|Foreign Ministry Spokesman Kong Quan's Press Conference|
On the afternoon of 13 April, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Kong Quan held the regular press conference.
Kong Quan: Good afternoon. Before the questions, first a few announcements.
At the invitation of Premier Wen Jiabao, Prime Minister Hun Sen of the Kingdom of Cambodia will pay an official visit to China between April 19 and 25, 2004.
At the invitation of the Chinese Government, the United Arab Emirates' Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan will pay an official visit to China between April 19 and 22.
Vice Premier Wu Yi will visit the United States between April 19 and 25 to co-host the 15th meeting of Sino-US Joint Commission of Commerce and Trade with US Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans and Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.
At the invitation of the Government of the Republic of South Africa, Vice Chairman Ismail Amat of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference will visit South Africa to attend its Celebration of 10 Years of Freedom and Presidential Inauguration on April 27 as the special envoy of President Hu Jintao .
I also wish to take the opportunity to extend my warm welcome to all the members of the delegation of civil servants from the Macao SAR. I wish you a pleasant visit to Beijing in the middle of spring.
Now I am ready for your questions.
Q: The Taiwan Relations Act was a domestic law by the U.S. Congress. Do you think China's recent comment on the Act has interfered in the internal affairs of the United States? What topics will the Chinese leaders touch upon in the talks with Vice President Cheney? Yesterday, Chinese citizens were abducted in Iraq, even if China has not sent troops to Iraq. What is your comment?
A: China and the United States officially established diplomatic relations in 1979. Prior to that, the two sides issued the Shanghai Communique and the Communique on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations. The August 17 Communique was issued afterwards. The principles and all the articles of the Taiwan Relations Act that you have just mentioned, in essence, run against the principles and spirits enshrined in the three important bilateral documents. Thus, from the very start, the Chinese Government has expressed its strongest opposition to this Act, which has interfered in China's internal affairs. We have stressed on many occasions that the three joint communiqués serve as the basis of the political ties between China and the United States. The U.S. side should abide by the principles of the three communiqués and stop implementing the so-called Taiwan Relations Act. Under the current situation in particular, the U.S. side should earnestly honour its own commitments of pursuing the one China policy and opposing Taiwan's independence. It should not send any wrong signals to the forces for the independence of Taiwan. Only by doing so can Sino-U.S. relations develop smoothly on a healthy basis. This serves the interest of both China and the United States and contributes to peace and stability of the Asia Pacific region.
On the topics for the meetings between Chinese leaders and Vice President Cheney, I cannot tell exactly in advance what topics the Chinese leaders will touch upon in the talks. However, I wish to point out that the visit by Vice President Cheney is a very important one, a key component of the exchange of high-level visits between the two countries in recent years. The two sides will use the important opportunity to have an in-depth exchange of views on all the questions of common interest, including exchanges and cooperation in various fields. Undoubtedly, they will touch upon disputes between the two, such as the Taiwan question. We have stressed on many occasions that, the Taiwan question is the most sensitive and important one to China and to Sino-U.S. relations. Apart from these issues, the leaders will also use the occasion to exchange views with each other on major international and regional issues. I will brief you on the talks after the meetings of today and tomorrow.
On the Chinese citizens abducted in Iraq, I am standing here today relaxed and at ease. After learning of the news of the 7 Chinese kidnapped in Iraq by unidentified gunmen on the evening of the day before yesterday, the Chinese people were all deeply worried. The Chinese leaders and officials, including the Head of the Team for the Re-establishment of the Chinese Embassy in Iraq and Chinese diplomats in Syria, Jordan and other neighbouring countries, went all out for their rescue. In the small hours of this morning (Beijing time) and 9 p.m. local time, these Chinese citizens were released safely. We are delighted to hear the news. We hold that the question of Iraq should be properly dealt with within the UN framework. We are deeply worried about the current situation in Iraq, especially the abduction of so many foreigners in Iraq. We wish to express our sympathy and hope to see their early release at an early date.
Q: It is reported that the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il will visit China soon. Please confirm. If it is accurate, please tell us the exact time of the visit and the program.
A: I have no information on that.
Q: Will the visit by Cheney push ahead the establishment of the working group of the Six Party Talks?
A: The various parties attach great importance to the kick-off of the working group. It is the consensus of the various parties to the Second Round of the Six Party Talks to initiate the working group. It is also an important and indispensable step in the peace talks process to resolve the nuclear question on the Korean Peninsula. Since the end of the Second Round, the Chinese side has been in close consultations with the various sides. China came out with its concept paper and has been agreed in principle by the other parties. It should also be pointed out that there are still some different views and opinions on the agenda of the working group, as well as its operational mechanism. China is in close contact and consultation with the other parties to push for the early start of the working group. The issue is a major international and regional issue. It should be touched upon during the talks between the Chinese leaders and Vice President Cheney.
Q: Could you give us more about the rescue of the seven hostages? Sources say that two of them were injured from a car accident before the kidnapping and cannot be immediately returned to China. Could you comment on that?
A: I highly appreciate the concerns from the friends and readers of the Middle East News Agency toward the kidnapping and release of Chinese citizens. Based on what I have, the seven Chinese citizens were kidnapped inside Iraq at around 9:00 am on April 11. After 9:00 pm that night, the Chinese foreign ministry got the news. In other words, these Chinese citizens had been left in the hands of unidentified militants for around 36 hours. They were injured in a car overturn on their way from a northern Iraqi city to Baghdad, before the kidnapping happened. One of them was hurt in the head with extravasated blood. Right now, they are receiving further treatment in Baghdad. I can assure you that the Team for the Re-establishment of the Chinese Embassy will arrange for their immediate return. Here we would also like to thank those Iraqis from different communities for their assistance in our rescue effort. When informed of the news, President Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders urged the foreign ministry to carry out rescue efforts immediately. The Team for the Re-establishment of the Chinese Embassy then contacted Iraqis from different communities, appealing for assistance. Foreign minister Li Zhaoxing called his counterpart at the Iraqi Governing Council. Assistant foreign minister Lu Guozeng met with officials from the Iraqi embassy to China. I would like to mention, in particular, my colleagues from the Dep. of West Asian and North African Affairs and the Dep. of Consular Affairs, who had a sleepless night when the news arrived and put up a rescue plan immediately. As such, when the hostages were freed this dawn, sound and safe,, we felt more than relieved and rejoiced.
I was wondering if the rest of you have any questions on this. Let's just concentrate on this one before looking into others.
Q: Has the Chinese Government paid any ransom? Is there any go-between? Or maybe this particular go-between paid the ransom? And I am curious about the identity of these hostages. Sources said that these Chinese citizens were illegal workers who made their way into Iraq through snakeheads. Could you confirm this? What preventive measures will the Chinese Government take to preclude a replay, or, how to keep those Chinese citizens who are still in Iraq away from conflicts?
A: We contacted Iraqis from different communities in the rescue process, but paid no ransom. Their release was attributable to the joint efforts of all parties. As for their identity, I did read related reports by Xinhua News agency following an interview with the family members. I assume these reports credible. They described themselves as construction workers, or, decoration workers, to be more exact. I have stated before on this podium that we are strongly opposed to any forms of illegal migration and we always believe that international cooperation is essential in combating illegal migration. With respect to preventive measures, we have alerted Chinese citizens against going to Iraq unless in extreme cases and we hope the Chinese citizens now in Iraq to be more alertful and take more protective measures. In a broad sense, we hope that the war-ravaged Iraqi people can enjoy peace and stability in the near future. We cannot allow the current Iraqi situation to continue, which would only increase uncertainty to the world peace and development. The Chinese Government is always for the immediate restoration of Iraqi sovereignty and "Iraqi people governing Iraq", and a key UN role in this process.
Q: Will this incident affect the China-Arab relationship, which is now very good?
A: You were smiling, which suggest to me that you have a negative answer to your own question. My answer is also "no"..
Q: In the view of the Chinese Government, what is the reason behind the kidnapping of Chinese citizens in Iraq?
A: Presumably, the information I have is incomplete, but we do know several dozen civilians from ten more countries have been kidnapped by militants from different factions or unidentified sources. I assume there are different reasons. But in any sense, we hope that all the hostages can be safely released and return to their homelands and families.
Q: Does the Chinese Government have any plans or recommendations to evacuate Chinese citizens now in Iraq? Or dissuade Chinese citizens from going to Iraq at this moment?
A: The foreign ministry has alerted Chinese citizens from going to Iraq and expects those remaining in Iraq to be discreet in actions. Iraq is indeed unstable, unsafe and chaotic. There are not many Chinese in Iraq. Except for members of the embassy rehabilitation team, others are corporate employees. The foreign ministry has delivered to them the concerns from the top leaders and urge them to take practical and protective security measures. As of yet, I haven't heard of any plans or arrangements to move them out of Iraq.
Q: If Vice President Cheney simply repeats the one-China policy that President Bush stated during Premier Wen's visit to the United States, will China feel satisfied? Do you want much tougher statements? This is Cheney's first China visit as the Vice President, but not his first time in China. He was here many years ago. What kind of impression does China want to leave him?
A: You asked what would Cheney say on the question of Taiwan that could make China satisfied. Actually, the point is not whether China is satisfied, but rather whether the US can truly observe its own commitments. That is, whether the commitments by the previous and current administrations on the Three Joint Communiqués can be put into practice fully and accurately. The Three Joint Communiqués constitute the basis for China-US relationship and the on-going mutually-beneficial cooperation across the board. It is only when principles are truly followed that the relationship between us can develop more smoothly.
This is indeed his first visit to China in the capacity of the Vice President. However, he was here in 1975 to accompany President Ford. And he also visited China in 1994 and 1995 as member of the Morgan Board of Directors. We hope that through this visit, Mr. Cheney can see for himself the progress China has made on all fronts, the steps that the Chinese people are taking and the shared interests, robust cooperation basis and potentials shared by the two countries in today's world. It is important for the two sides to narrow differences and enhance cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and treating each other as equals, for the benefit of the two peoples. We, at least I myself, hope that this will be the conclusion for him to draw from this visit.
Q: The "Taiwan Relations Act" was enacted 25 years ago. What kind of measures will China take to resolve this issue? Second question: during the visit of Vice President Cheney, will the two sides sign any trade agreements?
A: On the first question. I have made clear our position from different perspectives just now. Of course I can restate it clearly if you want. That is, we have been resolutely opposed to this Act from the very beginning. This document denies and contradicts principles in the Three Joint Communiqués. We expect the US to follow through on the commitments made by its leaders and administrations, truly abide by the Three Joint Communiqués, resolutely enforce the one-China policy and oppose Taiwan independence.
You inquired about the possibility of signing agreements in trade and other areas. I have nothing to offer you now, but I would like to remind you that Ms. Wu Yi, Vice Premier of China will head a delegation for the US in a few days and chair with the US hosts the 15th meeting of the China-US Joint Commission of Commerce and Trade. I recall having told you that this committee was upgraded to Vice Premier level from ministerial level, following the consensus achieved by Premier Wen and President Bush during Wen's US visit at the end of last year. The Chinese chair is Vice Premier Wu Yi and the US chairs are the Minister of Commerce and its Trade Representative. We hope that this committee will lessen and even remove our differences on trade issues. Actually, differences are insignificant relative to the tangible gains, at least, not that important and can be overcome. I am confident that these issues will be gradually tackled in the process of developing mutually-beneficial trade and economic cooperation.
Q: Will the two side touch upon the issue of human rights? Will the human rights dialogue be resumed?
A: We hope and believe that the international community should exchange views on how to jointly promote international human rights on an equal basis while opposing confrontation. You might have known that the US has launched a China-related resolution at the session of UN human rights commission in Geneva. For us, this resolution is against facts. It was put out in a broad context where China is joining the rest of the world in promoting the constant progress of the international human rights cause through dialogue and cooperation. So it clearly serves the domestic political needs of the US. The US has been stubborn, we were then left with no other option but to be stubborn as well and accompany them to the end. We had to suspend human rights dialogues with the US. It's the US that has to answer for all the consequences.
Q: You have just announced the upcoming visit by the Vice Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. I've also noticed that in the past few weeks, quite a few oil ministers from Middle East countries have visited China. Does that mean China is intentionally increasing energy cooperation with these countries?
A: I suggest you give this question a broader perspective. Last week, we received Vice President of Iran, who came here to chair the China-Iran Joint Committee on Trade and Commerce, together with his counterpart, Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan of China. At the meeting, the two sides agreed that the two economies are highly complementary and accordingly, embrace huge cooperation potentials. Therefore, they decided to increase cooperation in oil and gas, energy, power, telecommunication, nonferrous metal and many other areas. Energy is just one of these areas. You asked if energy is a trigger for UAE Vice Prime Minister's upcoming visit to China. In his capacity as the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, I assume his visit is mainly from the perspective of bilateral relationship, namely, he will exchange views with Chinese leaders on political exchanges, trade and economic cooperation and other important principles. On energy, China's energy demand is increasing. Apart from studying our own potentials, we are having mutually-beneficial cooperation with other countries and regions. However, I don't agree with some media report that the increase in China's oil consumption has generated a rise in global oil prices. Let's look at the annual oil consumption. The figure in China is 240 million tons, fewer than the 1 billion tons in the US and even much fewer than the EU. Given these figures, I doubt that a slight rise in China's oil consumption will lead to a higher oil price in the international market. I have to say this view is not objective at all.
Q: The Latvian President is coming to Beijing today. What are the main items on her agenda? Will it include the NATO expansion?
A: The visit by President Freiberga of Latvia is an important event in bilateral relationship. Her visit is a returned visit to Chairman Jiang Zemin's visit to her country the year before last. She will have a meeting with President Hu on 15th afternoon, followed by two meetings with NPC Chairman Wu Bangguo and Premier Wen Jiabao respectively. Leaders of the two countries will exchange views on strengthening bilateral relationship and other regional and international issues of joint interest. As for whether NATO expansion will be on the agenda, I have no specific information now, but I believe that you know very well the position of the Chinese Government. Namely, it is our view that given the tremendous changes in European security and NATO itself, NATO should bear in mind the security concerns by all European countries while pursuing its own expansion.
Q: China and the US have many disputes between them, one of which is the China piracy issue. The US Government urges China to tackle issues related to intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. Could you comment on China's position on this issue? How will China respond to US accusation?
A: It's not a wise choice for you to make things too confrontational. Actually, the two sides have continuous IPR exchanges. We have, on many occasions, briefed the US on our efforts in IPR protection. I would like to recall that on March 31, when interviewed by a reporter from Renmin Daily (People's Daily), Mr. Evans, the US Secretary of Commerce gave positive assessments as to China's efforts in IPR protection, in particular, legislation and law enforcement. IPR protection serves our practical need for economic development, social progress, scientific and technological advancement and cultural prosperity. IPR protection is not merely for others' sake, but for our own economic and S&T development. China will do more in this area. Meanwhile, China has encountered certain problems, which have to do with a variety of factors, such as the development level of domestic industries, legal awareness of citizens and businesses, credentials of judicial and administrative officials, law enforcement and economic strength. Let's just step back. Even the top-ranking industrialized countries still encounter problems like inadequate IPR protection and a long-term protection plan. China expects to have further cooperation, less misconception and greater consensus with the rest of the world community, including the United States, so as to upgrade the level of IPR protection in China. I am sure that at the meeting of the 15th meeting of the Joint Commission of Commerce and Trade, to be co-chaired by Vice Premier and her US counterparts, the two sides will have a more profound exchange of views on this issue.