According to the latest figures from the NHC, March 23 saw 456 patients cured and discharged from hospital in China's mainland, bringing the tally to 73,159.
CCTV: Last Friday you announced that China and Latin American and Caribbean countries would hold a video conference for experts on COVID-19 to exchange views. Could you tell us more about this meeting? Did it live up to the expectations of participating countries?
Geng Shuang: On March 24, experts on COVID-19 from China and Latin American and Caribbean countries exchanged views in a video conference. About 200 officials and experts from China, Latin American and Caribbean countries having diplomatic relations with China, and Nicaragua, as well as representatives of WHO, UNICEF, the Pan American Health Organization and the Inter-American Development Bank attended the video conference, which lasted for over three hours and achieved positive results.
Chinese experts talked in detail about the trajectory and features of the epidemic and Chinese experience in disease control, clinical treatment, customs administration and community-based quarantine and gave thorough answers to their foreign counterparts' questions.
Foreign officials and experts spoke highly of China's effective measures to contain the virus and its important contributions to global public health security. They believed this timely, professional and efficient video conference offered important guidance for their countries. They would like to draw on China's experience and maintain communication and coordination with China to defeat the pandemic together.
Going forward, China will uphold the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind and follow closely the situation in Latin American and Caribbean countries. We will do our utmost to coordinate domestic resources and enhance cooperation with these countries in light of their needs to jointly overcome the challenge posed by the virus.
The Paper: In an interview with the Chinese ambassador to the US, American journalist Jonathan Swan said the Chinese government expelled the three Wall Street Journal reporters because of critical coverage of the Communist Party's response to the coronavirus, and then the US government capped the staff of Chinese state-owned media outlets. Do you agree with him?
Geng Shuang: We stated China's position for many times. The measures taken by the Chinese side against the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, among other US media, are all necessary countermeasures against US' unreasonable oppression of Chinese media in recent years. The US side provoked China first and China was only responding in legitimate self-defense.
Last week, I briefed you on the discriminatory restrictions the US has long imposed on Chinese journalists with regard to visa, administrative review and reporting. The All-China Journalists Association detailed all that in a statement (http://www.zgjx.cn/2020-03/12/c_138871257.htm) issued on March 12. I would like to stress the following.
Dating back to December 2018, the US demanded certain Chinese media organizations in the US to register as "foreign agents". In February 2020, it designated five Chinese media organizations in the US as "foreign missions". On March 2, the US announced personnel cap on the above-mentioned five media organizations in the US, demanding 60 Chinese journalists to leave the US before March 13, which in effect expelled 60 Chinese journalists. Since 2018, the US has indefinitely delayed approval and even denied application of visa for 30 US-based Chinese journalists, and nine of them were unable to reenter the US after returning home on leave.
The facts are very clear. The US, out of its long-standing ideological bias against China, has continuously escalated its political oppression and unreasonable restrictions on Chinese journalists. This is simply intolerable.
I would like to stress once again that China welcomes media and journalists from all over the world to do their job in China in accordance with laws and regulations and we will continue to provide convenience and assistance. What we oppose is ideological bias towards China, fake news in the name of press freedom, and violation of professional ethics.
The Wall Street Journal published an insulting article with a blatantly racist headline, which is unacceptable in any country. Our position has been repeated many times earlier on.
Reuters: The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal published an open letter today, calling for the Chinese government to change its decision to expel their journalists. Have you seen the letter and is China going to reconsider?
Geng Shuang: I haven't read this letter yet. But as I recall, we made it very clear on this podium that the measures taken by the Chinese side against relevant US media are all necessary countermeasures and legitimate self-defense in response to US unreasonable oppression of Chinese media in recent years. We are not the reason and the responsible party for the current situation. If any US media agencies, including those you mentioned, have any problems with it, they should raise the complaints to the US government.
As for whether China will reconsider the decision, I shall say the top priority for now is that the US should change its wrong course immediately and stop political oppression and unwarranted restriction against Chinese media.
China Daily: China has deplored and rejected the phrase "Chinese virus" or "Wuhan virus" used by a few individuals in the US. However, US Secretary of State Pompeo still used "Wuhan virus" in his tweet on March 23. Do you have anything more to say on this?
Geng Shuang: The Chinese side has repeated many times that some people in the US have been seeking by every means to link the virus with China and stigmatize China. This was met with strong indignation and firm objection from the Chinese people. WHO and the international community explicitly oppose linking the virus with any specific country or region and reject stigmatization.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said "it is shameful to see increasing acts of racial discrimination and prejudice as we fight the COVID19 pandemic" and "we must always fight racism and prejudice". EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said the virus knows no border and we need cooperation and multilateralism, instead of competition and recrimination, in face of the common challenge for mankind. It is not the time for countries to blame one another with terms like "Chinese virus". WHO believes that we should avoid calling it "Chinese virus". Now is the moment for solidarity, for respecting facts and for fighting together.
Some in the US who can still see things clearly have publicly opposed the saying of "Chinese virus", pointing out that it is bald-faced racism and xenophobia. They believe that calling it "Chinese virus" will expose certain people under the risk of racism and violence. The novel coronavirus affects everyone and needs to be tackled with joint efforts, instead of fear-mongering in a xenophobic way. Many mainstream media and think tanks in the US have also strongly criticized the absurd remarks made by certain American individuals.
Recently, there have been some arguments between China and the US about the origin of the virus. I want to point out that it was the US side that started this argument. It was also the US that first claimed that the virus originated in China and used such terms as "Chinese virus" and "Wuhan virus". According to media reports, as early as March 6, Pompeo started to use "Wuhan virus" in public remarks. Since then, some US politicians and senior officials have been using this term to stigmatize China, causing great anger and strong opposition from the Chinese people. What I just cited are public records. There is no way for the US to deny this.
Finally, I wish certain people in the US could heed the reasonable voice at home and from the international community and stop making wrongful remarks that stigmatize China. We hope they can understand that confounding public opinion, deflecting responsibilities and shouting "Chinese virus" or "Wuhan virus" will not help with their own or the international efforts against the pandemic. The top priority for the US should be focusing on putting their own house in order and working with China and the international community to contribute to the global fight against the pandemic.
CRI: You talked about the imported cases yesterday. Could you tell us the latest number of these cases? How many of them are foreigners? Are most of them Chinese coming back from overseas?
Geng Shuang: Journalist with the Press Trust of India asked about this yesterday, and later on we gathered more information from the competent authorities. According to their statistics, as of 24:00 on March 23, a total of 427 confirmed imported cases had been reported. 380 cases are Chinese nationals and the rest 47 cases are foreign nationals.
Phoenix TV: At present, the virus is spreading rapidly outside China, and many countries in Europe and the US are facing grim situations. Many overseas compatriots, students overseas in particular, are very anxious about whether they should return to their motherland or not. What kind of help have the Chinese embassies and consulates provided to the Chinese students overseas?
Geng Shuang: After the outbreak of COVID-19, overseas Chinese students are concerned about their motherland. We are deeply touched by their initiative of donating money and goods in support of the fight against the epidemic in China. We are very proud of them. As the virus continues to spread overseas, we also care about the safety and health of our overseas compatriots including these students.
Recently, our foreign missions overseas have made it a priority to help overseas students in their study, daily life and self-protection. They have taken actions to fully mobilize resources to help these students address practical difficulties.
Our embassies and consulates are in close contact with the governments, competent departments and schools of the host countries, asking them to attach great importance to and effectively protect the health and safety of our overseas students and their legitimate rights and interests.
They have been timely issuing and updating consular warnings to ensure students are well-informed of the response policies of the countries they stay in and services offered by our embassies and consulates.
They have set up hotlines for overseas students and their parents in China to comfort them and respond to their concerns.
They have provided students with special tips and professional and scientific prevention and control guidance by opening up online consulting platforms and inviting medical professionals to share relevant knowledge.
They also gave students in need free masks, disinfectant solution and hand soap to help them overcome immediate difficulties.
Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the US, recently conducted an online conversation with Chinese students in the US. Liu Xiaoming, Ambassador to the UK, and Wu Ken, Ambassador to Germany, were interviewed by CCTV separately, answering questions and offering thorough explanations on various issues of general concern to the overseas students. In addition, Chinese embassies and consulates in other countries and their officials in charge have also published open letters and took interviews to guide overseas students to stay calm, objectively assess the situation, rationally weigh their option of whether to come back to China or not.
Recently, the Chinese embassies in the UK, France, Italy and Saudi Arabia distributed "health kits" containing epidemic prevention materials and guidelines to Chinese students, encouraging science-based response and self-protection and extending care and support from the Party, the government and people back in China. Students said they did feel that they are cared for and backed up by the Party, the government and their loved ones back in China. They feel that the Chinese embassies and consulates are always behind them. In the next step, our embassies and consulates in relevant countries will also take into account the reality of the host countries and timely distribute these materials to the majority of overseas students affected by the epidemic.
Finally, I would like to stress once again that the Party and the government are always concerned about the health and safety of overseas students. For them, the motherland is always their strong backing. China's foreign embassies and consulates will always be there by their side through the hard times.
Kyodo News: This afternoon the Japanese government approved new school textbooks renewing the claim that Senkaku Islands are Japan's inherent territory. What is your comment?
Geng Shuang: Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands have been China's inherent territory since ancient times. We are determined and resolved to safeguard our territorial sovereignty. The fact that Diaoyu Island belongs to China cannot be altered no matter what the Japanese side says or does.
We urge the Japanese side to act in strict accordance with the spirit of the four-point principled agreement between the two sides and make concrete actions to improve bilateral relations.
Bloomberg News: At least seven Chinese nationals who work for US media companies have been informed to quit by the Beijing Personnel Service Corporation for Diplomatic Missions. As the BDS is affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are you not a responsible party for this decision? Why were these Chinese nationals forced to quit from their companies?
Geng Shuang: I answered this question last week. My answer remains the same. Relevant departments in China, including the one you mentioned, regulate affairs related to Chinese employees of the Chinese offices of foreign media agencies in accordance with laws and regulations.
Follow-up: So what is the reason that these people are asked to resign from their positions?
Geng Shuang: Like I just said, relevant matters are handled in accordance with laws and regulations.
Reuters: The Taiwan authorities said they asked the WHO for more information on the coronavirus including the risk of human-to-human transmission in late December, but they got no answer. Is this because China pressured the WHO not to deal with Taiwan?
Geng Shuang: If I remember it right, the Spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council has made a response to similar questions.
To be brief, the attempt for political play-up or manipulation under the pretext of this pandemic will not succeed. We believe that the WHO will properly resolve the relevant matter, as it always does, in accordance with the one-China principle and Resolution 2758 of the UN General Assembly.