Good afternoon. I’m Hua Chunying, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Glad to see you in our ministry’s first online press conference.
It’s an unusual platform at an unusual time. But I believe we will be seeing each other in Lanting soon.
Now I’m happy to take your questions.
Q: Some countries announced travel restrictions on Chinese citizens. Specifically, the US has raised its China travel advisory to the highest level and temporarily banned the entry of all foreigners who traveled to China in the past 14 days starting from February 2. I wonder if you have any comment?
A: Acting with a high sense of responsibility to people’s health, the Chinese government has taken the most comprehensive and strict prevention and control measures after the outbreak of the epidemic, many of which have far exceeded what International Health Regulations required. As the WHO Director-General noted, China is setting a new standard for outbreak response. In the same speech, he said specifically that declaring a public health emergency of international concern is not a vote of no confidence in China. On the contrary, WHO continues to have confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak. There is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel.
Most countries appreciate and support China’s efforts to fight against the novel coronavirus, and we understand and respect them when they adopt or enhance quarantine measures at border entry. But in the meantime, some countries, the US in particular, have inappropriately overreacted, which certainly runs counter to WHO advice.
The US government hasn’t provided any substantive assistance to us, but it was the first to evacuate personnel from its consulate in Wuhan, the first to suggest partial withdrawal of its embassy staff, and the first to impose a travel ban on Chinese travelers. What it has done could only create and spread fear, which is a very bad example. Even American media and experts doubted the government’s decision, saying that the US government’s restrictions on China are precisely what the WHO rejects, that the US is turning from overconfidence to fear and overreaction, and that banning the entry of visitors who traveled to China in the past 14 days is suspected to be violating civil rights instead of reducing risks of virus spreading. In fact, according to a recent CDC report, the US flu from 2019 to 2020 has caused 19 million infection cases and at least 10,000 deaths. By contrast, by February 2, 17,205 cases of nCoV pneumonia were confirmed, 361 died and 475 cured and discharged, while there are only 11 confirmed cases in the US. The contrast is thought-provoking. I also noted that the Canadian Minister of Health said Canada won’t follow the US and impose travel restrictions on Chinese or foreign nationals who have been to China. Canada believes the ban of entry has no basis, which is a sharp contrast to the US behaviors.
We hope countries will make reasonable, calm and science-based judgments and responses. In an open, transparent and highly responsible attitude, China will enhance cooperation with the WHO and the international community. We have confidence and capability in winning this battle as soon as possible.
Q: The Canadian government says it is waiting for Chinese government clearance to send an aircraft from Vietnam to pick up Canadian citizens from Wuhan. Can you tell me when you expect this authorization to be provided?
A: China attaches great importance to the life and health of Chinese and foreign nationals in Wuhan and takes effective measures to address their concerns and needs in a timely manner. For countries wishing to evacuate their citizens out of Wuhan, we make arrangements and provide assistance to them following international customary practices and our epidemic control measures. Relevant countries have expressed thanks to us.
I understand China and Canada are in communication on this.
Q: How many countries have provided humanitarian aid to China so far? Which countries are preparing to send it? And which items does China need the most?
A: Since the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak, some countries have expressed understanding and support to China through various means. As of noon February 2, epidemic prevention and control supplies donated by the ROK, Japan, the UK, France, Turkey, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Hungary, Iran, Belarus, Indonesia and the UNICEF have arrived in China. In addition, friends in many countries have also offered us support. A friend in need is a friend indeed. I’d like to thank them all.
What we urgently need at present are medical supplies for prevention and control, masks, protective suits and safety goggles among other items.
Q: Taiwan has complained that Italy has banned flights from Taiwan due to the WHO listing Taiwan as part of China as a “high risk” area from the coronavirus. Will China ask the WHO to list Taiwan separately so its flights are not affected by flight bans?
A: Taiwan compatriots are our brothers and sisters. If they encounter difficulties overseas, we are always ready to help. The WHO is a special UN agency consisting of sovereign states. Taiwan’s participation in the activities of international organizations such as the WHO must be arranged properly through cross-strait consultations under the one-China principle.
The Taiwan region has timely access to information on global public health emergencies released by the WHO and information can also flow readily the other way. With these arrangements in place, Taiwan is able to cope promptly and effectively with local or global public health emergencies.
Q: Is China in discussions with other countries about not imposing restrictions? Is China disappointed with those restricting Chinese citizens‘ entry?
A: Attaching great importance to people’s life and health, China has taken the most strict and comprehensive control measures that are far exceeding WHO recommendations and IHR requirements. As WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros noted, declaring a public health emergency of international concern is to help countries that have weaker health systems and are ill-prepared. WHO doesn’t approve of and even rejects travel bans on China. It has said repeatedly that China has taken firm and strong actions, that it is confident in China winning this battle, and that countries need to stay calm instead of overreacting under the current circumstances. We understand the reasonable measures taken by most countries to enhance quarantine following WHO advice.
However, regrettably, it was precisely the US and some other developed countries with sound health systems and advanced public health capabilities that imposed unnecessary or even excessive restrictions on China, which clearly runs counter to WHO advice.
We hope some countries will see the epidemic and China’s efforts in an impartial and rational manner, follow IHR provisions and the professional, authoritative advice of WHO, and take proper measures that won’t unnecessarily interfere with international travel.
Q: Pakistan said yesterday it will not be evacuating citizens from Hubei, saying that China has better medical facilities to handle the outbreak. Are there other countries who have expressed the same view in diplomatic discussions?
A: Indeed, as Pakistani Prime Minister and foreign minister noted, they highly commend and firmly support China’s efforts to fight against the nCoV. They also appreciate China’s assistance for Pakistani citizens in China and express confidence in China winning this battle with the strength of its system. The Pakistani people are standing firmly with their Chinese brethren.
Like Pakistan, many other countries have also expressed full confidence in China. We thank them. We have the confidence and the capability to win the fight against the outbreak as soon as possible and safeguard the life and health of their citizens in China.
Q: Will President Xi’s visit to Japan this year be affected by the outbreak?
A: We’ve been in close communication with Japan. The two sides should continue working together and make sound preparations for the major diplomatic agenda in the near future.
Q: Is any update on recent cases of H5N1 bird flu in Hunan?
A: I’d refer you to information available online from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
Q: The US still says China is refusing US offer of help. Is this accurate?
A: Since the outbreak of the epidemic, some countries have provided support and assistance to help China fight against the epidemic through various means. We are grateful for that.
But as far as I know, the US government has not provided any substantive help to the Chinese side yet. On the contrary, it was the first to withdraw its consulate staff from Wuhan, the first to suggest the partial withdrawal of embassy staff, the first to announce a ban on entry by Chinese citizens after the WHO made it clear that it doesn’t recommend and even opposes travel and trade restrictions against China. What the US has done could create and spread panic.
In a globalized world, the destinies of all countries are closely linked. In the face of a public health crisis, countries should work together to overcome the difficulties, rather than resort to beggar-thy-neighbor practice, let alone take advantage of others’ difficulties.
China has strengthened cooperation with the WHO and the international community in an open, transparent and responsible manner. Since January 3, we notified the US of the epidemic and our control measures altogether 30 times. Chinese Center for Disaster Control and Prevention and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held many rounds of communications on the outbreak. On January 29, China’s National Health Commission replied through official channel to the US that we welcome it to join a WHO joint expert group. The US thanked China for this on the same day. On January 31, the US told China’s National Health Commission that it had contacted WHO headquarters and submitted a list of US experts wishing to join the group.
China will continue cooperating with WHO and countries concerned including the US to safeguard the life and health of people of all countries.
Q: Is China going to evacuate more of its citizens, those from Wuhan, Hubei especially, from other countries?
A: Due to the coronavirus outbreak, some Hubei citizens, especially those from Wuhan traveling overseas find themselves in difficult situations. Placing high importance on this, the Chinese government decided to make proper arrangements to bring them home. This shows how it always puts people’s well-being first and its commitment to people-first governing philosophy.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs took swift actions. In two days, we arranged for 4 chartered flights to bring home 399 Chinese citizens who wanted to return, showing the impressive speed of a caring motherland. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and take all necessary steps to help Chinese citizens, especially those from Wuhan, Hubei stalled in foreign countries, to tide over their difficulties. Overseas Chinese citizens in need can reach our Global Emergency Call Center for Consular Protection and Services via the 12308 hotline.
Q: Recently, we’ve seen panic and even insulting and discriminatory comments about China’s epidemic in some countries. What is your response?
A: The merciless virus has brought out great warmth from our fellow human beings. In response to this unexpected epidemic, government officials and people from all walks of life in many countries have expressed sympathy, confidence and support for China’s fight against the epidemic in recent days. We’re deeply moved by what they’ve said and done for us, which will never be forgotten.
In the meantime, we noted that a few extreme and irrational remarks have appeared in certain media of certain countries. We firmly reject them.
As WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros put it, “This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.”
We hope that the international community can view the epidemic in a rational and calm way and make a science-based and measured response. China will continue to work more closely with other countries in an open, transparent and highly responsible manner to safeguard the life and health of the Chinese people and contribute to regional and global public health security.
Q: What measures has China taken to safeguard the health security of foreign nationals in China, especially Wuhan since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus? How can they access information on China’s prevention and control efforts?
A: Attaching high importance to the well-being of foreign nationals in China, especially Wuhan, Hubei, China has taken effective measures to address their concerns and needs in a timely manner.
First, Hubei has set up a 24 hour hotline (027-87122256) for foreign citizens, students and tour groups in the province to access advice and assistance. In addition, its official website and the WeChat account of Hubei Foreign Office promptly relayed information on the epidemic situation and epidemic prevention knowledge in English, French, German, Russian, Japanese, Korean and Spanish. Many provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities like Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Xinjiang have sent open letters to foreign citizens working and living there, sharing with them information channels and designated treatment centers and offering services in light of local realities.
Second, the MFA has set up a special column entitled “Fighting 2019-nCoV” on its website, gathering the latest information from the National Health Commission to keep foreign readers updated.
Third, to help equip foreign nationals in China with prevention know-how, the National Immigration Administration translated the Public Prevention of Pneumonia Caused by Novel Coronavirus released by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention into six foreign languages, namely English, French, Russian, German, Japan and Korean. They are all readily available online. Chinese diplomatic missions overseas have also been disseminating multilingual versions of the document.
The measures China has taken have gone far beyond WHO and IHR recommendations. We are doing our best to contain the spread of the coronavirus within the shortest time possible. We have the confidence and the ability to win this battle. There is no need for any panic from foreign friends in China. As Director-General Dr. Tedros put it: This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma. China will continue to enhance cooperation with the international community in an open, transparent and highly responsible manner to safeguard the life and health of Chinese people and foreign nationals in China.
Q: Which countries have provided assistance to China for outbreak response? Could you share more information?
A: Please refer to the answer I gave to Tass.
Q: You just severely criticized the US government response to the outbreak. We understand the second US flight is experiencing delay – is it due to the lack of Chinese government authorization as some say?
A: As I just said, the US was the first to evacuate its consulate staff in Wuhan via charter flight. Further arrangements need to be coordinated based on a variety of factors including Wuhan airport capacity to receive supplies.
Q: Will the China-EU summit scheduled to be held in Beijing this year be affected or delayed because of the outbreak?
A: China and the EU have been in communication via political and diplomatic channels. We will continue to make meticulous preparations for the next-stage major diplomatic agenda.
Q: You just shared with us international assistance to China. I didn’t hear you mention the US. But the US side said that it had offered China tremendous help in dealing with the epidemic. Could you clarify?
A: Please check my reply to the NBC.
Q: Has China received any request from Brazil to pick up its citizens from Wuhan?
A: China has the capacity and confidence to win this war against the epidemic and protect the life and health of the Chinese citizens and foreigners in China. Brazil is a friend to China. Please rest assured that we will take good care of Brazilians in China.
Q: How much international donation has China received? Which department is in charge of accepting donations?
A: Some countries have provided support and assistance to help China fight against the epidemic through various means. We are grateful for that. The Ministry of Commerce is responsible for receiving donations from foreign governments and international organizations. I would refer you to the competent authorities.
Q: As of now, how many of the confirmed cases in China are foreigners?
A: After checking with the relevant department, as of February 2, 16 foreigners in China have been infected with the 2019 n-CoV. Among them, two have recovered and been discharged from hospital, and 14 are in quarantine and in stable conditions.
Q: On January 29, Pakistan lifted restrictions on flights between Pakistan and china which were imposed temporarily. Following the decision one flight from Urumqi to Islamabad has been resumed. Will other airlines also lift restrictions?
A: China and Pakistan are iron-clad friends that share a good tradition of mutual assistance. As China fights the outbreak, Pakistan has stood firmly with us, maintaining flights and pooling medical supplies all over the country to help China. We are deeply grateful and touched by such trust and confidence. China will continue to work in close communication and coordination with Pakistan to safeguard the health of Pakistanis in China.