|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying's Regular Press Conference on April 2, 2020|
CCTV: On March 31, UN Secretary General Guterres issued a report entitled Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity: Responding to the Socio-economic Impacts of COVID-19. He said, "COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations. This human crisis demands coordinated, decisive, inclusive and innovative policy action from the world's leading economies – and maximum financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries." Do you have any comment?
Hua Chunying: We noted this recent report issued by the UN Secretary General. We welcome the UN's efforts to coordinate international response to the pandemic.
Since the COVID-19 broke out, the UN, the WHO and other international organizations have been mobilizing the international community to enhance policy coordination and resource input, and especially to help developing countries with fragile public health systems to be better prepared. Their efforts have been widely supported by the international community. During the recent Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit on COVID-19, all sides agreed that no country could face this pandemic alone, and the international community needs solidarity and cooperation more than ever.
President Xi made a series of proposals on a united international response, including a G20 health ministers' meeting to be convened as quick as possible, a G20 COVID-19 assistance initiative for better information sharing with the support of the WHO, a collective response for prevention and control at the international level, and discussion on the establishment of regional public health emergency liaison mechanisms. He also called on G20 members to take collective actions like cutting tariffs, removing barriers, and facilitating the unfettered flow of trade. Together, the G20 can send a strong signal and restore confidence in global economic recovery.
The COVID-19 pandemic is disturbingly ravaging the world. As Secretary General Guterres said, it may be the greatest test for our generation. Faced with this global public health crisis that came at a sudden, the international community must work together in solidarity to overcome it. We hope all will respond to his call and support the UN and WHO's coordinating work so as to defeat the pandemic as soon as possible.
Bloomberg: There is a report today citing three US intelligence officials that China concealed the extent of the virus, under-reporting both total cases and deaths. Two of the officials also said that the report concluded that China's numbers were not real. Do you have any comment on this?
Hua Chunying: As a Bloomberg reporter, you must be well aware of recent US media reports on the epidemic situation at home and the administration's response. When you raised this question, I believe you already had an answer in your mind and just wanted to get it confirmed.
I noted many US media's reports on what you mentioned. US Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo said similar things on April 1 to accuse China of covering up the epidemic. They even claimed that China was dealing with the epidemic in December more than a month earlier before the world learned about it.
My colleagues and I have been elaborating on all the details of China's response, which shows clearly that China has been giving open, transparent and timely updates to the world. I believe you may have drawn the same conclusion based on the daily information released by the Chinese government. On international public health security, we should listen to WHO and experts on epidemiology and disease control rather than several politicians who are habitual liars. In fact, just yesterday, a senior WHO official refuted unwarranted accusations on "China's untransparent data" in a press conference in Geneva. We sympathize with the US people as they are facing a severe situation, and I can imagine why some in the US are trying so hard to shift the blame. We don't want to get into any meaningless argument with them. But in response to their endless, immoral slanders, I feel I have no choice but to take a few moments to clarify the truth once again.
It is true that Wuhan was where COVID-19 cases were first reported. But where and when exactly did this virus originate? We read many recent reports and findings on that. There are articles written by medical professionals from Italy, the UK, the US, Australia and other countries, which are published in top academic journals including Nature Medicine. On the origin of the virus, the Chinese government's position has been consistent. It is a serious matter that requires scientific, fact-based and professional assessment made by experts. Now there are various reports on experts' science-based and authoritative opinions. These views should be valued and respected by all, including those politicians in the US. China invited WHO experts to visit Wuhan as part of a joint mission. As some in the US are so obsessed with the issue, we advise the US side to also invite WHO and international experts to visit the country and find out the truth.
The timeline of China's response is very clear, as you can gather from media reports. On December 27, 2019, Zhang Jixian, director of the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care at Hubei Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine, reported the first three suspected cases. On December 29, related centers for disease control and prevention and hospitals in Hubei and Wuhan carried out epidemiological investigation. On December 30 Wuhan Municipal Health Committee issued an "urgent notice on the treatment of pneumonia of unknown cause". On December 31, the NHC sent an expert group to Wuhan to investigate on site. On January 3, 2020, China started to send timely updates to WHO and other countries, including the US. On January 8, the pathogen was preliminarily identified. On January 11, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention uploaded five whole genome sequences of the novel coronavirus on website and shared data with the world and WHO. On January 23, Wuhan was put under lockdown and unprecedented comprehensive, thorough and rigorous measures were adopted. By taking these decisive and strong measures, the Chinese government ensured to the highest possible extent the life and health of the Chinese people and bought precious time for stemming the global spread of the virus. As I said yesterday, the journal Science published a paper by researchers in the United States, the UK and other countries saying that China's control measures worked by successfully breaking the chain of transmission and bought other countries valuable time. Recently Dr. Fauci, the medical expert leading the White House effort to contain the coronavirus, reportedly said he refused to let others push him to say that China should warn the US three months beforehand, because it just doesn't comport with facts. The Lancet's editor said on BBC that "the message from China is very clear...we wasted February when we could have acted...it is a national scandal".
China has always been open, transparent and responsible in all its efforts. Can the few US individuals accusing China tell the world, if the outbreak had hit the US first, would it have handled the situation better than the Chinese government? If their answer is yes, I wonder if they could answer the following. On January 15, the US CDC issued warnings on pneumonia caused by the coronavirus. On January 25, the US announced the decision to close its consulate in Wuhan and withdraw all staff. On February 2, it banned entry of all Chinese nationals and foreign nationals who had been in China for the last 14 days. What the US has done in the two months since then? According to a New York Times report on March 11, Dr. Helen Y. Chu, a whistle-blower in the US, sounded the alarm on the epidemic in the US back in January and reported her testing results to US regulators, only to be told to "cease and desist" and "stop testing". At the end of February, the White House still asked officials and health experts to get approval from the office of Vice President Pence before making public statements on the epidemic. On March 2, the CDC stopped releasing data on tests and deaths. On March 2, Dr. McCarthy from the New York-Presbyterian Hospital said at a CNBC program that his hospital had to "plead" to health authorities to test suspected cases. Can they explain all this? I've seen many reports calling on US officials to stop seeking excuses and scapegoats for their poor response.
We understand the US is facing difficulties and some officials are under pressure and we feel deeply for the hardship of the American people. Out of humanitarian spirit, we would like to provide support and help to them as our ability permits. However, the comments by these few US politicians are just shameless and morally repulsive. As we've repeatedly said, slanders, smears and blame games cannot make up for lost time. More lies will only waste more time and lead to more lives lost. A word of advice to these politicians: at this moment, lives should come before politics. It is immoral and inhumane to politicize public health, which should be condemned by all in the US and beyond. I hope they will lose no more time and focus instead on fighting the pandemic and saving American lives.
I see you've been nodding in agreement. I hope you will help get my message across to the American people, including the few individuals who have been denigrating and smearing China. It would be much appreciated.
AFP: Some countries are adjusting their officials figures to include more cases and deaths than previously reported. For instance, in France, people who didn't die in hospitals were now being reported, too. So does China have a plan to revise upward its official figures in the future?
Hua Chunying: That's a subtle question, but I think I know what you mean. Other countries may adjust the figures as they see fit. The Chinese government, like we said, has been publishing daily updates in a timely, open, transparent and highly responsible manner. You may check the WHO press conference held yesterday in Geneva, where head of the WHO Emergencies Program again commended the timely and valuable data from China.
Shenzhen TV: According to reports, US officials from multiple government departments are planning to take new restrictive measures on Huawei, which will require foreign companies using US chip-manufacturing equipment to obtain approval before supplying some chips to Huawei. Are you aware of this and what's your comment?
Hua Chunying: You mentioned possible US plan to impose new restrictions on Huawei, I'm not sure what they are trying to do now. You will need to ask them. But I did notice the other day the strong remarks by Huawei's rotating chairman Xu Zhijun. I think his rhetorical question has a point.
The Chinese government consistently objects to the US using state power and trumped-up charges to suppress Chinese companies. We will not sit idle and watch the US resort to technological bullying.
CRI: China sent a medical team to Venezuela to help the country's fight against the COVID-19. This is the first and to date the only medical team that China has sent to the Latin American and Caribbean region. Can you confirm that?
Hua Chunying: Since the outbreak, with the vision of building a community of a shared future for mankind in mind, China has been organizing video conferences, donating prevention materials and facilitating commercial procurement to support countries in Latin America and the Caribbean in fighting against the COVID-19 and safeguarding their people' as well as Chinese people's life, safety and health. At the request of the Venezuelan side and in light of their practical needs, China has recently sent a team of medical experts to the country. The Chinese experts will help improve local response and treatment measures and make positive contributions to the epidemic control in Venezuela and in the Latin American and Caribbean region.
China Daily: Reports from the Netherlands, Belgium and other European countries suggest that masks purchased from China failed to meet quality standards. Do you have a response to that?
Hua Chunying: I already responded to questions on the quality of Chinese masks reported by Dutch media a few days ago. According to the preliminary investigation conducted by the competent authority on the Chinese side, the batch of masks in question was purchased by a Dutch procurement agent. The Chinese manufacturer informed the Dutch side before shipping out these products that they are non-surgical masks. Their export customs clearing procedures were also under the name of "non-surgical masks".
Amid the ongoing global fight against the pandemic, Chinese manufacturers, putting themselves in the shoes of other countries in urgent need, have been working around the clock to provide medical supplies for the international community. China attaches high importance to export quality control. Relevant departments have just rolled out more rigorous regulative measures. Export companies of medical supplies need to state in written or digital format upon customs clearance that their products have valid registration certificate for medical devices and products and meet the quality standards of their destinations.
We all know that masks of various category offer different levels of protection. Some are for day-to-day use and others for professional and medical purposes. All countries are in urgent need of medical supplies including masks. We want to remind everyone to double-check the instructions for use to make sure what they purchase can serve their intended purposes and avoid making mistakes in a rush, such as misusing non-surgical masks for surgical purposes. It is irresponsible for the few media to hype up the so-called quality issue of Chinese products before getting their facts straight. I do hope they are not driven by ulterior motives because apparently such hype-up does not help international cooperation in fighting the pandemic.
Phoenix TV: We see some reports on foreigners who live in China refusing to follow quarantine measures. Some even beat medical staff and had altercations with local residents. But in other places, local governments are accused of offering "super-national" treatment to foreigners, which have been criticized by online citizens. What is the Foreign Ministry's take on this?
Hua Chunying: We've also noticed some online reports on this, and frankly, they make me feel sad.
I answered a question here yesterday about foreigners and whether they are discriminated against in China. What you mentioned today is about foreigners who do not abide by Chinese regulations. I think both issues deserve high attention. China always attaches great importance to the safety and health of foreign nationals in China. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, we have offered them assistance in coping with the epidemic and leading as normal a life as possible. Foreign citizens who contracted the COVID-19 here have also been treated as equals. At the same time, all the foreigners in China should strictly abide by China's laws and regulations on prevention and control of infectious diseases and local regulations in this regard, because these rules are meant to protect everyone, Chinese and foreigners alike. Chinese and foreign citizens in China are treated equal in front of these measures and regulations. Foreigners who defy epidemic prevention measures and disrupt public order, thus endangering public health and safety, will be held accountable according to law.
Reuters: First question is about the US congressman calling on the State Department to urge China to investigate the disappearance of three Chinese citizen journalists who sought to expose the impact of the coronavirus in Wuhan. The second one is about the Trump administration tightening rules to prevent China from obtaining advanced US technologies for commercial purposes that is then diverted for military use. Do you have any comment?
Hua Chunying: On your first question, frankly, I'm really confused what these American congressmen are actually doing for the American people whose votes put them in office, especially in the face of this challenging pandemic. They are constantly paying attention to what's going on in other countries, and then making vicious criticism based on completely wrong, twisted, fabricated and false information, to serve their hidden motives. Regarding the three missing persons, I don't know what they were talking about. I know that some people in the US may have some concerns about how information was released early on when the epidemic broke out in Wuhan. But relevant departments have already conducted a thorough investigation and released the results. We Chinese people trust our government. Why do some US congressmen believe they are in a position to cast doubt when they have no facts at all? Their time would be better spent on urging the government to do more for their constituents, to save as many lives as possible and to ensure the safety of the American people. This is my advice to the rowdy crowd. The more noise they make, the more damage they will do to American image in the world, especially in the eyes of the Chinese people.
On your second question, it is a customary international practice to promote integrated development of military and civilian sectors. The US is no exception. As I know, the US Defense Department and military conduct various cooperation projects with American universities, R&D institutions and private companies. Some American multinational companies are the "military-civilian fusion" per se, as their business operations and products cover both ends. China's military-civilian integration policy is aimed at effectively mobilizing military resources, coordinating economic and social development with national defense development, and benefiting the public with scientific and technological progress. This policy is aboveboard. There is no such a thing as "theft" or "diversion" of foreign technology. In this fight against the COVID-19, China is actually ahead of the US in some areas. We used things in this fight that the US does not even have. How could the US accuse us of stealing from them things that they don't even have? Some US officials distorted China's military-civilian integration policy in malicious disregard for facts and seek to place a technological embargo on China under this pretext, thus disrupting and impeding normal economic, trade and technological cooperation between China and other countries. This practice, born out of Cold-War mentality, contravenes the spirit of international cooperation and the trend of the times. It undermines the interests of China, the US and the common interests of all.
China urges the US to adopt a responsible attitude, stop its malicious accusations and slanders, take an objective view on China's military-civilian integration policy, and make more efforts to promote China-US relations and international cooperation.