Nepal was struck by an 8.1 magnitude earthquake on April 25 and suffered from heavy casualties and property damages. Nepal is a friendly neighbor of China, and the Chinese government and people express sympathies to the Nepali government and people for their ordeals. President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and Foreign Minister Wang Yi immediately sent messages of condolences to their Nepali counterparts separately, saying that the Chinese government and people would always stand by the Nepali government and people at this trying time, and that the Chinese side is willing to provide all kinds of disaster relief assistance to Nepal to the best of its capacity. The Foreign Ministry took the lead to establish an emergency response mechanism, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi convened an inter-ministerial emergency coordination meeting. Departments concerned took instant actions to organize disaster relief staff and supplies, make the good use of the "golden 72 hours" and offer emergency disaster relief support to Nepal.
China's International Rescue Team consisting of 62 people arrived in Kathmandu on the morning of April 26 local time. Rescue work was carried out upon their arrival, and one person was successfully rescued in the afternoon the same day. The 58-people medical team sent by the Chinese government arrived in Nepal on the morning of April 27 for treatment and rescue. The Chinese medical team assisting Nepal which contains 17 people also threw themselves into the local rescue work. The rescue team and medical team sent by the Chinese military with a total number of 170 people will set off for Kathmandu today in different batches. The first 186 tons of emergency supplies from the Chinese government, which contain tents, blankets and etc., will be delivered to Nepal on four different flights today and tomorrow. Some provinces, districts, cities, civil groups and individuals from China also reached out to Nepal, with some sending rescue personnel and some donating money and goods.
The Chinese side will try its best to provide Nepal with various kinds of assistance in light of the situation in the earthquake-hit areas and the actual needs of the Nepali side. We believe that under the leadership of the Nepali government and with the tremendous help of the international community, the Nepali government and people will definitely tide over the difficulties and survive the disaster.
The CPC Central Committee and the State Council attach great importance to the security of Chinese citizens in Nepal, and has made instructions to verify the casualties of Chinese citizens and damages suffered by Chinese institutions in Nepal. With the coordination of the Foreign Ministry and the Civil Aviation Administration of China, domestic airlines such as Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Sichuan Airlines dispatched extra flights to pick up Chinese citizens stranded at Kathmandu airport in addition to the 7 Nepal-bound flights every day. The Chinese Embassy in Nepal also sent staff to the airport, coordinating flights and helping passengers board the plane. Up to 8 a.m. today, over a thousand stranded passengers have returned to China on 7 civil flights. Another 8 flights are expected to pick up Chinese citizens in Nepal today.
The earthquake triggered an avalanche in Mount Qomolangma, causing 1 missing, 1 death and 8 injuries to a Chinese mountaineering team on the southern route of the mountain. Thanks to the joint efforts of all parties, all the injured and some of the climbers have been transferred to a safe area and properly settled there, while others are still on their way of evacuation.
The earthquake also left 2 dead and 10 injured in a Chinese company undertaking projects in Nepal. The Foreign Ministry is going all out to coordinate helicopters from the military for the rescue work.
The Center for Consular Assistance and Protection of the Chinese Foreign Ministry has issued a safety warning, advising Chinese citizens not to visit Nepal for the time being. The Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Embassy in Nepal will further check on how Chinese citizens in Nepal are affected and offer all necessary assistance.
Q: How many Chinese citizens are killed by the Nepali earthquake? According to Xinhua's report, the death toll is 4. Has it changed now? There is also media report saying that around 2,000 to 3,000 Chinese citizens are still in Nepal. Can you give us the specific number?
A: The earthquake caused the death of 4 Chinese citizens in Nepal, including 1 tourist, 1 mountaineer on the southern route of Mount Qomolangma and 2 employees of a Chinese company undertaking projects in Nepal. It is known that before the earthquake, there were around 4,000 Chinese tourists in Nepal, including about 1,000 traveling in groups and about 3,000 traveling on their own. We are sending extra flights to Nepal, trying to take back Chinese citizens there as soon as possible. 1,000-odd tourists have now returned to China, and more efforts will be made and resources be mobilized as long as there is a need in this regard.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Embassy in Nepal and the "12308" consular protection hotline of the Foreign Ministry have been answering phone calls from Chinese citizens in Nepal, learning about their situation, clarifying their location, offering assistance and organizing them to return to China at their will.
Q: According to medial report, the presidential election in Kazakhstan was held smoothly, and incumbent President Nazarbayev was re-elected. What is China's comment on this?
A: The presidential election of Kazakhstan was concluded successfully with sitting President Nursultan Nazarbayev being re-elected. President Xi Jinping has sent a message of congratulations to Mr. Nazarbayev.
The Chinese side respects the choice made by the Kazakh people, and supports Kazakhstan in pursuing a development path that suits its national conditions. It is believed that Kazakhstan will maintain political stability and economic development, and play a bigger role in international affairs.
As comprehensive strategic partners, China and Kazakhstan always enjoy a good momentum driving the sound and rapid development of bilateral relations. China stands ready to work with the Kazakh side to implement the various consensus reached by the leadership of the two countries and bring Sino-Kazakh relations to a new level.
Q: The statement to be released by the ASEAN Summit today will voice concerns about China's reclamation in the South China Sea, saying that relevant activities may undermine peace, security and stability in the region. What is China's comment on that?
A: The Chinese side has a clear and long-standing stance on the issue of the South China Sea. We have gone into details on the purposes and functions of the construction work on the islands and reefs of Nansha. What must be stressed is that relevant construction which is reasonable, justified and lawful, is well within China's sovereignty. It does not impact or target any country, and is thus beyond reproach. It is unjustifiable for a few countries to hype up this issue on relevant ASEAN conference. The Chinese side is firmly opposed to a few countries' oblique charges against China as well as the pursuit of their private ends at the expense of the overall China-ASEAN relations.
China is a staunch force upholding regional peace and stability. We will continue to support and advocate that the South China Sea issue be addressed with the "dual-track" approach. It is hoped that relevant countries will meet China halfway to jointly safeguard regional peace and stability as well as the overall interests of China-ASEAN relations.
Q: Some people say that the Chinese government deliberately puts off the formulation of a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, hoping to gain a firm foothold in the South China Sea before making any further plan. What is your response?
A: I have elaborated on China's position concerning the relevant issue. I'd like to underscore that China's construction on islands and reefs of Nansha is mainly for civilian purposes, which will be conducive to safeguarding the safety of navigation, protecting the ecological environment and ensuring the safety of fishing activities in the South China Sea. Regional countries will benefit from these functions once the construction work is done. All parties concerned have held productive negotiations and gained positive outcomes on the formulation of the COC under the framework of implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). The Chinese side will make positive efforts to implement the DOC together with ASEAN countries, step up negotiations on the COC, deepen and expand pragmatic cooperation and strive to reach the COC based on consent at an early date. As I just pointed out, the Chinese side is willing to work in tandem with countries concerned to maintain the overall interests of China-ASEAN relations and jointly safeguard peace and stability of the South China Sea.