Q: according to Chinas internal documents disclosed by the New York Times, China has set up a re education camp in Xinjiang. Whats your comment?
Ambassador Cong: first of all, I would like to emphasize that Xinjiang affairs are purely internal affairs of China. It is totally wrong for some western media to stigmatize Xinjiang Vocational and technical education and training center as the Chinese governments crackdown on Muslims and Uighurs. The purpose of setting up education and training centers in Xinjiang is to help those suffering from violent and terrorist extreme thoughts brainwash to get rid of the influence of extreme thoughts and terrorism and improve their professional skills, rather than what is called re education camp. The teaching and training center has set up a teaching course with the main content of learning the national common language, legal knowledge, professional skills and de extreme. For three years in a row, there has been no violent terrorist incident in Xinjiang, and the basic human rights of citizens have been guaranteed to the maximum extent.
Q: about the training center, how do you distinguish between educational curriculum and religious extremism? How to balance the two?
Ambassador Cong: from 1990 to the end of 2016, thousands of violent terrorist incidents occurred in Xinjiang, causing a large number of innocent casualties and property losses. In the face of such a severe situation, Xinjiang will crack down on violent terrorist crimes in accordance with the law, so as to protect citizens basic human rights from terrorism and Extremism to the maximum extent. This is the reason why the education and training center set up some courses to eradicate religious extremism. At the same time, the training center has also set up special courses to improve the vocational skills of the students and fully respect and protect the freedom of religious belief of the students.
Q: do you mean religious extremism is a serious security threat in Xinjiang?
Ambassador Cong: Yes. As I just said, from 1990 to the end of 2016, there were thousands of violent terrorist incidents in Xinjiang, causing a large number of innocent casualties and property losses. For any responsible government, such events will not be repeated. Similarly, Chinas anti-terrorism and de extreme struggle in Xinjiang is also Chinas contribution to the cause of international anti-terrorism. Since the end of last year, thousands of foreign envoys, officials of international organizations and media people have visited Xinjiang successively, and they have witnessed the remarkable achievements of Xinjiangs preventive anti-terrorism and de extreme measures. More than 60 countries have voiced their support for Chinas Xinjiang policy at the general assembly, more than 30 of which are Muslim countries.
Q: will China take further opening measures to allow more international observers, journalists and diplomats to visit Xinjiang?
Ambassador Cong: China welcomes people with objective and just thinking to visit Xinjiang. In 2018, 2.4 million foreign tourists visited Xinjiang, a year-on-year increase of 10.78%. This figure is enough to illustrate the problem. There are 24400 mosques in Xinjiang, with an average of one mosque per 530 Muslims, a higher proportion than in many Muslim countries. China has always been open to the outside world. As I pointed out earlier, since the end of last year, thousands of foreign envoys, officials of international organizations and media personages have visited Xinjiang successively. Of course, we also require visitors to Xinjiang to abide by Chinese laws and regulations. This is a common practice by all governments.
Q: do you think the government regards human rights as the priority over security when it comes to Xinjiang?
A: as I said just now, China has never violated the human rights of its citizens, but has opposed terrorism. Without security initiatives, there can be no protection of human rights. If the safety of peoples lives cannot be guaranteed, how can we talk about the protection of human rights? This is what is happening in Xinjiang. From 1990 to the end of 2016, there were thousands of violent terrorist incidents in Xinjiang, but now, the local people live a safer and happier life.
Q: Ms. Meng Wanzhou has been arrested for a year. A few days ago, she said in an open letter that the year had experienced fear and pain, suffering and struggle. Whats your comment on this?
Ambassador Cong: with regard to the mengwanzhou incident, China has always stressed that this is not a purely judicial case, but a serious political incident concocted by the United States. At the request of the US side, Canada abused the bilateral extradition treaty between Canada and the US, arbitrarily detained Ms. Meng and seriously violated the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens, which is also the reason why China Canada relations are facing serious difficulties. China firmly opposes the Canadian approach. We ask the Canadian side to release Ms. Meng as soon as possible so that she can return to China safely.
Q: but interestingly, Ms. Meng also mentioned the kindness of the Canadian people in her open letter.
Ambassador Cong: but the key to the problem is that the Canadian government has made serious mistakes in this incident. The Canadian sides practice has seriously violated the legitimate rights and interests of Ms. Meng, which has also led to the current difficult situation in bilateral relations. We call on Canada to reflect deeply on its mistakes and take practical actions to solve them.
Reporter: do you think the Chinese community in Canada generally supports Ms. Meng?
Ambassador Cong: no matter what I read in the newspaper or what I learned from my contacts with Canadian communities, I think there is a great consensus in the Canadian Chinese community on the Bangladesh evening boat incident. They all believe that Ms. Meng should be released as soon as possible and returned to China safely.
Q: how long will it take for the case of two Canadian citizens to enter the judicial proceedings in China?
Ambassador Cong: about two Canadian citizens, Kang Mingkai and Michael, who were arrested by the competent Chinese authorities according to law on suspicion of engaging in activities endangering Chinas national security. Chinese judicial organs handle cases independently according to law.
Q: but they have been arrested for almost a year. Does China have a specific time schedule for the above-mentioned cases to enter the judicial proceedings?
Ambassador Cong: Chinese judicial organs handle cases independently according to law. In fact, the legal rights of the two Canadian citizens have been guaranteed according to law. If you are interested in Chinas judicial system, you can learn more from relevant Chinese departments.
Q: is China open to allowing family members and lawyers of two Canadian citizens to visit them or increasing the number of consular visits by Canadian officials?
Ambassador Cong: with regard to consular visits, China has strictly fulfilled its obligations under the China Canada consular agreement. As far as I know, Canadas new ambassador to China has also made consular visits to two Canadian citizens. I would like to emphasize once again that the legitimate rights of the two Canadian citizens have been guaranteed in accordance with the law.
Q: a few days ago, Richard Lee, a former Chinese MP from British Columbia, publicly said that he was improperly detained by China in 2015, claiming that China intervened in the political system. Whats your comment on this?
Ambassador Cong: China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, which has never changed. In fact, some other countries are trying to interfere in Chinas internal affairs, such as the Hong Kong issue. Some western countries beautify the violent crimes in Hong Kong as nonviolent protest, and support violent demonstrators. At present, the most urgent task for Hong Kong is to stop violence, control chaos and restore order. For foreigners who travel to China, if they are not suspected of violating Chinese laws and regulations, they do not have to worry about their own security.
Q: are you worried that the Xinjiang related issues will have a negative impact on Chinas international image?
Ambassador Cong: Chinas counter-terrorism and de radicalization campaign in Xinjiang is a preventive counter-terrorism measure, which is also a common practice adopted by many other countries in the world. As I pointed out earlier, more than 60 countries have voiced their support for Chinas Xinjiang policy at the general assembly, which fully shows that the international community has its own opinions on Xinjiangs development.
Q: you have been in office for two months. Do you have anything else to say to the Canadian government and people?
Ambassador Cong: China attaches great importance to developing China Canada relations. I hope to have extensive contacts with Canadian communities and listen to their suggestions on developing China Canada relations. Looking back on the 50 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Canada, a very important principle for the development of China Canada relations is mutual respect and equality. Thats what China says and does. We hope that Canada will also abide by this principle and take practical actions to create conditions for pushing bilateral relations back on the right track.
Source: Yu changzong, editor in charge of the Embassy of the peoples Republic of China in Canada