|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Regular Press Conference on December 23, 2019|
Q: At a recent session of the ninth Legislature of the National Assembly of People's Power of Cuba, the nomination of Manuel Marrero as prime minister put forward by President Miguel Diaz-Canel was approved. Has China sent congratulations? What's its expectation for China-Cuba relations?
A: On December 21 local time, President Miguel Diaz-Canel's nomination of Manuel Marrero as Cuba's first prime minister after the country enacted its new constitution was approved at the fourth session of the ninth Legislature of the National Assembly of People's Power. China extends warm congratulations to this significant event. Premier Li Keqiang has sent a congratulatory message to Prime Minister Marrero.
Cuba was the first country in the Western hemisphere that established diplomatic relations with New China. The traditional friendship has withstood the test of the changing international landscape and remains unbreakable as ever. The two sides will hold joint commemorative events to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties in 2020. At this new starting point, China stands ready to work with Cuba to implement our leaders' consensus, further deepen political mutual trust, expand the breadth and width of cooperation, consolidate traditional friendship and promote fruitful exchange to deliver more benefits to the two peoples.
Q: What's China's comment on the most recent meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Moon Jae-in?
A: President Xi Jinping met with President Moon Jae-in this morning. China has issued a press release. I can talk a little bit more about it here.
During the meeting, President Xi pointed out that China and the ROK are both influential countries in Asia and the world. The two share broad consensus in promoting bilateral relations, advancing regional peace, stability and prosperity, and upholding multilateralism and the free trading regime. As close friends and cooperative partners, the two sides maintained generally steady development in relations during the past two years or so. Under new circumstances, efforts should be made to deepen the strategic cooperative partnership and accommodate each other's core interests and major concerns to bring bilateral relations to a higher level.
President Xi stressed in particular that the two sides could seek greater synergies between the BRI and the ROK's development strategies to reap early harvests. The two sides should accelerate phase-two negotiations of a bilateral free trade agreement, deepen cooperation in innovation, research and development, strengthen law enforcement and security cooperation, enhance people-to-people and cultural exchange, and continue to step up communication and coordination under multilateral frameworks.
President Moon expressed hope for broader cooperation with China in such areas as trade, culture, sports and environmental protection, and for greater synergies between the BRI and the ROK's New Southern Policy and New Northern Policy. He said the two sides should work together to explore third market cooperation, bring the two peoples closer and create a new era for ROK-China relations.
President Moon also stated that affairs relating to Hong Kong and Xinjiang are China's internal affairs.
The two heads of state also exchanged views on the Korean Peninsula situation. President Xi said that the two have similar positions and shared interests on this issue. Both are committed to a peaceful and stable Peninsula, advocate resolving the issue through dialogue and consultation, and stand as staunch forces for stability and dialogue. China supports the ROK in continuing to improve relations with the DPRK to inject impetus into the peace talks. President Moon said that the ROK appreciates China's important role in seeking a solution to this issue. The opportunity for a peaceful settlement didn't come easily. The ROK would like to work together with China for progress in the peace process.
We believe this meeting has set the course for the next stage of China-ROK relations. We hope to work with the ROK side to implement the two presidents' consensus and realize new progress in bilateral relations.
Premier Li Keqiang will also meet with President Moon. We will keep you updated.
Q: The US National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 has been signed into law. There are negative contents distorting and smearing China's military development, issues relating to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and prohibiting purchase of some Chinese products. Does China have a comment?
A: We deplore the US obstinate moves to pass and sign the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which contain negative elements on China. China has lodged solemn representations. We urge the US to discard the Cold-War mentality and ideological prejudice, view China's development and China-US relations in an objective and rational manner, and not implement clauses with negative contents regarding China, lest it should affect overall China-US relations and bilateral cooperation in important areas.
Q: Two questions. First, a Thames article by Peter Humphrey, a British former journalist who served jail term in China, claimed that a six-year-old girl in London found a message inside a Christmas card bought from Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer. It read: We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu Prison China. Forced to work against our will. Please help us, notify human rights organization and contact Mr Peter Humphrey. Do you have any response to that? Also, does the foreign ministry have any information on the four Chinese sailors kidnapped by pirates in Gabon last night?
A: On your first question, I have seen some British media reports. It is just a drama choreographed by Mr. Peter Humphrey.
Mr. Humphrey isn't one for a life far from the madding crowd. Every now and then he would pop out into the spotlight with a headline or two, as if worried that people might forget him. But his latest plot sounds all too familiar. My advice to him: if you want to grab more eyeballs, at least come up with some new tricks.
I can tell you that after verifying with relevant departments, we know for sure that there is no forced labor of foreign prisoners in Qingpu prison in Shanghai.
On your second question, on December 22 local time, four unidentified armed robbers attacked two fishing boats belonging to Sigapeche and took four sailors of Chinese nationality with them. Their whereabouts are not yet known at this moment.
The Chinese embassy in Gabon has asked the Gabonese side to act swiftly to find out what happened, launch a rescue operation, and spare no efforts to free the Chinese sailors. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.
Q: Also about the US National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. It officially approved the establishment of a Space Force. The US Air Force chief of staff said that as China and Russia pose a strong threat to the US, the country needs greater strength to deal with the space capabilities of China and Russia. I wonder if China has a comment?
A: We note relevant reports. In recent years, disregarding opposition from the international community, the US has been pushing its space dominance strategy, going further down the path of weaponization of outer space and risking turning it into a new theater of warfare. Such moves are a serious breach of the consensus on peaceful use of outer space. They undermine global strategic balance and stability and pose a direct threat to peace and security in outer space. China is deeply concerned about and firmly opposed to this.
The space security the US has in mind is only security for itself while the fundamental purpose of the international community is to safeguard the common security of all mankind in outer space. In its obstinate pursuit of weaponization, the US keeps making an issue of China and Russia. That is the guilty party shifting the blame on the innocent and seeking excuses to free itself.
China stands for peaceful use of outer space and against weaponization of and arms race in outer space. Under current circumstances, there is greater relevance and urgency to initiate negotiation of a legally-binding instrument on outer space arms control. We hope the international community, certain major countries in particular, will adopt a prudent and responsible attitude to safeguard lasting peace and tranquility in outer space and make sure it will not become a new battlefield.
Q: In his statement on December 21, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China and Russia for voting against a draft resolution on cross-border human rights aid to Syria. He said Russia and China's veto of a Security Council resolution that allows for humanitarian aid to reach millions of Syrians is shameful, and they had blood on their hands. What's your comment?
A: Ambassador Zhang Jun, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations, has elaborated on China's position in his statement at the Security Council. I also responded to that over the weekend.
I want to stress that cross-border humanitarian relief is a special relief method adopted under specific circumstances. It should be based on full respect for Syria's sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity as well as the Syrian government's views, and it should be evaluated and adjusted in light of the developments on the ground. China cast its vote based on the merits of the matter itself and the fundamental interests of the Syrian people. China firmly rejects the groundless accusations from the US.
If the US really cares about the Syrian people and the humanitarian situation in Syria, why didn't they vote for the Russian draft resolution? They had every opportunity to fulfill their promise to the Syrian people. This shows once again that their concern is hypocritical and they are pursuing typical double standard, which is a concrete manifestation of politicizing humanitarian issues.
If the US really cares about the Syrian people and the humanitarian situation in Syria, it should do some self-reflection and soul-searching, because what happened in Syria, including the sufferings of its people, is inflicted exactly by the wrong actions of the US and some other countries. They blatantly interfered in others' internal affairs and helped stage the "Arab Spring" in the Middle East, being the culprit of many regional hotspot issues.
The world sees clearly who keep lying with hearts full of hypocrisy and blood on their hands. It is they who should repent.
Q: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on December 20 that the Department of State designated 9 countries including China as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. What's your comment?
A: China is firmly against the groundless US move that ignores facts. The Chinese government protects its citizens' freedom of religious belief and people of all ethnic groups enjoy full religious freedom in accordance with law. There are nearly 200 million believers in China, including over 20 million Muslims, more than 380,000 clerical personnel, approximately 5,500 religious groups and about 140,000 places of worship registered for religious activities in China. These are hard facts that cannot be distorted by a handful of US politicians.
The Chinese people have the best say in freedom of religious belief in China. We urge the US to face up to and respect basic facts, get its own house in order and stop interfering in China's internal affairs under the pretext of religion.
Q: According to reports, Afghanistan's President Ghani is likely to win the presidential election and get another term. What is China's comment on his success?
A: We noted relevant reports. China respects the independent choice made by the Afghan people. We sincerely hope that the presidential election in Afghanistan will proceed smoothly.
Q: You said during the meeting with President Xi Jinping, President Moon Jae-in said the ROK believes Hong Kong affairs and Xinjiang affairs are both China's internal affairs. This statement has been underlined in reports by Chinese media. What's your comments?
A: You'd like my comment?
This is the statement by President Moon Jae-in, which in my view captures the facts. He just stated a plain fact, that is, Hong Kong affairs and Xinjiang affairs are both China's internal affairs, right?
Q: The Second Meeting of the Advisory Council of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held in Beijing on December 22. Could you give us more details?
A: The Second Meeting of the Advisory Council of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held in Beijing on December 22. Former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin of France, former Prime Minister of Russia Mikhail Yefimovich Fradkov, former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf of Egypt and other members attended the meeting. Member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee Yang Jiechi met with them.
Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu chaired the meeting where members discussed the implementation of the outcomes of the second BRF and quality development of BRI. The council members commended the progress under the BRI and spoke highly of its principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits, concept of open, green and clean cooperation and pursuit of high standard, people-centered and sustainable development. They proposed further efforts on high-quality projects, better cooperative partners network of BRI and partnerships for connectivity, so as to promote global economic growth, build an open world economy and support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. By so doing the political consensus of the second BRF will be better translated into tangible outcomes.
China hopes that the Advisory Council will continue to offer advice and pool wisdom for the future development of the BRF.