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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang's Regular Press Conference on March 10, 2014

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang held a press conference on March 10, 2014.

Qin Gang started the press conference with the following announcement:

At the invitation of Vice President Li Yuanchao, the Crown Prince, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of Saudi Arabia, Salman Bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud will pay an official visit to China from March 13 to 16.

Q: Does the Chinese government want to play a leading role in search, rescue and investigation into the missing flight of Malaysia Airlines? Is the Chinese side dissatisfied with the response by the Malaysian government?

A: The Chinese Communist Party and government are highly concerned about the Malaysia Airlines flight which has gone missing. The whole country is praying for the safety of all passengers on board the plane. Relevant Chinese departments are conducting search and rescue with all their strength. We are also in close communication with countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam so as to find out the cause of the incident and the whereabouts of the flight as soon as possible.

Since it is the flight of Malaysia Airlines that has gone missing, the Malaysian side ought to be mainly responsible for the search, rescue and investigation relating to the incident. However, passengers of many nationalities were on board and over 150 were Chinese, therefore it is a matter of course for the Chinese government to do all it can to search the missing flight in a highly responsible attitude. The Chinese government also has the responsibility to require and urge the Malaysian side to step up efforts in search and speed up investigation, and provide China with accurate information at any time. We have also called on the Malaysian side to console families of the passengers and properly deal with follow-up matters.

Over the past two days since the incident took place, we have been in close communication and coordination with the Malaysian side. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had a telephone conversation with Premier Li Keqiang on the afternoon of March 8, and Malaysian Foreign Minister Dato' Sri Anifah talked with Foreign Minister Wang Yi over the phone on March 9. The Malaysian side is deeply saddened by the incident. They conveyed profound sympathy to the Chinese side and families of the Chinese passengers in particular. The Malaysian side said that they are fully engaged in search and rescue, endeavoring to carry out investigation as soon as possible and inform China of the results. The Malaysian side has also sent a working group to China to establish contact with families of the Chinese passengers, give an explanation of the incident and release information.

We can sense over the past few days that the Malaysian side attaches high importance to the incident and is trying its best with a sincere attitude. But two days have passed, we hope that Malaysian side can fully understand the anxiety of the Chinese side and families of the Chinese passengers in particular, speed up investigation, step up the efforts for search and rescue and give an answer to the Chinese side and families of the Chinese passengers as soon as possible.

Q: The missing flight of Malaysia Airlines has drawn high attention from around the world. Does the Chinese side have any update for us? What has China done for emergency management?

A: This is a serious incident as it concerns human life which is of paramount importance. The Chinese Communist Party and government as well as the Chinese people are extremely concerned and worried about the safety of passengers on board the plane after learning about the incident. We have spent the past two days in deep worry and buring anxiety. As you may have learnt, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, who are highly concerned about the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, have given important instructions, directing the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Chinese diplomatic and consular missions abroad and other departments concerned to act in close coordination and stay in communication with relevant countries for search and rescue, emergency management and other follow-up work.

President Xi Jinping talked on the phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday and US President Barack Obama today. Both the two leaders mentioned the missing flight of Malaysia Airlines. President Xi Jinping said that the Chinese government is highly concerned about the incident and is doing all it can for search and rescue without giving up any chance to save lives.

In Premier Li Keqiang's telephone conversation with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib, he expressed the high attention and concern of the Chinese government and called on the Malaysian side to step up rescue efforts, initiate all-out investigation and console families of the passengers.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, diplomatic and consular missions abroad and relevant departments, including the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Public Security and the military have all taken immediate actions and devoted themselves into urgent search and rescue. Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired two inter-ministerial meeting on the protection of overseas Chinese citizens and institutions in the past two days. The meetings summed up and analysed various information in a timely fashion and worked on what should be done going forward. The Chinese Foreign Ministry and diplomatic and consular mission abroad have all activated emergency mechanisms. Foreign Minister Wang Yi had telephone conversations respectively with his Malaysian and Vietnamese counterparts, calling on the Malaysian side to carry on with search and rescue with all its strength and the Vietnamese side to offer vigorous support and cooperation. The Center for Consular Protection and Assistance of the Chinese Foreign Ministry and Chinese diplomatic and consular missions in countries concerned have opened a 24-hour hot line to take questions from families of the passengers, the general public and the media.

The joint working group sent by the Chinese government has left for Malaysia this morning. The working group is composed of officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Transport and the Civil Aviation Administration of China. It is expected to arrive in Malaysia later today. Upon arrival, it will assist the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia and urge the Malaysian side to step up search and rescue efforts, find out the cause of the incident as soon as possible and make preparations for trips to Malaysia by families of the Chinese passengers. We will release the latest information to the public in a timely fashion.

According to what we have learnt, Chinese naval vessels, coast guard vessels, maritime law enforcement vessels, salvage boats and cargo ships have arrived or are on their way to possible waters where the plane was believed to disappear for search and rescue. They will act in close communication and coordination with ships from other countries. We have also asked passing boats to offer help.

At the current stage, search and rescue is the most pressing task that should be put on top of everything. We are racing with time and life.

Q: Comments say that the Malaysian side should speed up in dealing with the incident. Is there anything that China wants Malaysia to do better?

A: The Chinese government and public, not to mention families of the passengers on board are in great anxiety. I think that is understandable. We are doing all that we can to mobilize and coordinate all kinds of resources and efforts for search and rescue. We have been asking and urging the Malaysian side to reinforce search and rescue and find out the cause as soon as possible. We are in close contact and communication with the Malaysian side and all relevant countries.

Q: It is reported that a working group of the Ministry of Public Security has left for Malaysia to investigate the misuse of two stolen passports. Please give us more details. Does that suggest that the passports were used by Chinese citizens? Is there any case of Chinese citizen's passport being misused in this incident?

A: The Chinese Ministry of Public Security learnt from the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) that there were indeed two passengers who boarded the plane with others' passports. Upon consultation with the Malaysian side, the Ministry of Public Security has sent a working group to Malaysia to carry out investigation together with the Malaysian side. The information has been released by the Ministry. We are not able to confirm who have used the stolen passports at the moment.

With regard to whether Chinese citizens' passports have been misused in this incident, no such thing has happened according to the entry-exit administration authorities under the Ministry of Public Security. The media report which claimed that a Chinese passport has been misused, is a misunderstanding caused by the mistaken passport number provided by Malaysia Airlines.

Q: Will China strengthen security at airports and other places?

A: The Chinese government always puts high importance on the flight safety of civil aircrafts and gives top priority to the safety of passengers. China will continue to make joint efforts with relevant countries and regions and take effective measures to strengthen security check so as to ensure the safety of flights and passengers.

Q: The Malaysian chief investigator said that they could not rule out the possibility of hijacking. There are also some speculations saying that it might be a terrorist attack. Does the Chinese government have any ground to believe that it is a result of hijacking or terrorist attack?

A: The investigation is still underway. It is still too early to jump into any conclusion.

There have been hearsay and speculations from various channels over these days, which reflects public concern about the incident. There is so much information out there, making people confused and lost. We call on the public to stay cool-headed and do not spread any unconfirmed information based on the sense of responsibility for the society and families of the passengers in particular. We believe that the government will release authoritative information in a timely fashion, and we have also called on the Malaysian side to do the same.

Q: The Philippines sent ships to the Ren'ai Reef of the Nansha Islands for construction work, and China Coast Guard vessels carried out law enforcement operation on the spot. Please confirm that. What is China's comment?

A: In accordance with the China Coast Guard, its vessels which were on routine patrol in waters off the Ren'ai Reef on March 9 spotted two Philippine-flagged ships. These ships which were then approaching the Ren'ai Reef, were loaded with construction materials. The China Coast Guard vessels spoke through amplifier with these two ships, and the Philippine ships left the waters off the Ren'ai Reef on the very afternoon.

It is known to all that China has sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their surrounding waters, including the Ren'ai Reef. A Philippine ship illegally "grounded" on China's Ren'ai Reef in 1999, with the excuse of "malfunction". Since then, China has been demanding the Philippines to tow away the ship. However, the Philippine side refuses to go under the pretext of "technical reasons". It now attempts to carry out construction work on the Ren'ai Reef. The behaviour of the Philippine side has infringed upon China's territorial sovereignty and blatantly violated the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed by China and ASEAN countries. China cannot but make necessary response.

Q: Families of some passengers have expressed dissatisfaction with Malaysia Airlines' evasion of responsibility, calling on the Chinese government to negotiate with them. How do you respond?

A: We pray for the safety of all passengers on board and our hearts go out to their families. Their anxiety and disturbance are totally understandable. That is why the Chinese government and leaders have given instructions, directing all departments concerned to spare no efforts for search and rescue and console families of the passengers. That is why we have been requiring and urging the Malaysian side for days to waste no time in search and rescue.

The search and rescue efforts are still ongoing. We fully understand the feelings of families of the passengers and have tried our best to make proper arrangements for them. Officials of the Chinese Foreign Ministry have visited them in the hotel where they stay to listen to their requirements and brief them on what we have done. We will continue to do so and urge the Malaysian side to step up efforts for search and rescue and follow-up work.

The Beijing Municipal government has also done a lot in providing services and logistical support for families of the passengers.

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