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Chinese Ambassador to India H.E. Sun Weidong Gave Interview to Press Trust of India on Xinjiang, Hong Kong & China-India Relations
2019/12/16

On December 11th, 2019, Chinese Ambassador to India H.E. Sun Weidong gave interview to Press Trust of India (PTI), sharing facts and China's position on Xinjiang and Hong Kong related issues and his views on China-India relations. The full text of the interview is as follows:

On Xinjiang Related Questions

Q: As you know, recently the Indian media have paid much attention to issues related to Xinjiang, but actually the Indian society still know little about Xinjiang. So could you please enlighten us what kind of place Xinjiang is? What are the Xinjiang related issues about?

A: China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region enjoys vast land, magnificent scenery, rich resources and diverse cultures, and its people are talented dancers and singers full of passion. Xinjiang is a wonderful place.

Xinjiang is now in its best period of development in history. Xinjiang has seized the opportunity to accelerate its development and become a gateway for China to open up on its western frontier. Since 2012, Xinjiang's GDP has been growing at an average annual rate of 8.5%, and per capita disposable income of urban and rural residents there has increased by 8.4% and 8.2% respectively. In 2018, Xinjiang received 150 million domestic and overseas tourists, and over 200 million in the first 10 months of this year. Since 2014, more than 2.38 million people have been lifted out of poverty in Xinjiang, which is an unprecedented change in history.

Xinjiang has long been a region where different religions coexist and converge. The people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang enjoy freedom of religious belief, the right to use their own spoken and written languages and to practice their own cultural traditions. The number of mosques in Xinjiang has increased from more than 2,000 in the early years of the reform and opening-up to 24,400 today, with an average of one mosque for every 530 Muslims, and the clerical staff has increased from 3,000 to over 29,000.

Xinjiang was also a victim of terrorism. Since the 1990s, ethnic separatists, religious extremists and violent terrorists at home and abroad have spread extremist ideas, advocated such heresies as "killing and martyrdom leads to paradise" and instigated violent and terrorist activities. From 1990 to the end of 2016, these forces committed thousands of violent and terrorist cases in Xinjiang and other places, resulting in the loss of numerous innocent lives and the death of hundreds of public security officers, which greatly jeopardized the lives and property of people of all ethnic groups. The "July 5 Incident" in Xinjiang in 2009, which shocked the world, left 197 people dead and more than 1,700 injured. These violent terrorist acts are inhuman, shocking and heinous. The bloody facts prove that if extremism is not eliminated, it's impossible to end violent terrorist activities. The Xinjiang related issues are not about religion, ethnic groups or human rights, but about fighting violence, terrorism and separatism.

Q: According to western media reports, the Chinese government has set up quite some "Detention Centers" in Xinjiang, and large numbers of Muslims have been sent there. We have noted that the Chinese government has denied these allegations and made clarifications. Please brief us on this.

A: There are no so-called "Detention Centers" in Xinjiang. The vocational education and training program conducted in Xinjiang are in line with the law and aims to eliminate the root cause for terrorism and religious extremism. People who have visited the vocational education and training centers all realize that they are open institutions that help trainees break free from extremist ideas and acquire legal and cultural knowledge and vocational skills.

Innocent people are vulnerable to extreme religious ideology mainly because of poverty, backwardness, unemployment, and insecurity in life. Xinjiang has set up vocational education and training centers in order to root out extreme thoughts, enhance awareness for the rule of law, improve vocational skills and create employment opportunities, so that those affected by extreme and violent ideas can return to society and live a normal and happy life.

These training centers maintains that counter-terrorism and de-radicalization should not be linked to specific region, ethnicity or religion. The trainees' freedom of movement, personal dignity, customs, religious belief and other legitimate rights and interests are fully respected and protected. Trainees can take leaves, return home to meet family, and make phone calls at any time. Trainees who have religion can decide by themselves whether to participate in legal religious activities when they return home.

The reasonable needs of trainees in terms of study, life and entertainment are also guaranteed and met to the greatest degree. The training centers are equipped with all living facilities, and all dormitories are uniformly equipped with radio, television and air conditioning. It also provides clinics and facilities for sports and cultural activities. Ethnic cultural shows and performances and sports games are often staged.

The number of trainees joining in the training is changing all the time, since some new trainees enter into it, while others graduate from it. Some foreign media claimed that there are one million to two million trainees in the centers, some maliciously claim that "detention of large numbers of Uygur Muslims" and "human rights violations" occur in Xinjiang, these are nothing but sheer lies.

Q: As you said, these "Detention Centers" are actually education and training centers. However, some media say that trainees of these centers are separated from their families involuntarily, which in turn causes many social problems. What is your response?

A: In terms of preventive counter-terrorism, the vocational education and training centers have made remarkable achievements.

First, there has been a remarkable decrease in violent terrorist incidents in Xinjiang. In the past three years, not a single violent terrorist case has taken place in Xinjiang. Xinjiang now enjoys a good situation of economic development, social stability, ethnic unity and religious harmony. The approaches of training centers are widely supported by 25 million people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.

Second, the overall capabilities and awareness for the rule of law of trainees has been significantly improved. Through a period of education and training, they become aware of what is legal and what is illegal, what things can and cannot be done, and that religious activities must be carried out within the confines of laws and regulations.

Third, the trainees have become able to use the national common language skillfully, master practical skills and improve their employment abilities. At present, the trainees have all finished their courses, found suitable jobs and have a decent income. For many families, as long as one family member is employed, the whole family could be lifted out of poverty. For example, a former trainee named Ayigul of Kashgar Prefecture's Buchu County said she has become a workshop leader with the sewing skills she learned at the center. She makes more than 3,000 Yuan (around 430 USD) every month and her family has been out of poverty.

Fourth, it has provided useful experience and successful examples for the international efforts to combat terrorism and de-radicalization. Since the end of 2018, over 1,000 people including foreign diplomatic envoys to China, representatives of international organizations and news media have visited Xinjiang and witnessed the remarkable achievements made in Xinjiang's preventive counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts. They feel that what they see with their own eyes is completely different from what western media has reported, and that Xinjiang's practices are worth learning from.

Q: According to your introduction, these training centers were established to train specific groups of people to protect them from being radicalized, and thus prevent terrorist acts from happening. But is this practice consistent with relevant international laws and practices?

A: The establishment and operation of vocational education and training centers are reasonable and legal.

First, vocational education and training centers are established in accordance with the law, including the Counter-terrorism Law of the People's Republic of China, the Measures of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Implementing the Counter-terrorism Law of the People's Republic of China, and the Regulations of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on De-radicalization.

Second, This approach is fully in line with the spirit and purpose of the United Nations counter-terrorism initiatives. The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism clearly state that the international community should provide educational opportunities, vocational training resources and economic opportunities for people from violent extremist groups and encourage them to leave the groups.

Third, the idea and practice of preventive counter-terrorism is not China's "innovation". More than 20 countries in the world have also adopted similar compulsory programs for suspects of violent terrorists. The measures of establishing vocational education and training centers in Xinjiang are just more systematic, comprehensive and effective.

Facts have proved that some western media, out of ideological prejudice, always look at China and China's Xinjiang through colored glasses, and maliciously play up the issues related to Xinjiang. This fully exposes their "double standards" on the issue of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization. It even amounts to connivance with terrorism and extremism.

Xinjiang related affairs are purely China's internal affairs. We firmly oppose the interference in China's internal affairs by any force using Xinjiang-related issues. The Western forces' attempts to sow discord among various ethnic groups in China and contain China's growth will never succeed.

As I pointed out in my recent article, Xinjiang's lasting prosperity and stability is the most powerful response to slanders by the West. China welcomes foreigners with an objective and fair mind to visit Xinjiang and truly experience the sublime beauty of Xinjiang basking in social stability and harmony.

On Hong Kong Related Questions:

Q: How do you see overall situation in Hong Kong. What kind of resolution you are looking at.When China will be able to bring the situation to normal in Hong Kong?Is there any possibility of agreeing to the demands of "pro-democracy protesters" in Hong Kong?

A: Hong Kong is an international financial, shipping and trade centre. Over the past 22 years since its return to China, Hong Kong has maintained prosperity and stability. It is widely recognized as the most free economy in the world with renowned business environment and international competitiveness recognized by the international community. The rule of law index of Hong Kong ranks among the top in the world, thanks to the effective implementation of the principles of "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy

Since June this year, the protests in Hong Kong over the extradition bill have downgraded to radical violent crimes. The rioters have severely violated the rule of law and order, undermined Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, and seriously challenged the bottom line of the "one country, two systems" principle. The rioters committed vandalism and arson everywhere in the city, changed the campus into "arsenal", wantonly attacked students, tourists, journalists from China's mainland as well as Hong Kong citizens with different opinions from them, assaulted police officers by bows and arrows, petrol bombs and other deadly weapons, attempted to kill a legislator in public, and even set a citizen on fire just because he disagreed with them. A 70-year-old man was killed when he was hit by stones hurled by rioters. How can it be called "peaceful demonstration" when the rioters' actions have obvious character of terrorism? How can they talk about "democracy", "freedom" and "human rights" when they abuse ordinary people at will, forcibly destroy public facilities and prevent others from going to work and school? Therefore, the biggest risk for Hong Kong is not about democracy or human rights, but brutal violence.

Extreme violence will never be tolerated by any society, and the offenders should be brought to justice. At present, the most urgent task for Hong Kong is to stop violence and chaos, and restore social order. The Central Government of China will continue to firmly support the efforts of Chief Executive Carrie Lam to lead the HKSAR government in lawfully administering Hong Kong, support the Hong Kong police in enforcing law, and support the Hong Kong judiciary organs in punishing violent criminals in accordance with the law.

Q: China has suspended US Navy ships and aircraft to Hong Kong and President Donald Trump has signed the Human Rights and Democracy Act into law. How do you see the US action. Is it trying to corner China politically using the issue?

A: In disregard of China's strong opposition and the great harm inflicted on Hong Kong society caused by violence, the U.S. signed into law the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. This is a blatant violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations, and a bold-faced interference in China's internal affairs, under the pretext of "democracy" and "human rights". The spiral of violence in Hong Kong has plunged the territory into a technical economic recession, led to a surge of unemployment in consumer sector and tourism, and undermined foreign investor confidence in Hong Kong. The real purpose of the U.S. is to destabilize and even bring Hong Kong into ruins. China has taken countermeasures against the US actions. The U.S. should immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, otherwise it will only shoot itself in the foot.

Hong Kong is a part of China. Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs. No one shall underestimate the firm determination of the Chinese government to oppose external interference in Hong Kong's affairs. Nor shall they misjudge China's resolve in implementing the principle of "one country, two systems" and safeguarding China's sovereignty, security and development interests.

Q: Will the US action impact the proposed trade deal between China and the US?

A: China's position on China-US economic and trade issue is consistent and clear. The trade frictions provoked by the US will only harm others without benefiting itself, and eventually harm the interests of the American people. We hope the US side can meet the Chinese side halfway and reach a mutual beneficial and win-win agreement on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. This is in the interest of both countries, and the common expectation of the international community.

Q: Do you think external forces are involved in escalating the situation in Hong Kong?

A: The turmoil in Hong Kong over the past several months and the behaviours of some ill-intentioned external forces in Hong Kong affairs suggest that, what is happening in Hong Kong bears the hallmarks of "color revolution". There is evidence showing that the interference, intervention and instigation of the external forces are hands behind the esclation of Hong Kong's situation today.

Some western politicians and media have whitewashed and glorified the criminal acts of violent extremists by ignoring facts and calling the rioters "peaceful demonstrators" and "pro-democracy protesters", and providing support and protection for them in both covert and overt ways. It has been exposed that diplomats from the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong met with the heads of the so-called "Hong Kong independence" group. Some western media turned a blind eye to the crimes committed by violent extremists such as smashing fires, attacking police and harming innocent people. On the contrary, they blindly pointed the finger at the Hong Kong police for upholding the rule of law and protecting the safety of the citizens. They blamed and criticized the police in virous way and tried to obstruct the police from bringing criminals to justice. The U.S. used the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act to interfere in China's internal affairs and meddle with Hong Kong affairs. It's quite obvious who is behind the chaos in Hong Kong.

Q: How do you see India's position/signal to the situation in Hong Kong?

A: China and India jointly advocated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and opposed interference in other countries' internal affairs. India has a large number of diaspora and enterprises in Hong Kong. It is not only in China's interest, but also in the common interests of all countries including India, to maintain Hong Kong's prosperity and stability and uphold "one country, two systems" policy. I believe that is what our Indian friends with fair and objective attitudes would like to see.

On China-India Relations

Q: What is your overall outlook towards India-China ties and regional security situation including in Kashmir?

A: The positive effects of the second informal summit between Chinese and Indian leaders in Chennai are gradually showing up, and the bilateral relations are enjoying sound and steady development. As the only two major developing countries with a population of over one billion and two important emerging economies, China-India relations transcend the bilateral dimension and assume global and strategic significance. Both China and India have their own dreams of becoming a great nation. China is on track to achieve the "two centenary goals", while India puts forward the vision of building a "new India". From all perspectives, China and India should be good neighbors living in harmony, and good partners that moving forward hand in hand. China hopes to achieve good development for itself and India as well. China and India should see their respective development and growth as important opportunities for each other. The two countries should help each other to accomplish their respective goals and "light up" each other. It will not only inject strong impetus into the respective developments of the two countries, but also add stability and positive energy to the world.

The pursuit of peace, development and cooperation is the trend of our times, as well as the common aspiration of countries and peoples in the region. Without a peaceful and stable environment, development is out of the question. China's position on the Kashmir issue is consistent and clear. I will not repeat it here. China maintains that all parties should resolve differences peacefully through dialogue and avoid any unilateral actions that may complicate the situation. China is willing to work with all parties including India to jointly safeguard regional peace and stability, promote win-win cooperation in the region and make contributions to regional development and security.

Q: The significant outcome of the second informal summit between President Xi and PM Modi included setting up of a new high-level mechanism to boost trade and investment, enhance defence and security cooperation and work on additional confidence building measures. What is the progress in implementation of each of the decisions including setting up the mechanism to boost trade?

A: The Second Informal Summit between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi in Chennai yielded fruitful outcomes, including the establishment of a high-level economic and trade dialogue mechanism at the vice-premier level. It shows that China attaches great importance to the development of China-India economic and trade relations. It is also a positive step taken by China to ease trade imbalance between the two countries and strengthen practical cooperation in trade and investment. Currently, the discussion on the functions and operation of the new mechanism is going on at the working level.

The two leaders also exchanged views on issues such as the boundary question and strengthening defense and security cooperation. The Special Representatives of China and India on the Boundary Question will continue to base on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the Boundary Question reached in 2005, advance the border negotiation process through equal and friendly consultation, and seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution. Prior to this, the two sides will continue to properly handle and manage border related incidents through multi-tiered mechanism, jointly maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas, and continue to promote more confidence-building measures.

The Chinese and Indian armies have also maintained friendly exchanges and cooperations. The "hand in hand" joint exercise between the two armies is going on in India. China is willing to promote defense and security cooperation with India to enhance mutual understanding and trust.

Q: Like other RCEP member countries are you trying to persuade India to join back RCEP?Will you go ahead in signing the RCEP deal without resolving India's concerns?

A: RCEP is an open and inclusive regional free trade agreement led by ASEAN. It is a blueprint for regional economic development drawn up by all parties on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. It is conducive to strengthening and improving regional supply and value chains, and is of great significance to promoting regional economic development, supporting economic globalization and opposing trade protectionism.

Over the past 7 years of negotiations on RCEP, all parties have made great efforts in overcoming many difficulties.It is not easy to eventually conclude the negotiation. The positive progress has been made that the parties have committed in principle to signing the agreement next year, which is a encouraging sign. We understand and respect India's decision on RCEP. RCEP is open, and China is willing to work with all parties, in the spirit of mutual understanding and accommodation, to continue consultations and resolve the concerned issues with India.

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