling that its tariff war against China violates global trade rules, and blocked the appointment of new judges to the WTO’s Appellate Body, was it following rules?
Last but not least, the US is the master of coercive diplomacy. The US places its domestic law above international law and international rules, and willfully resorts to illegal unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Venezuela, Syria and Iran have been grappling with severe difficulties with a struggling economy and strained medical resources due to prolonged US sanctions. Under such circumstances, the US, rather than halting those sanctions, redoubled them, making things even worse for these countries. The international community sees with increasing clarity that the US only complies with the market competition principle and international trade rules it claims to champion when it suits US interests. While talking about a level playing field and free trade, US politicians actually believe in “America first” and wield a big stick of sanctions.
I also want to stress that over the 70-plus years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, we have not initiated any war or taken an inch of land from other countries. We call for resolving disputes through dialogue and negotiation, and has completely resolved all land boundary issues by peaceful means with 12 out of the 14 neighbors. As the second largest economy in the world, China has been contributing to over 30% to the world economic growth, ranking the top for 15 years running. China is now the second largest contributor to UN regular budget and peacekeeping assessments. We actively participate in the building and reform of the global governance system, and take real actions to honor the spirit of the UN Charter and the authority of the UN. Facts have proven and will continue to prove that China remains a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development and a guardian of international order. We will always stand in solidarity with all peace-loving and justice-pursuing countries under the UN flag, uphold true multilateralism, and continuously contribute confidence, wisdom and strength to universal prosperity and common progress of the humanity.
Al Jazeera: Yesterday, Israeli extremists, protected by police, attacked Palestinians in East Jerusalem and prevented them from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israeli Prime Minister Bennett said that the whole of Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. China has always supported the two-state solution and East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. May I ask if you condemn the Israeli Prime Minister’s remarks? Now, the Palestinian-Israeli situation is gradually deteriorating. If Israeli atrocities are not stopped in time, a serious humanitarian disaster is inevitable. Is China considering taking substantive action to protect the Palestinians and protect regional peace and stability?
Zhao Lijian: Lately there has been ongoing tension between Palestine and Israel, particularly in Jerusalem. China is deeply concerned over this. Parties concerned should act in accordance with relevant UN resolutions, respect and maintain the historical status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem, and avoid taking any unilateral and provocative actions that change the historical status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem. China has stressed many times that the underlying reason for the recurring conflicts between Israel and Palestine is the absence of the implementation of the two-state solution and long denial of the Palestinian people’s legitimate appeal of establishing an independent state. The international community should have a greater sense of urgency and work for the early resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel on the basis of the two-state solution, so as to achieve the comprehensive, just and lasting resolution of the Palestine question at an early date.
Hubei Media Group: May 29, 2022 was the 20th International Day of UN Peacekeepers. Could you talk about China’s participation in UN peacekeeping missions?
Zhao Lijian: UN peacekeeping missions are important means to advance international peace and security. Over the past seven decades or so, the UN has conducted over 70 missions, rallying more than one million peacekeepers under the UN flag and making outstanding contributions to safeguarding and restoring regional peace and assisting in the resolution of regional conflicts. The Blue Helmets have become a symbol of peace and hope, winning wide acclaim from the international community.
In 1990, China sent military observers to the UN, which marked the beginning of its participation in UN peacekeeping operations (UNPKOs). In 1992, China dispatched its first formed military unit of Blue Helmets to participate in UNPKOs. Over the past three decades, China has sent nearly 50,000 peacekeepers to participate in UNPKOs in more than 20 countries and regions. A total of 16 Chinese peacekeepers have made the ultimate sacrifice. China is the second largest contributor to UN peacekeeping assessments and the largest troop contributor to peacekeeping operations among the five permanent members of the Security Council. As we speak, more than 2,200 Chinese officers are working in eight peacekeeping mission areas. Chinese Blue Helmets have become a key force in the UN’s peacekeeping efforts. Chinese peacekeepers adhere to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, act in strict accordance with their mandate, and faithfully fulfill peacekeeping missions, making important contributions to safeguarding world peace and promoting common development.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic overlapping with a host of threats including regional hotspot issues, ethnic strife and terrorism, the role and significance of UNPKOs have become more prominent. China will continue to work in close cooperation with the international community to increase the efficacy and efficiency of UNPKOs so that they can play a bigger role in safeguarding international peace and security. At the same time, UNPKOs rely on the support of all member states. We hope a certain country will pay its overdue $1.4 billion peacekeeping assessments in full without further delay and avoid hindering the normal operation of UNPKOs for selfish interests.
Associated Press of Pakistan: On May 27, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited Karot Hydropower project, being completed under China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Talking to engineers and workers there, he said this project will generate cheap electricity and also promote green development in Pakistan. Do you have any comment on that?
Zhao Lijian: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a key pilot project under the Belt and Road Initiative and an important platform for all-round practical cooperation between the two countries. It is guided by the concept of green, open and clean development and committed to realizing sustainable, livelihood-oriented and high-standard growth. Since its launch, CPEC has delivered fruitful outcomes in energy cooperation, which helps Pakistan to effectively tackle energy shortage and provides reliable energy supply for its economic and industrial development.
The Karot hydropower plant is a major energy cooperation project under CPEC between China and Pakistan. Once all units are installed and put into operation, the project will not only generate steady and affordable energy supply, meet the electricity needs of approximately five million local residents, and further improve Pakistan’s energy structure, but also boost the country’s sustainable development as well as global efforts toward carbon neutrality by reducing an estimated amount of 3.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, thus contributing to the global response to climate change. We are looking forward to the completion of the hydropower plant and hope that it can be put into use at an early date.
Bloomberg: A question about a joint document between China and the Pacific nations, which according to news reports was not adopted. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: You’ve been closely following the situation. In fact, I just got some relevant information and would like to brief you on that.
The second China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was successfully held. The parties had an in-depth discussion on how to deepen cooperation between the two sides in a united and friendly manner, and reached broad new consensus. After the meeting, China will release a position paper on cooperation between China and the Pacific Island countries going forward in response to the expectations of the latter. Please stay tuned to the relevant press release from China.
As for the joint document you mentioned, it involves an ongoing process of discussion. Not every meeting has to issue a joint document. At the foreign Ministers’ meeting this time, all parties reached new consensus on this, making an important step towards reaching the final agreement. The parties agreed to continue to engage in active and practical discussions in order to build more consensus.
CCTV: The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-People’s Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP), held its 21st Summit in Havana, Cuba on May 27, 2022. The Final Declaration adopted by the alliance’s member states denounces the exclusionary and discriminatory treatment by the United States as the host country of the so-called 9th Summit of the Americas against some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, rejects the imposition of coercive unilateral measures against Venezuela and Nicaragua, and the economic, commercial, and financial blockade against Cuba and calls on the genuine regional integration led by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) through dialogue and cooperation. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-People’s Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP) represents a useful exploration by countries in Latin America and the Caribbean for promoting regional integration. Since its founding, the organization has been committed to seeking development through solidarity among regional countries and encouraging its member states to follow a path of independent development.
Since its founding, CELAC has been committed to multilateralism and played an important role in upholding multilateralism, safeguarding regional peace and stability, promoting economic and social development and protecting the rights and interests of developing countries. China appreciates this and supports countries in the region in actively seeking a development model suited to the region and their efforts to promote integration.
Under the pretext of so-called democracy and human rights, the US has been ganging up to suppress countries that have different opinions, wantonly abused unilateral sanctions and interfered in and manipulated the internal affairs of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is typical hegemony that gravely violates the purposes of the UN Charter and the basic norms governing international relations, and seriously contravenes the sovereignty and dignity of countries in the region. China firmly rejects this. I would like to stress that Latin America is by no means a "front court" or "backyard" of a certain country, and the Summit of the Americas is not a “Summit of the United States of America”. The US scheme to interfere in regional affairs by taking advantage of its capacity as the host of the Summit of the Americas is doomed to fail.
China Daily: According to media reports, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, commenting on some negative remarks by the US side on Taiwan, stressed that Taiwan is a Chinese province and an inalienable part of China’s territory and that pushing Taiwan to declare independence is a dangerous adventure. He called on all sides to respect China’s sovereignty and avoid adding fuel to the flame. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: China highly appreciates Prime Minister Hun Sen’s remarks on Taiwan. There is but one China in the world, Taiwan is part of China, and the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China. This is a consensus of the international community. The Taiwan question is purely China’s domestic affair and brooks no foreign interference. The Chinese side’s just cause of safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity, opposing secession, and realizing national reunification has received and will surely continue to receive understanding and support from Cambodia and the rest of the international community.
Reuters: The World Health Organization recently organized the World Health Assembly meeting and they reached agreement on reforming global health emergency rules. Did China take part and did China also agree to this reform?
Zhao Lijian: I’m not aware of what you mentioned.
The Paper: Last week, the fourth regional security dialogue on Afghanistan was hosted by Tajikistan and the Dushanbe Statement was released. We learned that a Chinese representative attended the meeting. Can you share more information?
Zhao Lijian: The fourth regional security dialogue on Afghanistan was held in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan, on May 27. Senior representatives from China, Russia, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan attended the meeting. Cheng Guoping, External Security Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, represented China at the meeting.
Commissioner Cheng said, Afghanistan is the “Heart of Asia”. The development of the situation in Afghanistan, especially its security situation, has a major impact on regional security and stability. The Global Security Initiative, put forward by President Xi Jinping not long ago, stressed the importance of upholding the new vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and jointly upholding world peace and security. China is ready to honor this spirit, work in concert with regional countries and support Afghanistan in making a systemic response to challenges.
The Dushanbe Statement released at the meeting welcomes the Tunxi Initiative adopted at the Third Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Among the Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan in late March, calls on all parties to provide more support for Afghanistan in economy, humanitarian assistance, connectivity, trade and internal capacity building. It reiterates non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs and the “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” principle, urges countries bearing responsibilities for Afghanistan to seriously fulfill the commitment of economic reconstruction and future development of Afghanistan, and opposes politicization of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. The statement particularly pointed out that international terrorist organizations should never be allowed to use the Afghan territory to hide, train, plot and sponsor any terrorist activities targeting any country in the region to make sure that Afghanistan will not become a hotbed, harbor or source of terrorist forces.
Afghanistan is now at a critical stage of a turnaround from chaos to stability. Security is the prerequisite for development. China is ready to continue to work with regional countries to strengthen communication and coordination, build consensus and form synergy, and make relentless efforts to help Afghanistan achieve lasting peace and stability at an early date.
Bloomberg: Do you have any more details on the agreements that were signed between China and Kiribati and Samoa? Is there anything you could offer on those agreements?
Zhao Lijian: Our delegation is there on their trip. Relevant information has been released, and you can check it out.
Dragon TV: Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said at the 27th “International Conference on the Future of Asia” that the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is not an economic but a political grouping that is intended to isolate and confront China. China has contributed to other countries’ economic growth but has been left out in the IPEF. Economic development requires stability and no conflict. The United States seems enthusiastic about shutting out China and is sending ships to the South China Sea. This may one day cause an accident, resulting in violence or war, which is not good for the economic development of ASEAN countries. It’s necessary to avoid intensifying conflict between the United States and China and maintain regional stability. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: That’s very well put. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's remarks reflect the shared voice of the vast majority of countries in the region and clearly indicate what they care about and want the most. That is peace, stability and economic development in the region. It represents the overriding trend and people’s aspiration. However, the US has deviated from this direction and politicized economic issues for its own selfish ends, even at the cost of the interests of other countries and the region at large. It wins no support and is doomed to fail. The key to success in the Asia-Pacific is win-win cooperation, not zero-sum confrontation. China is ready to work with other countries in the region to practice true multilateralism, build an open regional economy and make the Asia-Pacific our better home.
Reuters: According to reports in Swiss media, efforts by the Swiss government to update its free trade agreement with China have stalled as Switzerland is taking a more critical view of China’s human rights record. What’s China’s comment?
Zhao Lijian: I've also noted the relevant information. Since its implementation in 2014, the China-Switzerland free trade agreement has brought enormous tangible benefits to both countries and peoples. To upgrade the agreement will help both sides to further tap into the potential for economic and trade cooperation and revitalize and grow the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
I would like to stress that the free trade agreement is a mutually-beneficial arrangement, not a favor bestowed by either side. The two sides have maintained close communication and active negotiation on upgrading the agreement in the spirit of mutual respect and equality. China will be delighted to have the agreement upgraded and hopes that the Swiss side could stay clear of disruptive elements and meet China halfway.
Bloomberg: Just to go back to my earlier question, I want to make sure that I was clear. Basically I was asking about agreements with Kiribati, but also with Samoa. So I was asking on the two countries. Could you give us more details on China’s agreements with the two countries?
Zhao Lijian: As I said just now, the Chinese side has issued the press release on the visit. Moments ago before this press conference, we released information about the talks between Fijian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Frank Bainimarama and State Councilor Wang Yi. The press release can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. China will soon release relevant information on the China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. Please stay tuned.
Reuters: Recently, the WHO held its first in-person assembly since the COVID-19 outbreak. Did China attend the meeting? Does China support any reform measures mentioned at this conference?
Zhao Lijian: As I just said, I am not aware of relevant situation. I may come back to you after I learn more about it. According to the information I have for the moment, China participated in relevant discussions, but I am not aware of the details.