AFP: Twitter today said it removed tens of thousands of state-linked accounts used by China to spread disinformation or praise China’s response. As Chinese diplomats are becoming regular users of Twitter, I wonder what’s your comment on that?
Hua Chunying: I’m not sure what is the basis of Twitter’s decision, but I would say that to equate plaudits for China’s epidemic response with disinformation is clearly untenable, unless we redefine “disinformation”. It is generally understood that disinformation is false, untrue, or even maliciously fabricated lies and rumors. However, China’s efforts to combat COVID-19 and the results it achieved are real and witnessed by all. Recently, a white paper titled “Fighting COVID-19: China in Action” issued by the Information Office of the State Council unequivocally presents how the Chinese people have fought in unity against COVID-19 by providing a clear timeline and hard facts.
At the same time, as you can see, since the outbreak of the pandemic, some people and forces in the international community have been almost crazy and hysterical in slandering and badmouthing China with rumors. You must have known that as exposed by the Politico website, the US National Republican Senatorial Committee has sent campaigns a 57-page memo advising GOP candidates to address the coronavirus crisis by “aggressively attacking China”. A few days ago, the same news website reported that in late March, 2.6 million tweets related to coronavirus were retweeted 25.5 million times within 10 days, and a lot of them spread rumors like “the coronavirus was a bioweapon created in China”. According to the report, an analysis of these Twitter accounts found that many of them are linked to supporters of the GOP and the right wing in the US, and had the hallmarks of “bots”.
If Twitter believes that those tweets praising China’s anti-epidemic efforts are “disinformation” and the accounts should be shut down, I wonder what they will do with the real disinformation which has undeniably smeared China with malicious intentions? If those who create and spread such disinformation can be allowed to have their way and do everything in their power, then this is the perfect example of ideological prejudice, bias against China, blatant double standards, and the behavior to confuse right and wrong. What should be shut down is precisely the accounts that attack and smear China in an organized and coordinated manner.
Let me reiterate that China is the biggest victim of disinformation. China always opposes the fabrication and dissemination of disinformation. The United Nations and WHO have repeatedly called on all countries to strengthen solidarity and cooperation to combat disinformation. We call on the international community to enhance solidarity and coordination, jointly reject disinformation, so that those political viruses such as rumors and slanders and the perpetrators and manipulators behind the scene will have no place to hide.
As for the more frequent use of Twitter by Chinese diplomats, I think it’s nothing strange. This is an era of new media. Just as many foreign diplomats and journalists in China use WeChat and Weibo, Chinese diplomats have taken Twitter as a channel and platform to communicate with people in other countries.
Meanwhile, some foreign media and social platforms are fraught with lies and rumors against China. In the dark and ugly world of disinformation, it is necessary for some people, including Chinese diplomats, to speak in a truthful, objective and impartial manner, like striking a match in the dark night to bring some light. Anyone who is not playing deaf and dumb will be able to see the truth.
South China Morning Post: US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on June 11 that in response to China’s national security legislation for Hong Kong, the US could restrict capital flows through the city. What is your comment? Will China consider taking countermeasures?
Hua Chunying: The NPC’s decision to establish a legal framework and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security in the HKSAR is meant to plug the loopholes the HKSAR faces in national security legislation and uphold stability and prosperity for the HKSAR. This is simply China’s internal affair. No external force, including the US, has any right to interfere. China is firmly determined in opposing foreign interference in Hong Kong affairs. The US violated international law and basic norms governing international relations when it waded into the matter of national security legislation for Hong Kong.
There are 85,000 American citizens living in Hong Kong and over 1,300 American companies operating in Hong Kong. Almost all major American financial enterprises operate in the HKSAR. For many years the US has enormous trade surplus with Hong Kong. It is fair to say that the US has profound and immediate interests in Hong Kong. If the US takes any action to hurt Hong Kong’s interests, its action will backfire to the detriment of its own interests.
South China Morning Post: US Department of Justice said that Wang Xin, a Chinese citizen and an army officer, is arrested for visa fraud and trying to acquire lab data in the US. Can you confirm that and offer your comments?
Hua Chunying: For a while we have witnessed a lot of erroneous words and deeds from the US side in bilateral people-to-people exchange. Recently many Chinese citizens were questioned for a long time by American law enforcement officials while leaving the US, and the digital devices they carried were also examined. For some people, all their digital devices were even wantonly seized. According to media reports, the US government also claims that it will revoke thousands of Chinese students’ visas.
The US act of holding a Chinese scholar returning to China due to so-called military background is in serious violation of the lawful rights of the Chinese national studying in the US and constitutes blatant political persecution. Emphasis on “army officer” is just another move for the US to demonize the Chinese national and pin labels on him. As far as I know, Wang Xin does research in the field of cardiovascular diseases. I don’t see how that could ever threaten US national interest or security.
On the reason of the arrest, well, I think anyone who has read The American Trap by former Alstrom executive Frédéric Pierucci or has been observing US behaviors will understand that the US always selectively adopts or rejects international law. The law is just an excuse and tool for the US to oppress foreign institutions and personnel. We urge the US to acknowledge and immediately correct this serious mistake, stop imposing unwarranted restrictions and oppression under various pretexts on Chinese nationals studying in the US, and protect their legitimate and lawful rights.
South China Morning Post: As we understand, students at Harbin Institute of Technology and Harbin Engineering University could no longer access MATLAB since last week, an American computer program for research. It’s because the two universities are included in the Entity List by the US. Do you have any comment on that? Are you concerned that more Chinese colleges’ access to American software will be banned because they are enlisted?
Hua Chunying: I’m not aware of the details. For some time the US has been saying and doing the wrong things, especially imposing sanctions, in our normal exchange and cooperation. Its behaviors reflect deep-rooted Cold-War mindset and a pattern of escalating political oppression on China. We believe US unilateral sanctions and blatant political oppression are not in line with the trend of the times, and they will not impede China’s progress and development. The US unilateral sanctions and oppression will only hurt its own interests in the end, a fact that we hope US policy makers can realize.
Global Times: On June 8, the official account of US diplomatic missions in China retweeted Secretary Pompeo’s comments, saying that the US and over 120 countries support an inquiry into the origins of the virus, and that though China co-sponsors the WHA resolution, it is still acting aggressively when it comes to the evaluation. However, the US is not among the co-sponsors of “COVID-19 Response”, the resolution adopted in May at the WHA. It also has reservations over the resolution. Do you have any comment?
Hua Chunying: On May 19, the 73rd World Health Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution on COVID-19 response. The resolution explicitly endorses and supports the key leadership of WHO and calls on Member States to prevent discrimination and stigmatization, combat misinformation and disinformation, strengthen cooperation in the development of diagnostic tools, treatments, drugs, vaccines and the zoonotic source of the virus, and to assess WHO’s responses at an appropriate time.
Together with over 140 countries, China is a co-sponsor of this draft resolution. But the US and a few others did not co-sponsor it. In its remarks at the assembly, the US made reservations about the content of the resolution, and now it is being so keen, which only demonstrates its double standards of making good use of multilateral institutions and international consensus when suitable and abandoning them when they are not.
China will continue working with most countries in the international community to firmly support the work of WHO. China has always been open to the international scientific community carrying out research collaboration to trace the origin of the virus. We support research on a global scale led by WHO and made by scientists and medical experts based on the principle of professionalism, integrity and constructiveness, in order to enrich mankind’s scientific knowledge of this kind of virus, better respond to major infectious diseases in the future, and improve the global public health system and governance capacity.
Given that the US is the country most seriously hit by COVID-19 at the moment, for the sake of its own people and the world’s public health security, we call on the US side to strengthen cooperation with the WHO, and invite or accept WHO experts to visit the US at an appropriate time.