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Chinese COVID-19 Vaccine Shows Promising Results

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We are all expecting a COVID-19 vaccine that could possibly end the pandemic that has killed more than 330,000 people.

Now the first vaccine candidate from China has finished its phase-1 trial on humans, and the results have been put online for everyone to examine.

The Lancet, a respected medical journal in the UK, published the results on Friday saying it is “safe” and “induces rapid immune response.”

The research injected the potential vaccine into 108 volunteers.

They were divided into three groups, each taking a different dose of the vaccine.

The vaccine, classified as “recombinant adenovirus type-5 vectored” (Ad5-nCoV), acts as a natural infection and is especially good at teaching the immune system how to fight the virus.

During the next 28 days, no serious reactions were found, meaning the vaccine seemed to be tolerable by humans.

Also, antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 started to surge two weeks after the injection and reached its peak on day 28.

The vaccine “warrants further investigation,” the paper on The Lancet concluded.

A phase-2 clinical trial has started with 508 volunteers involved.

The trial was conducted by a team led by Chen Wei, a biology professor from Academy of Military Medical Sciences and a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

There are other two vaccines allowed for human trials in China. They are ShaCoVaccand PiCoVacc.

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Afghan Taliban Announce Three-Day Eid Ceasefire

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The Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire during the Eid al-Fitr holiday starting Sunday in a surprise move following months of bloody fighting with Afghan forces after the group signed a landmark agreement with the US.

President Ashraf Ghani swiftly welcomed the insurgents’ offer and ordered his forces to also comply.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement posted on social media that the group’s “leadership instructs all the mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate to take special measures for security of the countrymen, and conduct no offensive operation against the enemy anywhere.”

The statement, which announced a halt to hostilities “during the three days of Eid,” instructed Taliban fighters to refrain from entering government areas and also said that Kabul forces were not allowed to enter territories under their control.

Since the US invasion in 2001 there has only been one other pause in the fighting — a surprise three-day ceasefire between the Taliban and Kabul marking the religious festival of Eid in 2018.

That ceasefire call was given by President Ashraf Ghani, which the insurgents had accepted.

During the brief lull in fighting at that time, Afghans responded joyfully, with Taliban fighters, security forces and civilians hugging, sharing ice creams and posing for selfies in previously unimaginable scenes.

Ghani was quick to accept the Taliban ceasefire offer.

“I welcome the ceasefire announcement by the Taliban,” he said on Twitter.

“As commander-in-chief, I have instructed ANDSF (Afghan National Defence Security Force) to comply with the three-day truce and to defend only if attacked.”

Saturday’s announcement comes just days after the Taliban’s leader Haibatullah Akhundzada urged Washington “not to waste” the opportunity offered by the deal the militants signed with the United States in February that set the stage for the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.

“The Islamic Emirate is committed to the agreement… and urges the other side to honour its own commitments and not allow this critical opportunity to go to waste,” Akhundzada said in a statement, using the Taliban’s name for Afghanistan.

The signing of the deal between the US and Taliban was preceded by a so-called “reduction in violence” but not an official ceasefire.

– US pushes for peace –
The US-Taliban deal is also aimed at paving the way for the insurgents to hold direct peace talks with Kabul.

US President Donald Trump’s administration has made it a priority to end the war in Afghanistan, and in a bid to pull out foreign forces US officials have been pushing the Taliban and government leaders to hold peace talks.

Analysts however say the Taliban have been emboldened by the deal with the US, and Afghan government officials have reported more than 3,800 attacks since it was signed, killing 420 civilians and wounding 906.

But the top US official who brokered Washington’s deal with the Taliban says the insurgents have kept up their end of the bargain — even if recent violence violated the spirit of the accord.

“The Taliban have implemented their agreement not to attack the coalition forces,” US Special Representative to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said earlier this month.

His remarks came after a horrific attack against a maternity hospital in Kabul that killed dozens — including mothers and infants — and a suicide bombing at a funeral.

The Taliban denied involvement in the attacks, but President Ghani blamed them and the Islamic State (IS) group for the bloodshed.

Following that attack and another suicide bombing in the country’s east the government ordered security forces to switch to an “offensive” posture against the Taliban.

The Taliban responded by vowing to increase attacks against government forces.

The group has carried out regular attacks against Afghan forces in recent days, and earlier this week even tried to enter the northern city of Kunduz.

Afghan forces, however, managed to repel the Taliban attack on Kunduz, a city which had fallen to the insurgents twice before.

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National Security Legislation for Hong Kong Receives Wide Support

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During a press conference of the annual national legislative session on May 24, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi made remarks in response to a question on national security legislation for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Wang made it clear that Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs and allows no external interference. The central government has its right and responsibility to uphold national security through establishing a legal system and enforcement mechanism in light of the actual situation and needs. “This is a basic theory and practice underpinning national sovereignty and a common practice in countries around the world.” Wang remarked.
Since last June, Hong Kong has seen increasingly rampant activities by independence organizations and radical localists, escalating violence and terrorist activities, as well as the excessive unlawful foreign meddling in Hong Kong affairs. All this has placed national security in serious jeopardy and posed a grave threat to Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability and the practice of One country, Two systems.
“Under such circumstances, establishing a legal system and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong SAR, has become a pressing priority. We must get it done without the slightest delay.” Wang said.
On worries that these legislations might undermine Hong Kong’s position as a global financial hub, Wang responded that the NPC decision targets a very narrow category of acts that seriously jeopardize national security
“Instead of becoming unnecessarily worried, people should have more confidence in Hong Kong’s future.” Wang said that it will not impact on Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents, all the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors in Hong Kong.
Wang said that a legislative process will be set in motion following the adoption of the NPC decision. This will improve Hong Kong’s legal system and bring more stability, stronger rule of law, and a better business environment to Hong Kong. It will protect the basic principle of one country, two systems, and Hong Kong’s position as a global financial trading and shipping center.
“I trust that it will receive understanding and support from all those who wish to see a stable Hong Kong and the sound and sustained implementation of One Country, Two Systems.” Wang added.

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Chinese FM: China is Not Savior But Willing to be Friend in Need

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“China is not a savior, but is willing to be a friend in need and a sincere partner for mutual help in times of difficulties,” Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a press conference while answering a question about China’s assistance to other countries hit by COVID-19 on the sidelines of the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress in Beijing.
“In the fighting against Covid-19, we received assistance and support from across the world. This is something we’ll always cherish and be grateful for. To put into action President Xi Jinping’s vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, we have in the last few months launched the largest global humanitarian operation in the history of China”, he said.
“To date, we have shipped medical supplies to nearly 150 countries and four international organizations to meet their immediate needs. We have held video conferences with experts from over 170 countries to share our proven, quote protocols of diagnosis, treatment, and control without any reservation. We have sent 26 expert teams to 24 countries to provide timely information and in person guidance. Our factories have operated at full capacity to make high quality medical supplies that are much needed around the world, including 56.8 billion surgical masks and 250 million protective gowns.” Wang Yi said.
He explained that the reason why China is willing to help the world is that China is always and ready to help others, “When our friends are in distress, we never sit by and do nothing”.
The minister pointed out that the most important thing that can be learned from COVID-19 is that the life and health of people in different countries have never been so closely connected. “The virus respects no borders or races,” Wang said, adding it poses a challenge to all human beings without distinction.
“It has never been made so clear that all nations live in the same global village and that humanity is in fact a community with a shared future,” Wang Yi said.
The minister also mentioned that the assistance from China may not cover the needs of all affected countries, and some political forces are still suspicious of China’s intention in its aid. “But we have done everything in the open and we have a clear conscience. Nothing we do is out of geopolitical calculation toner mail or in pursuit of economic gains or with any political strains attached. We just have one goal, which is to save as many lives as possible.” Wang Yi said.
Wang Yi added that China has but one goal is to save as many lives as possible. “We have but one belief that is one country’s success does not mean the end of the global pandemic. It’s only when the virus is defeated in all countries can we claim a true victory.”
The minister stressed on the fact that the virus is still raging in many places. “China is not a savior, but we try to be a friend in need, a sincere partner other countries can count on in times of difficulty. We will continue to help the countries in distress to the best of our ability, pursue more international cooperation and fight alongside others. Until final, worldwide victory can be declared against COVID-19.” Wang Yi said.

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