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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on September 23, 2021
2021/09/23

CCTV: Today the G20 virtual foreign ministers' meeting on Afghanistan was held. Do you have anything to read out on China's participation?

Zhao Lijian: State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended the G20 virtual foreign ministers' meeting on Afghanistan on September 23. He stated that as a major platform for international economic cooperation, the G20 should, based on its purview, play a constructive role in efforts to seek peace, promote development and build consensus in Afghanistan. The Chinese side made the following six proposals:

First, humanitarian assistance is of utmost urgency. China has decided to provide 200 million RMB worth of supplies to Afghanistan, including an initial batch of 3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. We hope countries responsible for the current situation in Afghanistan will seriously reflect upon what they have done and take prompt and concrete actions to ease the Afghan people's difficulties and fulfill their due obligation.

Second, economic sanctions must stop. Various unilateral sanctions or restrictions on Afghanistan should be lifted. The country's foreign reserves are national assets that should not be used as leverage to exert political pressure on Afghanistan. China calls on G20 members to actively adopt concrete measures to help ease the liquidity pressure in Afghanistan.

Third, interactions and engagement must be inclusive. The international community should support the Afghan people in independently choosing a development path suited to the national conditions, eventually building a broad-based and inclusive political architecture, respecting the basic rights of ethnic minorities, women and children, and following a peaceful foreign policy of good-neighborliness and friendship with other countries, especially neighboring countries.

Fourth, counter-terrorism cooperation should be deepened. The international community should bear in mind the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, build a united front against terrorism, oppose double standards and selective counter-terrorism, and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a hotbed and harbor for terrorism again.

Fifth, both the symptoms and root causes of the refugee issue need to be addressed. The US and NATO countries should bear the primary responsibility for resolving the refugee and migrant issue in Afghanistan. The international community should also help Afghanistan speed up its economic reconstruction and fundamentally reduce the number of refugees and migrants.

Sixth, various mechanisms should coordinate for greater efficiency. China supports the role of the UN as the main channel for upholding peace and stability and promoting humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, and urges the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and other UN agencies to earnestly fulfill their duties. We welcome various multilateral mechanisms on Afghanistan to leverage their respective strengths and form synergy for assisting Afghanistan.

Xinhua News Agency: On September 20, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) published the Global Innovation Index 2021, where China ranked the 12th, up by two places compared to 2020. The report also spoke highly of China's progress in innovation, emphasizing the importance of government decisions and incentives to encouraging innovation. What is China's comment?

Zhao Lijian: I have seen relevant reports. According to the WIPO report, China has been moving up the ranking for nine consecutive years since 2013 and has been the top among middle-income economies. China ranks the first in nine areas, including patent filings, trademarks filings, industrial designs, high-tech exports, creative goods exports and domestic market scale. This is a full testament to the remarkable achievement China has made in scientific innovation and IPR protection.

In recent years, the Chinese government has been prioritizing the central role of scientific innovation in national development, implementing the innovation-driven development strategy and IPR strategy, and strengthening innovation and IPR protection, which resulted in significant improvement in innovation capabilities and the awareness of IPR protection in society. Yesterday, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council issued the guidelines for building a country strong on IPR for the 2021-2035 period. It put forward such objectives as accelerating the advancement of IPR reform and development, comprehensively improving China's IPR capability, upholding the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, planning and promoting IPR reform and development with a global perspective, and working to build open, inclusive, balanced international IPR rules to deliver benefits of innovation to people of all countries.

As an important force for global scientific innovation and a major country of IPR, China is ready to work with all countries as always, take the historic opportunity presented by the latest round of scientific revolution and industrial revolution to speed up translating scientific outcomes into real productivity, build an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for scientific development, tap new drivers for post-COVID economic growth and jointly achieve leapfrog development.

CCTV: State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended a meeting between foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary-General. Do you have a readout on that?

Zhao Lijian: Today, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended via videolink a meeting between foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary-General in Beijing. State Councilor Wang said that the international community has high expectations for the P5, hoping in particular that they will strengthen solidarity and coordination and be a source of confidence and stability for the world.

First, the P5 are duty-bound to safeguard world peace. We should become a positive rather than negative factor for peace and be solution-providers rather than trouble-makers. In resolving hotspot issues, we should adhere to the UN Charter, give full play to mediation, make good use of peacekeeping missions, use coercive sanctions with caution and prudence, and refrain from wanton use of force.

Second, the P5 are duty-bound to practice multilateralism. All parties set great store by the US President's statement that he is not seeking a "new Cold War". The key is to translate this statement into action by abandoning the Cold War mentality and zero-sum game, renouncing ideological prejudice and exclusive cliques, and rejecting the impulse of group confrontation and geopolitical rivalry. Countries will be watching.

Third, the P5 are duty-bound to promote solidarity against COVID-19. We should unequivocally oppose attempts to politicize the pandemic, label the virus, and use origins tracing as a tool, and remove all words and actions that interfere with international cooperation against the coronavirus.

Fourth, the P5 are duty-bound to promote global cooperation. In his speech at the General Debate of the UN General Assembly, President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Development Initiative, which aims to galvanize global synergy and speed up the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We welcome the active participation of all parties. The P5 have made commitments to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change, and should keep our word.

AFP: I have a question on the South Korean presidential race. One of the leading candidates said that if elected he would urge the US to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea if it is threatened by the North. What is China's position on the redeployment of US nuclear weapons in South Korea?

Zhao Lijian: China's position on the Korean Peninsula and the nuclear issue is consistent and clear. It is irresponsible that some politician in the ROK make an issue out of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.

Global Times: An interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery was held a few days ago during the 48th session of the Human Rights Council, where many countries expressed concern over human trafficking and forced labor in the US. Could you shed some light on China's position?

Zhao Lijian: China shares the concern over human trafficking and forced labor in the US. Throughout history, the US practiced abhorrent slavery and slave trade and committed genocide against American Indians. Today the US still remains plagued with human trafficking and forced labor.

I'd like to share some statistics with you: nearly 100,000 people are trafficked to the US from abroad for forced labor annually in the past five years, with half of them ending up in sweat shops or domestic enslavement; around 500,000 child laborers, many below the age of ten, are trapped working 72-hour weeks in the agricultural sector in the US; roughly 240,000 to 325,000 women and children in the US are victims of sexual slavery; the average life expectancy of children after sex trafficking is 7 years. Behind these numbers are tragedies, broken families and living and breathing individuals whose fundamental rights are trampled upon.

The deliberate indifference and inaction of the US government is directly culpable for the fermenting human trafficking and forced labor issues. The US is the only country in the world that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); nor has it ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The US should take immediate actions to ratify relevant human rights treaties, crack down on crimes of human trafficking and forced labor, rescue innocent women and children and bring those responsible to justice. The international community will continue to voice concern over human trafficking and forced labor in the US. The Human Rights Council and relevant mechanisms should give continued attention to these issues and take necessary actions.

Kyodo News: Yesterday, the Taiwan authorities submitted application to join the CPTPP. Considering that China's mainland and the Taiwan region both acceded to the WTO, what is China's comment on the position of the Taiwan authorities?

Zhao Lijian: There is only one China in the world, and the Taiwan region is an inalienable part of China's territory. The one-China principle is a universally recognized norm governing international relations and the consensus of the international community. China firmly opposes all official interactions between Taiwan and any country, firmly rejects Taiwan's accession to any agreement or organization of official nature. China's position on this issue is clear.

People's Daily: According to reports, vaccine assistance from China has arrived in African countries including Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire and Kenya. Cambodia, Cuba and other countries have also received medical supplies from China. Could you update us on how many doses of vaccines China has provided to how many countries?

Zhao Lijian: To date, China has provided 1.2 billion doses of finished and bulk vaccines to more than 100 countries and international organizations and provided assistance of anti-epidemic supplies to over 150 countries and 14 international organizations. We have also played our role in actively supporting UN agencies in combating COVID-19. This is a strong testament to China's deep bond of friendship with other countries and also a vivid illustration of our shared journey through weal and woe. Relevant countries and international organizations have compared China-assisted vaccines and supplies to "timely rain", acknowledging their positive role in helping fight the pandemic and protecting people's health.

At the General Debate of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, President Xi Jinping stressed the need to make vaccines a global public good and ensure vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries. Of pressing priority is to ensure the fair and equitable distribution of vaccines globally. China will strive to provide a total of 2 billion doses of vaccines to the world by the end of this year. In addition to donating 100 million US dollars to COVAX, China will donate 100 million doses of vaccines to other developing countries in the course of this year.

China will carry on international anti-epidemic cooperation and continue to make its efforts and contributions until COVID-19 is vanquished across the globe. We will do our best to promote the equitable access to vaccines in developing countries. We also call on capable countries to take concrete actions to support and help the vast developing world in acquiring vaccines and necessary anti-epidemic supplies and to contribute to the global efforts to defeat the pandemic and resume development.

Kyodo News: I have a question on Australia's acquisition of nuclear submarines. Yesterday, the Chinese foreign ministry expressed opposition to Australia's development of nuclear submarines. According to my knowledge, the People's Liberation Army of China also possesses some nuclear submarines. Does the foreign ministry mean that China will not build any new nuclear-powered submarines in the future?

Zhao Lijian: I answered three relevant question yesterday to make clear elaboration on China's position.

As a non-nuclear weapon state under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and a party to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone (SPNFZ) Treaty, known as the Treaty of Rarotonga, Australia is now introducing nuclear submarine technology of strategic and military value. The international community, including China, has full reason to question whether Australia is serious about fulfilling its nuclear non-proliferation commitments. Whether China, a nuclear weapon state party to the NPT, will build new nuclear submarines is a completely different issue.

Beijing Daily: During the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Australia's grave violation of human rights drew wide criticism. Can you further elaborate on China's position on the issue?

Zhao Lijian: In Australian offshore detention centers, a large number of refugees and migrants have been long held with chronic mental and physical sufferings, and unnatural deaths occur from time to time. Outsourced to private security firms, the detention centers have bad living conditions. The Australian government fails to effectively monitor them and gravely violates the human rights of refugees and migrants.

Historically, Australia committed genocide against the Aboriginals and inflicted permanent pain on the "stolen generation" by taking 100,000 Aboriginal children by force from their families. Even today, the average life expectancy of the Aboriginal Australians is 8.2 years shorter than that of White people. The Aboriginals account for 3.3% of the Australian population but 28% of the prisoner population. The Australian Aboriginals are still subjected to serious unfair treatment in living conditions, law enforcement and justice system, among others.

During the war in Afghanistan, Australian troops brutally killed prisoners of war and even civilians by shooting or cutting their throats. My colleagues and I have shed light on and condemned the atrocity of the Australian troops many times. The truth has come to light, but justice is still not upheld. These Australian troops remain at large despite their grave war crimes. Afghan lives also matter. The Australian side owes the world an explanation.

Bloomberg: Chinese Taipei is a member of the WTO. Could a similar arrangement be made for the CPTPP?

Zhao Lijian: I just gave an clear answer on China's position on this issue.

China News Service: Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, recently announced that a deadly drone strike launched by the US in Kabul in late August killed 10 civilians including 7 children. The youngest victims were only 2 years old. "We now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K, or were a direct threat to US forces," he added. McKenzie said that the strike was a "tragic mistake". Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: China believes that the use of all weapons, including armed drones, should comply with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and international humanitarian law. The abuse of drones by the US to launch attacks without accurate verification in advance claimed the lives of 10 innocent civilians, including those of children. This has gravely violated international humanitarian law. It is not only an irresponsible use of force, but also an outright crime.

Openly available reports show that the incidents of civilian deaths in Afghanistan as a result of US drone strikes happen frequently. A former US soldier and a drone pilot said in a testimony for a UN expert committee that US drone strikes were purely "killing for the sake of killing", and that the US airstrikes led to far more Afghan civilian deaths than the official statistics of the US government. China urges the US side to thoroughly investigate the incident, bring the perpetrators and those responsible to justice, make responsible explanations to the Afghan people and the international community, and avoid repeating such tragedy in the future.

Beijing Media Network: It is reported that representatives of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan had a debate on Japan's plan to discharge nuclear contaminated water into the sea at the 65th Annual Regular Session of the IAEA General Conference on September 21. The ROK side criticized Japan for unilaterally making the disposal decision without consulting neighboring countries and urged Japan to reconsider it. Japan responded by saying that this ocean discharge plan is technically "feasible". Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: Japan claims that its ocean discharge plan is technically "feasible", but there are frequent reports that TEPCO is irresponsible and unprofessional. As recent as last week, the media reported that 24 of TEPCO's 25 multi-nuclide removal devices which are used to purify the nuclear contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant are broken. In addition, leakage at the nuclear waste containers at the Fukushima plant has been reported three times since March. With technology and supervision like this and TEPCO's poor record of tampering with data and covering up accidents, the international community has every reason to question the confidence of the Japanese representative when he said that the plan is technically "feasible".

In addition to the ROK, many Pacific-rim countries including China, Russia, and Pacific island countries, have expressed similar concerns and doubts over the Japanese government's unilateral decision to discharge nuclear contaminated water from Fukushima into the ocean. The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) said that the basic concerns of the PIF members over Japan's ocean discharge decision have not been answered and resolved. By forcibly pushing for the preparatory work for releasing nuclear contaminated water into the sea, Japan is forcing its own mistake on the international community. This extremely irresponsible approach is completely unacceptable.

Instead of finding excuses for its wrong decision, the Japanese government should face up to the serious harm this may do to the global marine environment, seriously reflect on itself, earnestly shoulder responsibilities and win the trust of its neighbors and the international community with real actions. Japan should refrain from wantonly discharging the nuclear contaminated water before reaching consensus with all stakeholders and relevant international agencies through full consultations.

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