|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Regular Press Conference on January 8, 2020|
Q: Question on China and Indonesia. Indonesia has deployed fighter jets and warships next to Natuna Islands in the South China Sea, which is what the Indonesian military said today. Do you have any reaction to that and can you clarify if China has any claim on Natuna Islands?
A: It has been several times recently that we responded to recent maritime developments in the South China Sea. We repeatedly and clearly stated that China has sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters. Our position is in accordance with international law.
I'd like to stress that China and Indonesia don't have disputes over territorial sovereignty. We have overlapping claims of maritime rights and interests in some areas in the South China Sea. China hopes Indonesia will remain calm. We would like to handle our differences with Indonesia in a proper way and uphold our bilateral relations as well as peace and stability in the region. In fact, we have been in contact with each other on this issue through diplomatic channels.
Q: Iranian foreign minister tweeted today, "Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens and senior officials were launched. We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression." What's your opinion about this?
A: Situation in the Middle East is complex and sensitive at the moment. China has been closely following the latest developments. We call on relevant sides to exercise restraint and believe that they should resolve disputes properly and peacefully through dialogue and negotiation on the basis of mutual respect, and jointly uphold regional peace and stability.
Like we said repeatedly, worsening of tensions in the Middle East doesn't serve the interest of anyone. Ensuring peace and stability in the region is of vital importance to the whole world.
China will continue to follow closely the situation, stay in close contact with the relevant sides, and play a responsible role in cooling off tensions and properly managing the situation.
Q: The Iranian side said their attacks on US military base were self-defense. What's China's opinion on that?
A: China is concerned about the current situation. We believe the relevant sides should resolve differences properly and peacefully through dialogue and negotiations on the basis of mutual respect, and jointly uphold peace and stability of the Gulf region in the Middle East.
Q: You said the other day that China will play a constructive role in maintaining peace and security in the Middle East and the Gulf region. Does that include financial support?
A: If you follow closely China's diplomacy and the latest situation, you should've noticed that after the sharp changes took place in the Middle East and the Gulf region, Director Yang Jiechi and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi had phone calls with foreign ministers of some relevant countries at the earliest time possible to exchange views, calling for calmness and restraint for early de-escalation. In the meantime, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China keeps close contact with relevant sides within the Security Council and calls on the Council to take up its primary responsibility of safeguarding international peace and security.
As I said, China is concerned about the latest developments. We call on relevant sides to exercise restraint and properly resolve disputes through dialogue, negotiation and other peaceful means.
I'm not sure what you meant by "financial support", but I can tell you that China has close cooperation with countries in the Middle East and the Gulf region in trade, investment, infrastructure and other areas. Our cooperation under the BRI framework has been effective and beneficial to people in China and the Middle East region.
Q: Considering there have been more military activities in the Middle East, will China ban civil airplanes from flying over Iran and Iraq?
A: As I know, the Chinese authority in charge of civil aviation is closely following the situation of aviation security in that region. I'd refer you to them for more specifics.
China is concerned about the current situation in the Middle East. We hope for early de-escalation, which will serve the common interests of the international community.
Q: Some lawmakers in Iraq have suggested that China could help Iraq economically if the US withdraws from Iraq. On Tuesday the deputy speaker of Iraq's parliament met with the Chinese ambassador and called for implementation of preliminary deals that were signed between the two countries early this year. I was wondering if China has any plans to implement the deals as soon as possible or to sign new deals in Iraq to ease the situation there?
A: As I said, China has been in close communication with relevant sides over current tensions in the Middle East. Indeed, the Chinese ambassador to Iraq recently met with high-level officials in the Iraqi government and parliament. I'd refer you to the statement issued by our embassy for more details.
As for some specific agreement or assistance, I'm not aware of that yet. China and Iraq share a traditional friendship with cooperation across the board. China has been actively helping Iraq in its reconstruction, and we will continue working for stability and development in Iraq.
Q: The recent Lowy Institute Global Diplomacy Index shows that in 2019 China has overtaken the United States as the country with the largest number of embassies and consulates across the world as more countries established diplomatic ties with it. Media analysis sees the rapid increase in China's diplomatic missions as a manifestation of its growing ambition on the international stage. What's your comment?
A: I noted that report. In 2019, we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Over the past seven decades, China's diplomacy has achieved leapfrog progress. We now have diplomatic relations with 180 countries and partnerships with 112 countries and international organizations. We have joined more than 100 inter-governmental organizations and signed over 500 multilateral treaties. An all-round, multi-tiered and all-dimensional foreign affairs architecture has been put in place.
Based on statistics at hand, in the past 40 years or so since reform and opening-up started, citizens in China's mainland have made more than 1.38 billion trips overseas. Nearly 40,000 Chinese businesses have set up presence in other countries. At present, the number of Chinese students studying abroad stands around 1.5 million and there are more than 170 million outbound trips throughout a year. Therefore, a growing diplomatic infrastructure in keeping with China's development is a necessity and a must. It is only natural to have things in proportion.
The mission of Chinese diplomatic posts is to safeguard the interests of China and the Chinese people, and to nurture friendship and cooperation with other countries. We do not intend to compete with anyone in this regard.
I would like to stress that the purpose of China's diplomacy is to uphold world peace and promote common development. Our major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in a new era aims to promote the building of a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind. Greater influence of China's diplomacy and more Chinese diplomatic missions will contribute to the global cause of peace, development, equity and justice.
Q: I've got a follow-up question on Indonesia. You said there is no dispute between China and Indonesia over territorial sovereignty. Does that mean China has no territorial claim on Natuna Islands?
A: China has sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters. Our position is in accordance with international law. In the meantime, I'd like to stress that China and Indonesia don't have disputes over territorial sovereignty, though we have overlapping claims of maritime rights and interests in some areas in the South China Sea. China would like to handle our differences with Indonesia in a proper way and uphold our bilateral relations as well as peace and stability in the region.
Q: Secretary Pompeo said on January 7 that the Chinese Communist Party is committing mass human rights violations and abuses ethnic Muslim minorities held in detention in Xinjiang. The US asks all countries, particularly those in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League, to denounce the Chinese Communist Party's brutal treatment of Uighurs. He also noted the appointment of the new head of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong SAR and hopes the Chinese Communist Party will honor its commitments in the Sino-British Joint Declaration to guarantee Hong Kong's independent rule of law and freedoms. I wonder if you have a response to that?
A: Certain individual on the US side, with his expertise in fabricating lies, once again slandered and attacked China. Practices like this have severely undermined America's credibility and have been questioned and rejected by more and more countries. I would like to stress the following points.
There is no issue with ethnicity, religion or human rights in China's Xinjiang. The counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures taken by local governments in Xinjiang were lawful and effective as they contained terrorist activities and ensured the region's peace and prosperity. The endeavors have been endorsed by all 25 million residents of various ethnic groups there and commended by the international community including Muslim countries. In March 2019, the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) adopted a resolution which commended China's efforts in providing care to Muslim citizens. During a UN Human Rights Council meeting in July and a Third Committee session of the 74th UNGA, dozens of countries, of which many are OIC members, applauded China's respect for and protection of human rights in its counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts. It must be pointed out that the wars staged by the US in the Middle East over the past years have caused countless Muslim casualties and displacement as well as turmoils in the region. As has been proven, it is precisely the US that has infringed upon Muslim human rights. Its attempts to sow discord between China and Islamic states are futile in the end.
Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs. No country, organization or individual has any right to interfere. Since its return to the motherland, Hong Kong has been governed in accordance with China's Constitution and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR. The principles of "one country, two systems" and Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy has been faithfully implemented. The rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents have been fully guaranteed according to law. Those are facts already recognized by the international community. The US and other foreign forces have no legal basis and are in no position to invoke the Sino-British Joint Declaration to make unwarranted remarks on Hong Kong affairs.
Certain individual in the US cannot accommodate himself to the huge success of socialism with Chinese characteristics or acknowledge the fact that the Communist Party of China has won the full support of the Chinese people. He has been obsessed with ideology confrontation that runs counter to the trend of the times. We advise him to discard anti-China prejudice and obsession, foster a correct perception on China as soon as possible and stop his anti-China rattling. Political attempts are doomed to fail if they aim to drive a wedge between the CPC and the Chinese people or negate our socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Q: Severe bushfires have ravaged the Australian states of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The blazes have scorched over 6 million hectares of land, killed more than 20 lives, burned down over 2,000 houses and displaced thousands of local residents. I wonder if you could comment on that?
A: We noted media reports on that, and we express our sincere sympathies to Australia for the heavy casualties and property losses caused by severe bushfires in many areas.
Q: Is China planning to ground Boeing planes?
A: Why? Is there anything that comes up?
Follow-up: Just a question.
A: According to the information I have, the Civil Aviation Administration of China responded to questions on the software update of and when to lift ban on Boeing 737 MAX in a press conference it held on December 12, 2019. You may read the press release online. I have nothing to update you at the moment.
Q: We noted that Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith visited Liangjiahe Village yesterday. Is Prime Minister Sisoulith the first foreign leader that visited Liangjiahe Village? What is the significance of his visit?
A: Indeed, Prime Minister Sisoulith visited Shaanxi Province yesterday, during which he made a stop at Liangjiahe Village, a place where President Xi Jinping used to work and live. During his meeting with President Xi Jinping on Monday in Beijing, Prime Minister Sisoulith said that Laos has something to learn from China's adherence to and improvement of socialism with Chinese characteristics, which also encourages Laos to stay committed to the path of socialism.
We believe that through his visit to Shaanxi Province and Liangjiahe Village, Prime Minister Sisoulith will better understand how Chinese leaders have gone through struggles amid difficulties, feel the energy of the Chinese people in pushing forward reform and innovation, and have a better idea of the solid foundation on which the socialist system with Chinese characteristics is based.
In fact, Prime Minister Sisoulith is not the first leader that visited Liangjiahe Village. In recent years, President Touadéra of Central Africa, former Prime Minister Prachanda of Nepal and former Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean of Singapore have all been to Liangjiahe and spoken highly of the local achievements in poverty alleviation, economic development and ecological conservation.
President Xi Jinping cited the development of Liangjiahe as an example to illustrate China's reform and opening-up endeavor during his visit to the US in 2015. For the Chinese people, Liangjiahe is the epitome of China's efforts to eliminate poverty, to advance reform and opening-up and to pursue the Chinese dream.
We welcome more foreign friends visiting China, especially such grassroots localities as Liangjiahe, to hear the voices of our people, to feel the strong pulse of China's growth, and to understand how China has achieved sustained development. We would like to discuss development with all countries, enhance our exchange on state governance, and jointly advance the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
Q: We saw that the stock prices of Chinese defense enterprises have gone up today. I wonder if by "a constructive role" you meant a role in defense in the Middle East?
A: I'm afraid this is not a question for me as a foreign ministry spokesperson. I'll leave that to the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission since I'm no expert in the stock market.
Q: According to Iranian media, on the morning of January 8, a Ukraine International Airlines passenger jet, which is a Boeing 737, crashed shortly after taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport at Tehran, Iran, killing all 180 people on board. The cause of the accident is still under investigation. Do you have any comment on it?
A: We noted media reports on that. We express deep condolences for the victims and extend sincere sympathy to the bereaved families. We hope relevant authorities will identify the cause as soon as possible. After the accident, Chinese diplomatic missions in Ukraine contacted relevant authorities for verification.
So far we haven't received notification of any Chinese passengers on board. If there's more information, we will let you know in due course.
Q: Given increased tensions between Iran and the US, has China pulled any citizens out from the Middle East and the Gulf region? And do you plan to do so?
A: Perhaps you've noticed that the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Embassy in Iran just issued a security alert, reminding Chinese citizens and institutions in Iran to pay close attention to the regional security situation, remain vigilant and take precautionary measures. Our citizens are advised to call the police and contact the Chinese embassy in Iran when there's danger or emergency.
I would like to reiterate that the Chinese government highly values the safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens overseas. Our Foreign Ministry and diplomatic missions will continue to closely follow the situation on the ground and decide whether to issue security alerts of corresponding severity levels in light of needs and realities.
Q: My question is about Libya. Yesterday EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and foreign ministers of Germany and Italy condemned Turkey's plan to send troops to Libya after their meeting in Brussels. Do you have any comment on this?
A: China closely follows the developments in Libya. The ongoing conflicts in Libya have not only incurred sufferings of the Libyan people, but also undermined the peace and tranquility of the entire region. China respects Libya's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. We believe the Libyan issue should be resolved through political means.
At this moment, it is all the more important for all relevant parties to bear in mind the fundamental interests of the Libyan people as well as peace and stability in the region. They need to work for an immediate ceasefire and cessation of violence between the conflicting parties, return to the right track of dialogue and negotiation, and avoid taking actions that may further complicate the situation.
Today it has been exactly two years since we opened the MFA Spokesperson's WeChat account. Taking this occasion, I'd like to express heartfelt thanks to all the friends who have been following and supporting us on WeChat, Weibo and Douyin.
Starting from today to January 14th, an interactive activity called "Q&A about the MFA" will be there for you on both WeChat and Weibo. Look forward to your participation.