Ambassador Zhang Ming Attends the EP Debate on China-EU Relations and Answers Questions

(Credit: Chinese Mission to EU)

This article is published in association with the Chinese Mission to EU

On September 21, 2020, Ambassador Zhang Ming, Head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, was invited to attend the Debate on China-EU Relations hosted by the Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) of the European Parliament (EP). The meeting was presided over by David McAllister, AFET Chair, and addressed by Reinhard Bütikofer, Chair of the EP Delegation for Relations with China, and Gunnar Wiegand, Managing Director for Asia-Pacific of the European External Action Service. Michael GAHLER, Isabel WISELER-LIMA from EPP Group; Evelyne GEBHARDT, Maria ARENA, Isabel SANTOS from S&D Group; Hilde VAUTMANS, Nathalie LOISEAU from RE Group; Salima YENBOU, Markéta GREGOROVÁ from Greens/EFA Group; Hermann TERTSCH from ECR Group; Manu PINEDA from GUE/NGL Group; Anna BONFRISCO from ID Group; Márton GYÖNGYÖSI, an independent member, raised questions about Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, human rights, artificial intelligence ethics, origin of COVID-19, disinformation, the Belt and Road Initiative, and China’s foreign policy.

Ambassador Zhang Ming said, “I have listened carefully to the questions, and I can feel that MEPs recognize the importance of China-EU cooperation and have high expectations for that. I would like to share a few thoughts on some issues between China and the EU that you have mentioned”.

We reject any attempts or forces that undermine the One-China Principle

In answering questions about Hong Kong and Taiwan, Ambassador Zhang Ming pointed out that Hong Kong is part of China and Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs. In order to maintain the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, the Chinese government has enacted the Hong Kong National Security Law. During that process, China has maintained communication with the EU partners. The Chinese government sets great store by Hong Kong’s role in international economy, finance, and China’s development, and attaches great importance to safeguarding the “One Country, Two Systems” principle and to protecting the rights of Hong Kong people. I would like to emphasize that the legal basis for the Chinese government to govern Hong Kong is the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Hong Kong Basic Law. The country that had colonized Hong Kong for more than a century, after Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, no longer exercises sovereignty or jurisdiction over Hong Kong, nor does it have any so-called “responsibility” for Hong Kong. The “One Country, Two Systems” and the relevant principles stipulated in the Constitution and the Basic Law shall be strictly implemented by the Chinese Central Government and the Hong Kong SAR Government. Taiwan is also a sacred and inseparable part of the Chinese territory. National reunification is the aspiration of the 1.4 billion Chinese people, and peaceful reunification is a goal we firmly pursue. “One China” is a fundamental principle endorsed by the United Nations and by the 180 countries which have established diplomatic ties with China. It is also the political basis for the development of friendly relations between China and these countries. We appreciate the EU’s adherence to the one-China principle over the past decades. Yet we should stay on alert against attempts of some forces to separate Taiwan from China. Some countries have official contacts with the Taiwan authorities, which goes against the one-China principle. Some country sells arms in substantial amounts to Taiwan, which is a severe challenge to the one-China principle. China hopes that the international community will work with the Chinese people to firmly uphold the one-China principle and reject any attempts or forces that undermine the one-China principle.

We do not accept any disinformation-based smear campaign against China’s Xinjiang policy

In answering questions about Xinjiang, Ambassador Zhang Ming said that Xinjiang is one of the five ethnic minority autonomous regions in China and it is home to 13 ethnic groups. Xinjiang was once used as a gateway to China by global terrorist forces. A few years ago, due to the infiltration of international terrorist forces, violence and terrorist activities were rampant in Xinjiang and even spread to other provinces and cities in China, including Yunnan and Beijing. While combating violence and terrorism, Xinjiang pays attention to preventive measures and deradicalization. Xinjiang’s efforts in this regard deserve to be recognized and respected. Some people take China’s efforts to step up training and education for building “concentration camps”, and take our policies to promote employment for “forced labor”. This is sheer disinformation that should not be accepted. Xinjiang, like any other provinces in China, and any country in the world, needs security, stability, development, and employment. Ambassador Zhang Ming pointed out that one is free to travel to China from any country, and enjoys all the freedom to travel in China. Now, nearly 2 million visits are made from Europe to China every year. China welcomes friends from the international community to visit Xinjiang, including officials from the UN Human Rights Council. In fact, we have arranged for diplomats from dozens of countries to visit Xinjiang, including EU diplomats. We have extended another invitation to the EU Ambassador to China. Ambassador Zhang Ming emphasized that in China, no one will be punished by law because of his or her occupation, ethnicity, or religious belief. Of course, no criminal can be spared from punishment because of his occupation, ethnicity, and religious belief. Ilham Tohti is a criminal in custody who was convicted by the Chinese judiciary. I have no knowledge about his whereabouts. Yet I can tell you clearly that the relevant rights of criminals serving jail terms in China shall be protected in accordance with law. Ambassador Zhang Ming pointed out that China adheres to multilateralism in all fields, including human rights. China plays an important role in the UN Human Rights Council. We have a structured dialogue with the EU institutions on human rights. The Chinese government puts a premium on the protection of human rights, which is clearly stipulated in the Constitution. China has made great achievements in the field of human rights. As many as 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty and people’s basic living needs have been well met, which is unprecedented in human history. Some people criticize China as a “police state”. If you have been to China, you will be surprised that there are not so many police officers on the street in any city of China. What is more surprising is that unlike some other countries in the world, Chinese police seldom carry weapons. In terms of communication, Internet services in China are well developed, with nearly 1 billion internet users and more than 2,000 newspapers outlets. Take today’s debate as an example. Any interested Chinese citizen could gain full access to the relevant information. In short, the Chinese government is committed to safeguarding citizens’ freedoms and rights, and protecting and promoting human rights.

High-tech exports should follow UN resolutions.

In answering questions about AI ethics, Ambassador Zhang Ming said that the Chinese government attaches great importance to the relevant issues and has made positive efforts in this regard. The EU has rich experience in this area, and we are keen to work with other global partners including the EU. Some MEPs said that China’s high-tech exports to certain countries are intended for the so-called “massive surveillance”. What I want to say is that China adheres to multilateralism. When it comes to countries to which the United Nations prohibits the export of the relevant technologies, we act in strict accordance with the UN resolutions. The economic and trade cooperation not prohibited by the United Nations should proceed normally. When answering questions about data protection, Ambassador Zhang Ming said that the digital industry is showing vitality, and the international community attaches great importance to this field and has invested a lot. At the same time, data security is a matter of common concern for everyone, including China and the EU. We believe that this problem can only be addressed through the joint efforts of the international community rather than through discrediting, decoupling or other means.

Solidarity and cooperation are the only effective weapon to fight the pandemic.

In answering questions about the source of COVID-19, Ambassador Zhang Ming said that some MEPs just recognized the value of China-EU cooperation in fighting the pandemic. In fact, solidarity and cooperation are the only effective weapons against the virus. Some MEPs care about the source of COVID-19. This is a serious matter of science. It is up to scientists to find the answer. It is not appropriate for politicians or diplomats to prejudge the conclusions. Like the EU, China maintains close communication and cooperation with the WHO. Recently, after consultations between the two sides, WHO experts went to China to have in-depth exchanges with Chinese experts on issues related to COVID-19. According to the 73rd World Health Assembly Resolution, experts from both sides have formulated the Chinese part of the global scientific cooperation plan for tracing the source of the virus. However, we are firmly opposed to any investigation based on presumption of guilt, and hope that the international community will remain vigilant against that. Humans have been taught bitter lessons in linking a pandemic with a certain country or ethnic group. Such lessons should not be repeated.

We value everyone’s life.

In answering questions about disinformation, Ambassador Zhang Ming said that the Communist Party of China is the ruling party in China and its top priority is to serve the people. In fighting the pandemic, the Chinese government sticks to the golden principle of putting people and life first. The Chinese government rallied people across the country to contain the virus. This demonstrates how much value we put on every individual and every life.

The China-Europe Railway Express facilitates the transport of medical supplies in Europe and Asia

Ambassador Zhang Ming said that some MEPs mentioned that quite a few European countries actively participate in the Belt and Road Initiative. This initiative was proposed by China, but it is not exclusively owned by China. It calls for the joint contribution of the wider international community and delivers benefits to countries around the world. Regarding the China-Europe Railway Express, I have heard some doubts and criticisms in recent years. Yet after the outbreak of COVID-19, it is precisely the China-Europe Railway Express that has greatly facilitated the transport of medical supplies across Europe and Asia.

Do you think I am a wolf or a panda?

In answering questions about China’s diplomacy, Ambassador Zhang Ming pointed out that since the founding of the People’s Republic of China over 70 years ago, China has established a tradition for its diplomacy, which is friendly and flexible while being firm in upholding principles. We value frankness, justice and rationality. As some MEPs rightly pointed out, China is a big country with a time-honored civilization. China’s diplomacy is rooted in its traditional culture. There has been quite some rhetoric about the so-called “wolf warrior” diplomacy. I do not know whether you see me as a wolf or as a panda. Certainly, for any country, it is the duty of its diplomats to unswervingly safeguard their country’s sovereignty, security and development interests. China is no exception.

Facts and figures tell the truth about China

Ambassador Zhang Ming said he was surprised by what some MEPs have said about China. It only takes 11-hour flight from Brussels to Beijing, but some MEPs have too little knowledge about China. Ambassador Zhang Ming pointed out that the Chinese people enjoy happiness and freedom in China. Some MEPs said they got some impression about China through media. I think that people in public services should make assessment based on facts and figures, not impression. According to the 2020 Trust Barometer released by Edelman this May, 95% of Chinese respondents have trust in the Chinese government, which makes China rank first among the countries surveyed. This is an investigation by an American company, not the so-called propaganda. This July, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School released a report entitled Understanding CCP Resilience: Surveying Chinese Public Opinion through Time. The report reveals that the satisfaction of the Chinese people with the government has improved across the board since 2003. From 2003 to 2016, the Chinese people’s satisfaction with governments at all levels increased, reaching 93.1%. The China Data Lab of the University of California recently released an online survey report, which pointed out that as of this May, the Chinese people’s trust in the government had risen to 8.87, out of the total score of 10. And 83% of the interviewees agreed or strongly agreed that they “would prefer to live under the Chinese political system”. I hope such information could give you a more accurate impression about China.

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