Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s Regular Press Conference on February 17, 2023

2023-02-17 20:34

At the invitation of Minister of Foreign Affairs Qin Gang, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore Vivian Balakrishnan will visit China from February 19 to 21.

CCTV: We noted that the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) recently reviewed China’s implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in Geneva. Could you share more information with us?

Wang Wenbin: Between February 15 to 16, the Chinese delegation participated in the third review of China’s implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in Geneva. They shared what the Chinese government has done to ensure the timely submission of the third periodic report and China’s latest progress in implementing relevant Covenant articles and the concluding observations of the last review. 

The Chinese side noted that China has steadfastly followed a Chinese path of human rights development and made historic progress in promoting its human rights cause, scoring new achievements in protecting Chinese people’s economic, social and cultural rights. We’ve made constant efforts to optimize the overall planing of the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights. The right to subsistence and the right to development have been upheld as the foremost basic human rights, and China has won the biggest battle against poverty in human history as scheduled. China has implemented a people-centered development strategy and secured and improved the people’s well-being in the process. China is moving forward with the Healthy China Initiative on all fronts, and the right to health has been more adequately protected. Guided by the belief that pristine waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets, we have brought significant improvement to China’s ecological environment. We have actively protected the right to education and cultural right, and further enhanced the protection of rights and interests of vulnerable groups. We have actively promoted international cooperation and made positive  contribution to the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights across the world. Two deputies from the Hong Kong SAR and the Macao SAR also presented the progress in the implementation of the Covenant in Hong Kong and Macao respectively.

Committee experts commended China’s success in poverty alleviation and earnest participation in the review, took note of the recent progress, including the promulgation of Civil Code, the adjustment on family planning policy, and the ratification of the two International Labour Organization Conventions on forced labour. To enhance the Committee’s understanding on China, the Chinese delegation responded to experts’ questions in a realistic spirit, describing China’s efforts with detailed data and specific cases. The Chinese side will take seriously and look into relevant constructive suggestions.  

The process of Chinese modernization is also a process of constantly promoting and protecting human rights, and China will strive relentlessly to realize the equal enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights for all people at higher standards. In a sincere, cooperative and responsible manner, China will continue to engage in communication and dialogue with various human rights treaty bodies, take an active part in international human rights governance, continue to cooperate with relevant parties, and continue to contribute to enriching the diversity of human civilizations and advancing the world human rights cause.

AFP: US President Joe Biden on Thursday said he made no apologies for taking down the balloon. How do you react to the fact that Joe Biden does not apologize for the shooting?

Wang Wenbin: The unintended entry of the Chinese civilian unmanned airship into US airspace is an entirely unexpected, isolated incident. It is, however, a test for the US side’s capability to properly manage crisis and sincerity about stabilizing relations with China. The US needs to stop stressing the importance of communication and dialogue while fueling tensions and escalating the crisis. It needs to work in the same direction with China to manage differences, properly handle this unexpected and isolated incident, avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation, and bring China-US relations back to the track of sound and steady development.

CCTV: Can you share more on the visit by Foreign Minister Balakrishnan? What does China expect to achieve through this visit?

Wang Wenbin: Foreign Minister Balakrishnan is the first foreign minister to pay an official visit to China this year. During the visit, Foreign Minister Qin Gang will hold talks with him and exchange views on the bilateral relations, the practical cooperation between the two countries and international and regional issues of common interest.

China and Singapore are friendly neighbors and important partner for cooperation. Under the guidance of the leaders of the two countries, the bilateral relations have maintained a sound momentum for development. The two countries have enjoyed close high-level exchanges, fruitful high-quality Belt and Road cooperation and in-depth communication on regional cooperation and international affairs in support of multilateralism and free trade. All these fully show that the China-Singapore relationship is forward-looking, strategic and demonstrative. It is our belief that Foreign Minister Balakrishnan’s visit will lead to closer communication and coordination between the two countries and new progress in the bilateral relations.  

Reuters: The IMF, the World Bank, G7 and nine countries including China will participate in a virtual meeting of a new multilateral sovereign debt roundtable tonight. Are you able to identify who will be representing China at this meeting?

Wang Wenbin: We have shared China’s position and contribution on the debt issue on many occasions. I would refer you to competent authorities your specific question.

Shenzhen TV: On February 16, White House Press Secretary Jean-Pierre told the press that by sanctioning US defense contractors, China is “deflecting”. “At the end of the day, their surveillance balloon was indeed in our airspace.” She added, “all of the American people, the entire world saw what China did, and it was irresponsible.” What’s your response? 

Wang Wenbin: Speaking of “deflecting”, can the US tell us why it is able to see the “balloon” 18,000 meters above the ground, but seems to have been blind to the toxic mushroom cloud of vinyl chloride over Ohio? Why was it vocal about investigations and accountability immediately after the Nord Stream blast, and yet unusually silent in the wake of the latest investigative report written by a US journalist?

The US also needs to explain: What exactly were the three high-altitude objects it shot down? If the US does not consider the appearance of these objects in US airspace to be irresponsible, why jab its fingers at China?

The US should not have overreacted and abused the use of force, still less use the incident for political manipulation or to smear and attack China.

NPR: President Biden of the US also said yesterday that the US needs to develop what he called “sharper rules” for dealing with and responding to future intrusions into American airspace by balloons and other unidentified flying objects. Is there space for a discussion with China about that on common rules and common understanding when it comes to these types of craft and intrusions?

Wang Wenbin: There are existing norms in international law related to civil aircraft that are being practiced worldwide. Despite international law and customary practice, the US overreacted and abused the use of force by downing China’s unmanned civilian airship. US balloons have illegally flown over China’s airspace multiple times without China’s approval. The US is in no position to talk about “establishing a common global norms”. It should earnestly abide by international law and customary international practice.

China News Service: We noted that the Preparatory Office of the International Organization for Mediation (IOMed) has been established in Hong Kong. Could you share more details with us on this?

Wang Wenbin: Since last year, China has signed the Joint Statement on the Establishment of the International Organization for Mediation (IOMed) with relevant countries to initiate such an organization. On February 16, the inauguration ceremony of the Preparatory Office of the IOMed was held in China’s Hong Kong SAR. Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and State Councilor Wang Yi sent a letter to the inauguration ceremony to offer his congratulations. Foreign Minister Qin Gang delivered a video address as the representative of the founding members and Signatory States. Chief Executive of the HKSAR John Lee and ministerial officials from signatories of the joint statement delivered video remarks respectively.

The IOMed will be an inter-governmental, treaty-based international legal organization established through consultations among all parties. It is committed to provide friendly, flexible, cost-effective and convenient mediation services for international disputes. It will be a useful supplement to the existing dispute resolution institutions and means of dispute resolution, providing a new platform for the peaceful settlement of international disputes. Setting up the Preparatory Office in accordance with the joint statement is an important step towards the establishment of the IOMed. The Preparatory Office will start inter-governmental negotiations on an international convention on the establishment of the IOMed and other matters in the first half of this year. 

Global Times: Russian Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN said at a Security Council session on February 14 that “We specifically would like to join our Chinese colleagues, who expressed concern over Japan’s plans to dump into the ocean the radionuclide-contaminated wastewater from Fukushima-1 NPP”. He added, “When making this decision, our Japanese colleagues did not think it necessary to discuss the issue with the neighboring states”. “We count on Tokyo to demonstrate due degree of transparency and inform about its actions that may pose a real radiation threat; to allow, whenever necessary, monitoring of the radiation situation in areas where the wastewater discharge will be carried out; and also to take adequate measures to minimize the negative impact on marine environment”. What’s your comment? 

Wang Wenbin: China has noted the reports. We fully agree with the concerns expressed by Russia at the Security Council session on February 14 over Japan’s discharge of nuclear-contaminated water. During the session, Ambassador Zhang Jun, Permanent Representative of China to the UN, also made clear China’s position, stressing that “The ocean is the bedrock for survival and development on which all countries in the world depend, making the marine environment conservation a common responsibility of humankind.” The discharge of the nuclear-contaminated water from Fukushima will gravely undermine the marine environment, eco-system and the life and health of people of many countries. Japan has been bent on approving the discharge program of the nuclear-contaminated water and has been accelerating the preparations for the discharge. Such behavior is extremely irresponsible. 

The international community is closely following the discharge of the nuclear-contaminated water from Japan. We have also stated China’s concerns and position on this issue on multiple occasions. It must be pointed out that according to general international law and the provisions of the UNCLOS, Japan has a responsibility to take all possible steps to prevent polluting the environment, to inform and fully consult countries that may be affected, to assess and monitor the environmental impact, to ensure transparency and to cooperate with the international community. Japan should not shy away from international obligations whatever its excuse is. To undergo IAEA’s technical review does not mean Japan can avoid full consultations with stakeholder countries. Japan must not try to whitewash its discharge plan by selectively interpreting the IAEA Task Force’s assessment report.

China once again urges Japan to take the concerns of the international community seriously, earnestly fulfill its international obligations, have full consultations with all stakeholders including neighboring countries and international institutions concerned, find a proper way to dispose of the nuclear-contaminated water in a science-based, open, transparent and safe manner, and protect the marine environment, protect people’s life and health and the right to food safety. Before having full consultations with stakeholders including its neighbors and international institutions, Japan should not go ahead with the discharge of nuclear-contaminated water into the sea. China also calls on the international community to continue to pay close attention to this important issue and urge Japan to handle the nuclear-contaminated water in a responsible manner.

AFP: I got a question on France and COVID-19. France has just dropped COVID testing restriction imposed on travelers from China. Do you have any reaction to that? 

Wang Wenbin: We have noted what you mentioned. On the day that Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi arrived in France, France decided to lift entry restrictions against travelers from China. Wang Yi welcomed this decision and stressed that this is conducive to cross-border travel and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

Bloomberg: China yesterday imposed fines and sanctions on two US defense companies Lockheed Martin and a unit of Raytheon Tech. On Wednesday, I believe it was, you warned that China would take countermeasures over how the US handled the balloon situation. So were these sanctions on these two companies the reaction to the balloon situation? 

Wang Wenbin: The spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Commerce has answered this question, which you may refer to.

BBC: The UK’s former Prime Minister Liz Truss made a speech in Japan this afternoon, criticizing China’s human rights conditions and proposing closer cooperation between NATO and Pacific defense allies, as she called them. She called for the creation of an economic NATO in the region, and I suppose, use trade and things like that to counter China’s reach. Also, she said that regional countries should provide a package of coordinated defense, economic, political measures to support Taiwan. Does the Chinese government have any response to these suggestions of the former British Prime Minister Liz Truss? 

Wang Wenbin: I haven’t gone through the speech you mentioned. But we are always opposed to the move to distort facts and smear China.

We would like to remind certain British politician a fact. According to a survey done by well-established international pollster , the approval rate of the Chinese government among the Chinese people is above 93 percent. This, I believe, is a clear rebuttal to the remarks you cited. We would also like to stress that China has always been a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development and a defender of world order. China’s development creates opportunities for the world and serves world peace, stability and common development. The notion that China threatens other countries’ security, and engages in economic coercion is utterly groundless. The Taiwan question is purely China’s internal affair. No country has the right to interfere under any pretext.

China Daily: According to reports, two Chinese students were injured in the on-campus shooting at Michigan State University on the evening of February 13, which left three people dead and five injured. What’s your comment? 

Wang Wenbin: We have noted relevant reports. We mourn for the innocent people who lost their lives in the incident, and express our sympathies to the injured and the families of the victims. Immediately after the shooting, the Chinese side has provided consular assistance for the injured Chinese students and urged the US side to take effective measures to credibly protect the safety of Chinese citizens in the US.

Gun violence is a deadly endemic in the US. The US has more civilian-owned guns than any other country in the world. With less than five percent of the world’s population, the US has 46 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns. According to the latest data on the US website of Gun Violence Archive, from the beginning of this year, gun violence incidents have caused 2,337 deaths and 4,033 injuries. Up to 72 mass shootings have taken place this year in the US so far. Only eight days in January went by without any mass shooting. As pointed out by some American scholars, gun-related deaths in the US in one week may exceed those in the whole Western Europe in one year. A poll conducted by the University of Chicago found that 21 percent of American adults have experienced gun violence. As many as 54 percent of black Americans say that they have had similar experience. A survey by the American Psychological Association shows that one-third of American adults feel they cannot go anywhere without worrying about being a victim of a mass shooting, and nearly a quarter of them admit that they have changed how they live their lives due to fear of mass shootings. 

The Declaration of Independence begins with the statement that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are unalienable rights. One gunshot after another have shattered the American Dream that all men are endowed with the unalienable rights to life and liberty, and lead people to reflect deeply on where the American-style human rights really are. Some US politicians have long treated the American people’s right to life with indifference. Faced with growing gun proliferation, they have done nothing more than empty talks and prolonged debates, while pointing fingers at the human rights conditions of other countries. We urge the US to look squarely at its own problem, take credible and effective steps and do something concrete to defend the right to life of the people in the US, American and foreign.

Reuters: There are reports that US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Chase will visit Taiwan soon. Will China stage military drills near Taiwan if he goes there as it’s reported?

Wang Wenbin: We are firmly opposed to official interaction and military contact between the US and the Taiwan region. This position is consistent and unequivocal. We urge the US to abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, deliver on US leaders’ commitment of not supporting “Taiwan independence”, stop all forms of official interaction and military contact with Taiwan, stop meddling in the Taiwan question, and stop creating new factors that could lead to tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

Prasar Bharati: India has dropped COVID test requirement for travelers from China from the beginning of this week. Is China also considering to do the same, that is, dropping the COVID test requirement for travelers from India to China?

Wang Wenbin: You may refer to the notices released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chinese embassies and consulates regarding China’s exit and entry policy and COVID protocols.

CNR: Yesterday you shared with us the visit to France by Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi. Do you have further information on the visit?

Wang Wenbin: On February 16 local time, Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi who was visiting France co-chaired the 23rd China-France Strategic Dialogue with French President’s diplomatic counselor Emmanuel Bonne, and met with President of the Constitutional Council and former Prime Minister of France Laurent Fabius. The two sides agreed that the sound and steady development of the China-France comprehensive strategic partnership is of special and great importance. The two sides also agreed to put the head-of-state diplomacy in a leading role, step up strategic communication, cement political mutual trust, deepen practical cooperation and jointly tackle global challenges, so as to provide new driving forces for the China-EU relations and stabilizing factors for the world.

Wang Yi noted that the China-France strategic cooperation should take the lead and drive the trend of development in the world. In the post-COVID era, China stands ready to work with France to resume the three dialogue mechanisms on strategy, economy and finance, and cultural and people-to-people exchange at an early date, enhance cooperation in areas of the civilian use of nuclear power, space and aviation, medical and health care, agriculture and food, tourism and culture and in third markets, with a view to achieving more fruits in the bilateral relations. In face of the uncertainties in the international landscape, the two countries, as permanent members of the UN Security Council and major countries with self-determination, should carry out closer coordination and cooperation, firmly support globalization and a multi-polar world, jointly practice multilateralism, and safeguard the authority of the UN and the basic norms in international relations.

The French side noted that the bilateral relations have seen smooth progress. France agrees to China’s vision for the cooperation between the two countries in the next stage, and looks forward to new progress in cooperation across the board. France would like to take an active part in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, step up coordination with China on international affairs, and work with China to achieve the goal of common development.

NPR: Today, I believe, the Munich Security Conference is starting. Director Wang Yi and Secretary of State Blinken will both be there. And there are reports that both sides are trying to work out a meeting between them. Do you have any information to share on that?  

Wang Wenbin: I have nothing to share at the moment.

Hubei Media Group: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi wrapped up his state visit to China yesterday. During the visit, the two sides expressed their shared commitment to peace, security and stability in the Middle East. What’s your comment?

Wang Wenbin: During President Raisi’s visit to China, leaders of the two sides held friendly talks and reached broad and important common understandings. Both agreed to offer each other firm support on issues concerning respective core interests and jointly advance bilateral practical cooperation to benefit both peoples. Both stand ready to uphold the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs, promote peace and stability in the Middle East, and defend international equity and justice.

China firmly supports Middle East countries in resolving regional security issues through solidarity and cooperation and supports people in the region in their independent exploration for a suitable development path. China has friendly ties with all Middle East countries. In our own way, we have been supporting them in resolving differences and cultivating good-neighborliness and friendship. In recent years, China has put forward a series of initiatives aimed at promoting peace and stability in the region, including a five-point initiative on achieving security and stability, a proposal for fostering a new security architecture in the Middle East, and a proposal on the establishment of a multilateral dialogue platform for the Gulf region. Regional countries have attached importance to and welcomed these initiatives. Going forward, China will remain a contributor to peace, development and stability in the Middle East and continue to play a constructive role in its lasting peace, security and prosperity.