18 Feb 2020

No need for travel restrictions - China's ambassador to NZ

2:32 pm on 18 February 2020

The bilateral relationship between China and New Zealand is under pressure from the government's virus-related travel and trade restrictions and they should be lifted, China's ambassador to New Zealand says.

China's ambassador to New Zealand, Wu Xi.

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

At a media conference at the Chinese Embassy in Wellington this morning, Wu Xi noted the World Health Organisation has said there is no need for such restrictions.

Trade has stalled and Chinese students are unable to start university here and it's time New Zealand reconsidered its position, she said.

"Recommendations from the WHO are clear cut and it has been reiterated time and again."

Wu added that cases of coronavirus are declining, which shows the Chinese government has the virus under control.

She also praised the "outstanding leadership" shown by President Xi Jinping in the wake of the crisis and played a number of video-clips from Chinese media positively describing the prevention and control efforts underway.

Wu contrasted the response of the current situation to the 2009 H1-N1 influenza pandemic, which the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention estimates killed between 150,000 and 575,000 people worldwide during its first year.

"The actions taken by the government were not to impose a travel limit," Wu said.

"In a lesser situation, with a lesser risk, why should tougher measures be imposed in this case?"

She said the restrictions were also placing stress on international students.

Forty percent of international Chinese students are still overseas waiting for the travel ban to lift.

Students that have arrived in New Zealand are facing xenophobia due to misinformation circulating here and those students still overseas feel uncertain about their schooling futures, she said.

"That's why we are keeping in very close touch with the universities and schools to ensure their rights and interests are not impeded by this limit."

She said New Zealand and China have a solid foundation to their bilateral relationship and she hopes that will mean the nations find a "proper way to prevent and control this epidemic".

Xu ended her section on the bilateral relationship by quoting a saying: "when in prosperity friends know us, and when in adversity we know our friends".

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