The "Axios on HBO" interview with China's ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai had tense moments.

What they're saying: At one point, during an exchange about allegations of torture from former Muslim detainees in Xinjiang camps, Cui said it would not be productive to keep discussing such matters. At another point, he accused Axios of insulting the Chinese Communist Party and equated the Party with the Chinese people.

  • Amid extended questioning over the timeline of Chinese authorities suppressing doctors and censoring crucial public health information that could have saved lives, Cui said, "What happened to Dr. Li and his colleagues now is under investigation by the central government."
  • Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor, who was reprimanded for sounding the alarm on the potential of a deadly coronavirus outbreak, has been exonerated, per Politico.

On the expulsion of American journalists from China:

  • "Axios on HBO": "I read that column in the Wall Street Journal and it didn't seem to me that there was anything that would violate a law in it. It was really criticizing...
  • Cui: "That article was very insulting on the entire Chinese nation.
  • "Axios on HBO": "I'm sure people will disagree, Mr. Ambassador. ... The question is whether it's a good idea to expel reporters because of something you disagree with."
  • Cui: "Maybe the first question you have to ask, whether it's a good idea to write such an article at all."

On the disappearances of Chinese citizen journalists who were reporting on the coronavirus from inside Wuhan:

  • "Axios on HBO": "Where is the citizen journalist Chen Qiushi? He was doing some of the early videos from inside Wuhan that were showing the response to the virus and the chaos that was happening inside Wuhan."
  • Cui: "I have not heard of this person."
  • "Axios on HBO": "Really? Chen Qiushi?"
  • Cui: "Why not?"
  • "Axios on HBO": "Well you were asked about him on "Face the Nation" on February 9."
  • Cui: "No, I was not asked about any particular journalist."
  • "Axios on HBO": "You were. ... I watched the clip. Margaret Brennan named Chen Qiushi."
  • Cui: "But I did not know him then. I don't know him now."
  • "Axios on HBO": "Well, it's a month later. Weren't you curious to find out who he was?"
  • Cui: "We have 1.4 billion people back in China. How can I learn everything about everybody?"

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