Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on May 20, 2020
CCTV: The 73rd WHA adopted the EU-proposed resolution on COVID-19 response. Do you have any comment? Why did China co-sponsor this resolution?
Zhao Lijian: On May 19, the 73rd WHA adopted the resolution on COVID-19 response by consensus. China welcomes that.
The resolution unequivocally affirms and supports WHO's leading role and calls on member states to prevent discrimination and stigmatization, combat misinformation and disinformation, strengthen cooperation on the research on diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines, and the zoonotic source of the virus and evaluate the work of WHO at the appropriate moment. All these are in line with China's position and meet the shared aspiration of the overwhelming majority of the international community. In light of this, China is, along with other more than 140 countries, a co-sponsor of the above-mentioned draft resolution and joined the consensus.
On tracing the source of the virus, the resolution basically follows the recommendations issued under the International Health Regulations upon the advice of the Emergency Committee for COVID-19 on May 1, strictly restricting the relevant research to identifying the zoonotic source of the virus, intermediate hosts and the route of introduction to the human population, to enhance preparedness of the international community in the future. This is also a recommendation made by Director-General Tedros. Indeed, certain countries proposed to prioritize tracing the source of virus in the consultations, but the overwhelming majority of countries believed the most pressing concern is epidemic prevention and control. They didn't agree to make tracing the source of virus a priority and rejected such wording, which proves that politicization of this issue gains no support.
On the evaluation of WHO response, the resolution decides that the evaluation should be initiated by the Director-General in consultation with member states to review experience gained and make recommendations for future work. The WHO previously made evaluation on its H1N1 flu and Ebola responses, a customary practice for the organization after a major epidemic. The resolution asks for a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation. These four words - stepwise, impartial, independent and comprehensive - are very important as they indicate that the evaluation shall not be monopolized by a handful of countries.
China hopes this resolution adopted by WHA will be followed through upon in a comprehensive and accurate manner.
The rumor that China was "forced" to co-sponsor the proposal, as falsely claimed by certain media, is totally nonsense. As a matter of fact, China, along with the majority of countries, firmly thwarted the attempt of a few countries to politicize the origin tracing and the evaluation of COVID-19 response, and secured an impartial and objective resolution. Under such circumstances, we took the initiative to be a co-sponsor. We advise a few countries to stop fabricating lies in an attempt to seek excuse for its own failure.
The Paper: There have been some global responses to President Trump's letter to WHO Director-General Tedros. Canadian Prime Minister said that Canada will continue to support WHO. Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy at European Commission said that this is the time for solidarity, not the time for finger-pointing or undermining multilateral cooperation. The EU backs the WHO in its efforts to contain and mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak. Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN Office in Geneva said that there is nothing new in the US letter and they have a negative attitude to it. WHO is the organization that must coordinate interactions between the states in the sphere of healthcare at the international level, and now the priority is the fight against the coronavirus, so these attacks against the WHO are just inconsistent. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian: I noted those responses you mentioned from all over the world. It is not difficult to see that the international community does not agree with the US fact-distorting and self-contradictory actions that aim to shift the blame and responsibility to others and undermine international cooperation on COVID-19 response. Those fallacies in the US leader's letter have been pointed out and cleared up by us many times. Here I just want to list some of its basic mistakes.
The letter said that "Taiwanese authorities had communicated information to the WHO indicating human-to-human transmission of a new virus". The fact is, the email sent from the Taiwan region to WHO on December 31 was mainly about requesting information from WHO, without any mention of "human-to-human transmission".
The letter said that on January 21, the Chinese leader pressured Director-General Tedros. This is pure fiction. As has been clarified by both China and WHO, the Chinese leader and Director-General Tedros didn't even have a phone call on January 21.
The letter criticized Director-General Tedros for praising China for its transparency and setting a new standard for outbreak control. The US side seems to have forgotten that its leader has publicly commended on China's outbreak response on many occasions. On January 25, President Trump tweeted that China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus, and the United States greatly appreciates its efforts and transparency. On March 13, President Trump told journalists that the data China shared was helpful for the U.S. efforts against the epidemic.
The list of US disinformation, lies and rumors goes on and on. There is simply not enough time for me to enumerate them all. But the public is a fair judge. The international community will determine the credibility of this letter.
Let us just revisit the timeline here. The US had only one confirmed case when Wuhan was put under lockdown on January 23. The US official tally for the confirmed cases was 11 when it closed its borders on February 2 to all Chinese citizens as well as foreigners who had been to China in the previous 14 days. The US had 1,264 cases when it declared national emergency on March 13. The number surpassed 10,000 on March 19 and 100,000 on March 27. When the lockdown in Wuhan was lifted on April 8, there were 400,000 confirmed cases in the US. Today, the US has more than 1.57 million confirmed cases and over 90,000 death tolls. We mourn for the lost lives and wish the US people will defeat the outbreak as early as possible. But for those US politicians spending all their time on political maneuvering, the responsibility is too heavy to shake off.
China upholds the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind and puts the people and their lives first. China takes it as its responsibility to ensure not just the life and health of its own citizens, but also global public health. We have taken the most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough measures, and every family and every citizen nationwide have been contributing their strength in this fight against COVID-19. After making painstaking efforts and enormous sacrifice, we have turned the tide. We have been acting with openness, transparency and responsibility, and providing epidemic updates to WHO and relevant countries including the US in a timely fashion. We shared the genome sequence at the earliest possible time. We shared control and treatment experience with the world without reservation. We have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need. On May 18, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech via videolink at the opening ceremony of the 73rd World Health Assembly and put forward important proposals and measures on international cooperation in response to COVID-19. China firmly supports WHO's leading role in the global response, because to support WHO is to support international cooperation and to support saving lives. Practices of unilateralism, selfishness, evading responsibility, and even coercing and intimidating WHO, are indifference toward lives, challenges to humanitarianism, and disruption of international cooperation on COVID-19 response.
The US should commit itself to securing an early victory against the virus instead of issuing an "ultimatum" to the very international organization spearheading the global response. We advise some US politicians reflect on their actions, stop political maneuvering and focus on saving more lives.