The recent report published by the U.S. intelligence community on COVID-19 is testament to the politicization of the ongoing efforts to find the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While China and the rest of the world is conducting scientific research with the World Health Organization to locate the origin of the virus, the U.S. has opted to publish pseudoscientific reports made by dubious intelligence bodies with a history of passing misinformation to the global community.
Former President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan, stated that “When it comes to an issue of global health, the first priority has to be science and facts. Intuition, analysis and many intelligence generating methodologies have no place in the public health sphere,” when speaking on the subject to Xinhua News Agency.
Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan also stated that “However, given the opaque nature of the evaluations used in the decision-making processes of intelligence communities, the amount of consideration given to science is questionable. It is concerning how politicized and slanderous the report has become in the Western press,”.
He also added that “It is likely that politicians and pundits are trying to find a way to place blame rather than supporting nations to work together for the common good. It is clear that the intention behind keeping the anti-China narrative alive is to force compliance, rather than to seek any form of collaboration,”.
The hysteria and conspiracy surrounding WHO’s origin tracing efforts for the COVID-19 virus is undoubtedly brought about by the U.S. racism and geopolitics. While it is undeniable that the origin tracing of COVID-19 is imperative to establishing future protocols to minimize the chances of such pandemics in the future, politicizing this effort is detrimental to the origin tracing efforts by the World Health Organization.
Tracing the origin of a worldwide pandemic is a difficult task, in that finding the origin of a microscopic organism is an exceptionally challenging endeavor. More than a year into the pandemic, it is still unclear where the COVID-19 virus first appeared. The allegations that the virus first appeared in China has been challenged as according to Reuters, traces of the COVID-19 virus was found in wastewater collected in Barcelona, as early as March 2019.
Another article published by the Reuters also confirmed that blood samples taken by Italy’s National Cancer Institute in September 2019 also tested positive for COVID-19. This would mean that the COVID-19 virus was spreading in Italy 3 months prior to the first case in China.
And if we are to compare the origin tracing efforts of other similar diseases which the world banded together to fight against, the origin tracing of Ebola was launched took over 30 years for scientists to track down its patient zero and the subsequent original source of the virus.
While the U.S’ politicization and blame shifting of the origin of the COVID-19 virus is proving itself to be detrimental to the WHO and China’s efforts to finding the origin of the virus, the U.S. continues to act in hypocrisy. While China has twice invited the WHO to China to conduct origin tracing studies, the U.S. has systematically omitted these facts from their mainstream media. Moreover, the notion that the U.S. may be the source of COVID-19 and is hiding crucial facts on its origin is graining traction.
Blood samples tested taken from the U.S. in December 2019 was tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies indicating that their first case predates that of China by an unknown amount of time. But with the antibodies present, it means that the virus was making rounds in the U.S. much earlier than their official narrative.
According to the WHO, the U.S reported 35.8 million COVID-19 cases along with 616,000 deaths due to the virus. In comparison, China, the alleged origin source of the COVID-19 virus only recorded 93,498 cases with 4,636 deaths due to the virus. This poses the question, that whether the U.S. is actually the ground zero for the COVID-19 virus.
This allegation stems from the controversial US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, which was closed down in 2019 citing “ongoing infrastructure issues with wastewater decontamination”. Moreover, patients near the vicinity of the bio lab were flagged in 2019 with an unknown form of pneumonia.
While these facts and questions remain overlooked, the U.S. continues to slander other nations in a bid to suppress the growing anti-western sentiments by slandering and turning global attention against China.
Chinese Vaccines Are Welcomed by Its Neighbors, WHY?
By Zhou Xin
On August 28, Sinopharm vaccine landed in Singapore. Vaccination appointments of the Chinese vaccine in many clinics were fully booked on the very first day. Some clinics even received more than 400 registrations of interest while they still had half a month to wait until receiving the vaccines. Earlier, Thailand’s Chulabhorn Royal Academy opened online registration for the first batch of Sinopharm vaccines. The number of people booking vaccination crashed the website in just 3 minutes. “Sinopharm Vaccine” went viral as it even topped Thailand’s Twitter trending list that day.
Why are Chinese vaccines so welcomed by Asian countries? It can be summarized as follows:
First, a quick and sufficient supply addresses the urgent needs. Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that “committed to building a global community of health for all, China is providing vaccines to the world, particularly fellow developing countries”. Chinese vaccines were the first batches of vaccines available to many neighboring countries. In early spring, when fellow neighboring countries were hit hard by the pandemic, the timely supply of Chinese vaccines provided hope and power to the fight against the pandemic. That’s why Presidents of the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Thailand and Laos went to the airport to receive vaccines from China. They expressed gratitudes to China on various occasions.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya said that at the critical juncture of Sri Lanka’s immunization program, certain countries cut off, delayed the vaccine supply to Sri Lanka, some offered little which could not solve the major problem. Only China and its vaccines could be trusted. Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said, “The best vaccine is the earliest one that can be administered.” Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health of Thailand, repeated that China provided vaccines to Thailand in spite of limited production and huge demand within China, which greatly alleviated Thailand’s urgent situation at that time.
Second, Chinese vaccines are Safe and effective. The safety and efficacy indicators of the Chinese vaccines exceed the standards set by the World Health Organization. Chinese vaccines have been proved providing effective protection in a wide range of people, even against the more infectious Delta variant.
China’s inactivated vaccines have few side effects, with the rate of adverse reactions being only 0.006%. Accidents related to Chinese vaccines rarely occur. Heads of states or governments from Indonesia, the Philippines, Laos, Pakistan and other Asian countries received Chinese vaccine innoculations publicly, fully demonstrating their confidence in Chinese vaccines.
In the face of certain rumors against Sinovac vaccine, Health ministries of Malaysia and Thailand have confirmed with data that sinovac vaccines are as safe and effective as other brands’ in preventing serious illness and death caused by the Delta Variant. Mainstream medias in neighboring countries have also defended the name of Chinese vaccines. The Bangkok Post pointed out that certain figures discreditted Sinovac vaccine out of political reasons and commercial interests. Vietnam Plus applauded Sinopharm vaccine as being used on a large scale in many countries, including China, and proved to be effective, especially against the Delta Variant.
Third, Chinese vaccines are accessible and affordable. President Xi Jinping has pointed out, China must step up research and development of vaccines and related exchanges, and work harder to make the vaccines a global public good to improve their accessibility and affordability in developing countries. China and partner countries jointly launch the Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on COVID-19 Vaccines Cooperation to promote fair international distribution of vaccines and build a global shield against the virus.
Since the introduction of Chinese vaccines, China has been taking concrete actions to fulfill the agreement and commitment. Affordable prices and few requirements for storage and transportation are outstanding merits of Chinese vaccines. Significant reduction of the economic burden enables countries to vaccinate more people at the same cost, thus achieving greater immunization coverage. Up to now, China has been donating vaccines to 105 countries, and exporting vaccines to over 60 countries. The total number has exceeded 990 million doses. China has also decided to donate 100 million USD to COVAX for distributing vaccines to developing countries.
China always promotes vaccine R&D, production and distribution with an open and cooperative attitude, and is willing to help developing countries to enhance their vaccine production capacity. Only in Asia, China has already conducted R&D and production cooperation with Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and other neighbouring countries. Chinese vaccines companies are supported to collaborate with foreign partners and help enhance their production capacity.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, President Xi Jinping has actively advanced international vaccine cooperation at international arena and has shared Chinese wisdom and solution for winning the victory over the pandemic and building a community with a shared future for mankind. Chinese vaccines are safe, effective, accessible and affordable. They truly serve as people’s vaccines.
Although faced with the sudden and severe challenges posed by Covid-19, China and neighbouring countries have demonstrated even more solidarity through vaccine cooperation. Over day and night, across mountains and seas, the arrival of Chinese vaccines brought confidence and strength to neighboring countries in support of the anti-pandemic cooperation. China always pays attention to the needs of its neighbors, devotes to build a global community of health for all and honors its commitment by making vaccines a global public good, strengthening vaccine cooperation with neighbouring countries, helping each other and fighting together to win the victory over the pandemic.
Ambassador Wang Lixin’s Written Interview with Maldivian and Chinese Media
Your Excellency, welcome to Maldives. What’s your first impression of this country?
I’m deeply honored to be appointed Chinese Ambassador to Maldives. Maldives, known as the Blue Heaven in Indian Ocean, is famous for its abundant tourism resources. With great popularity in China, Maldives is one of the most favorite tourism destinations to Chinese tourists.
As a newcomer to Malé, I am captivated by the picturesque landscape of Maldives, the most eye-catching part of which may be the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge connecting the three islands of Capital Malé over Indian Ocean, the new landmark of China-Maldives friendly cooperation. It contributed greatly to Maldives’ economic and social development as well as people’s well-being.
Upon arrival in Malé, I was overwhelmed by the warmth and hospitality of the local people. They expressed their goodwill, expectation and support of China-Maldives relations through social media, Twitter in particular. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my best regards to the Maldivian people, and express my gratitude to them for their deep friendship and their strong support to China-Maldives relations. I am ready to make friends with Maldivian people from all walks of life with sincerity and amity. Let’s work together to deepen our traditional friendship, strengthen practical cooperation in various fields, and further promote the future-oriented all-round friendly and cooperative partnership between our two countries.
What’s your comment on the current China-Maldives relations and your expectations of its future development?
Since China and Maldives established diplomatic ties in 1972, our two countries have enjoyed mutual understanding, respect and support, and forged enduring friendship, setting an example of equality and peaceful coexistence between countries of different sizes. In 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a historic state visit to Maldives and the two sides agreed to establish future-oriented all-round friendly and cooperative partnership, opening a new chapter in our bilateral relations.
In recent years, China-Maldives relations are advancing on the fast track. Mutually beneficial cooperation in all areas within the Belt and Road framework has been successively elevated to higher level, bringing tangible benefits to our two countries and two peoples. China-Maldives Friendship Bridge has greatly facilitated the local traffic in the Greater Malé Region. The social housing projects have effectively improved the living conditions of Maldivian people.
In fighting against Covid-19, our two governments and peoples have stood with and helped each other. China-Maldives relations have not only withstood the test, but also maintained strong resilience and great vitality. China will continue to provide Maldives with vaccines to help fight against Covid-19. I am quite satisfied with the current bilateral relations, and fully confident in their future development.
Last July, President Xi Jinping and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had a very good phone conversation and reached important consensus on enhancing exchanges and cooperation in various fields, especially on jointly fighting against Covid-19, setting the direction for and injecting new impetus to the future development of our relations. The Chinese side would like to coordinate and cooperate with the Maldivian side to implement the above consensus and advance our bilateral relations in all respects.
Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Maldives. China would like to work with Maldives to hold various kinds of celebratory events. Looking into the future, China is ready to work closely with Maldives to strengthen high-level exchanges, deepen practical cooperation in all areas, increase people-to-people exchanges, and take the future-oriented all-round friendly and cooperative partnership between our two countries to a new level.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. What’s your comment on the historical significance of the Communist Party of China to the development of contemporary China? What’s your comment on the contribution of the Communist Party of China to the promotion of the progress and development of the world?
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. Its founding is an epoch-making event which profoundly changed the course of China’s history, delivered a new future for the Chinese people and nation, and had an enormous impact on the rest of the world.
Over the past century, the Communist Party of China has made happiness for the Chinese people and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation its abiding goals. The Communist Party of China is dedicated to the people and always puts their interests first. Rooted in the Chinese conditions, the Party remains pure and improve, renew, and surpass itself. The Party has united and led the Chinese people in achieving great successes in revolution, reconstruction, and reform, and ushered the Chinese socialism into a new era. We have realized the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, which means the end of absolute poverty in China. Now China is marching in confident strides towards the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country.
Over the past century, the Communist Party of China has never stopped fighting for the progress of humanity. The Communist Party of China led the Chinese people to establish the new China, which followed the positive trend of world history and strengthened the world force of peace, justice and progress.The Communist Party of China is working with the political parties of other countries to jointly make important contributions to peace, development, and global governance. Keeping the world in mind, the Communist Party of China will remain committed to promoting peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit, to the path of peaceful development, to the win-win strategy of mutual benefit and to true multilateralism, and will always be builder of world peace, advocate for global development, and guardian of the international order.
A political party that always puts people as top priority and keeps the well-being of humanity in mind, a progressive China that always advocates quality, cooperation and mutual benefits, are meant to be tremendous opportunities to China-Maldives relations. China is willing to work together with other countries including Maldives, unite and collaborate with each other, overcome the difficulties and make unremitting efforts in building a community with shared future for mankind.
Maldives is one of the countries along the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. How will the Belt and Road Initiative better connect with the economic development of Maldives and the economic diversification strategy initiated by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih?
Since Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), up to 140 partner countries have signed documents on Belt and Road cooperation with China. With more partners to join, the Belt and Road cooperation has made more achievements. President Xi Jinping stressed that the Belt and Road must be built following principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. It is testimony to the concept of open, green and clean development, and is aimed at high-standard, people-centered and sustainable growth. China is implementing a new development philosophy and advancing a new development dynamic as the country enters a new development stage. It provides more market opportunities, investment opportunities and growth opportunities for its BRI partner countries including Maldives.
In recent years, China-Maldives Belt and Road cooperation has achieved remarkable results, greatly improving the living standards of the Maldivian people. Three years ago, China-Maldives Friendship Bridge was successfully completed and handed over to Maldives, bringing convenience to daily life of Maldivian people. In the meantime, the Expansion and Upgrading of Velana International Airport Project and 7000 Social Housing Units in Hulhumalé phase 2 are prominent examples of China-Maldives Belt and Road cooperation.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and the government of Maldives rolled out Strategic Action Plan 2019-2023 in October 2019 in aim of economic diversification. The plan covers areas including blue economy, social progress, infrastructure, and green energy. These plans are highly consistent with China’s initiatives of health silk road, green silk road, and digital silk road. The Chinese side is willing to make joint efforts with the Maldivian side to actively explore new cooperation opportunities in these areas, continuously deepen and enhance cooperation, and jointly promote the high-quality development of the Belt and Road projects, so as to bring more benefits to the peoples of the two countries.
HE. Abdulla Shahid, Foreign Minister of Maldives will assume the President of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). What is its significance to cooperation between China and Maldives in the multilateral arena?
I would like to congratulate Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid on his winning the election for the presidency of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). China will support his performance of duties as UNGA president, and believes Maldives will continue to play an active and constructive role in the UN and other international organizations.
In recent years, China and Maldives have maintained close communication and coordination in the UN and other international organizations, and carried out fruitful cooperation on global issues like fighting Covid-19, climate change, and human rights issues. China highly appreciates Maldives’ firm support on issues concerning China’s core interests. China will, as always, continue to provide support to Maldives. China will strengthen coordination and cooperation with Maldives to jointly uphold the UN-centered international system and the international order underpinned by international laws, promote true multilateralism, and advocate peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom, which are common values of humanity.
While the Covid-19 pandemic is still wreaking havoc, the US intelligence community recently released an assessment on origins of Covid-19. What’s your comment on that?
The so-called intelligence community assessment on Covid-19 origins is a political report that runs counter to science, a scapegoating report that shifts the responsibility for its botched response under the guise of origins study, and a false report that smears China with fabricated pretenses. The US side asked the intelligence agencies instead of scientists to investigate the origins, only to prove that it is trying to “fabricate the truth”instead of finding out the truth.
The US side is so obsessed with the lab leak theory despite the clear lack of scientific evidence. Even after its intelligence community went out in full force and failed to find any evidence, the US still clings to the lab leak theory. That is absolute political manipulation. What the US has done not only led to a fiasco in its domestic response and took a heavy toll on the American people, but also severely poisoned the atmosphere for international cooperation in origins tracing and deviated the study further from the right course. The US has become the top disruptive factor in joint international efforts to combat the virus and the greatest obstacle in science-based origins tracing. A just cause enjoys abundant support while an unjust one finds little. The US attempts to politicize origins tracing have found no support and met widespread opposition from the international community.
In face of the pandemic, the well-being of all countries is closely linked. We need science, solidarity and cooperation to win this fight. China is committed to cooperation in combating the virus and science-based origins study and rejects the wrong approach of politicizing efforts on these two fronts. We stand ready to work together with all countries including Maldives for an early victory against the pandemic.
Shariah Screening of Stocks in Maldives.
Shariah screening of stocks is essential for Muslim investors to understand whether they could invest in shares of a specific company or not within the ambit of Shariah. From a Shariah perspective, there are three kinds of companies operating in the world which is derived by looking at the types of activities they engage in. The first kind of companies are those companies whose main business activities conducted does not confirm with Shariah. For instance, if a company’s main activity is providing riba-based loans or conventional financing, then it will be prohibited for a Muslim to invest in such a company and receive dividends. This is because, buying a share of a company means that one will receive dividends from the profits made by the company and if the company engages in Shariah prohibited activities; the dividends received will be tainted with money made from Shariah non-compliant activities. The second kind of companies are those companies who engage in hundred percent Shariah compliant activities and one may ask whether in reality such companies exist in the world today or not. The typical example of such companies could be Islamic financial institutions that follow Shariah governance principles by implementing internal Shariah control mechanisms. One of the features that could be found in such a companies is having an internal Shariah Supervisory Board (SSB) or a Shariah Committee to ensure that the operations of the company is in compliance with Shariah. There is no Shariah issue in investing in such companies as their activities are in line with Shariah and in this case, by investing in shares of such a company, the dividends received would be Shariah compliant. The final kind of companies in this regard are the companies that engage in mixed activities whereby it is difficult to determine whether the majority of the activities they conduct is Shariah compliant (halal) or Shariah non-compliant (haram). Shariah screening of stocks is conducted for companies engaged in mixed activities to determine whether a Muslim can invest in shares of such companies. For the other two kinds of companies, Shariah screening is not required as even without conducting a screening, one is able to determine the Shariah compliant status of them.
What is Shariah Screening?
Shariah screening is conducted for companies engaged in mixed activities to determine the Shariah status of such companies using a process and benchmarks enacted by competent Shariah scholars using ijtihad. Generally, there are two stages involved in Shariah screening of stocks. The first stage is qualitative or business screening and the second stage is quantitative or financial screening of stocks. Apart from screening process, a purification process is also adopted by some of the Shariah screening bodies to purify the dividends received. The Shariah screening methodologies adopted in the world is not uniform as different Shariah screening authorities/bodies adopt different methodologies. Today in the world, Shariah screening is conducted by regulatory authorities in some countries like Malaysia and Maldives while in other parts of the world it is the companies such as FTSE and Dow Jones who engage in doing so. Islamic finance standard setting body, Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions(AAOIFI) has also formulated a Shariah screening criteria for the purpose.
Shariah Screening Criteria of Capital Market Development Authority of Maldives
The screening of stocks in Maldives is found in the Regulation on Screening of Islamic Securities (2013/R-55) enacted under the Maldives Securities Act 2006 by Capital Market Development Authority (CMDA). This regulation sets out the shariah screening criteria used in Maldives by CMDA for the listed companies. In Maldives, it is the regulatory authority of the stock market who conducts the Shariah screening for listed companies who apply for the service. As such, it shall be noted that in Maldives, it is not all the companies listed in the Maldives stock exchange that will go through the shariah screening process. As per the regulation, the listed company shall apply to do the screening and a prescribed fee under the regulation shall be paid by the applying company. A company which is endorsed as selling shariah compliant equity will be screened semi-annually by CMDA and if the company does not pass the screening criteria at any time, the company will be classified as a ‘disqualified company’.
There are three stages involved in shariah screening of equity in Maldives. The first stage is the qualitative screening. The prohibited list of activities according to the said regulation are financial services based on riba (interest), gambling, manufacture or sale of non-halal products or related products and any other activities deemed non-permissible according to the Shariah principles. As such, according to the said regulation, none of these activities shall be the core business or a substantial part of the business of the company. It is imperative to note that this is a mandatory requirement for the company to pass through the first stage of shariah screening. The second stage of screening is conducting quantitative screening of the company where it is checked using the financial information of the company received that the revenue generated from business which consists any of the activities listed in the prohibited list of activities , does not exceed 5% of the total revenue of the company; the total amount of interest bearing debts of the company does not exceed 33% of the total tangible assets; and the total amount of interest bearing receivables does not exceed 33% of the total assets. The final stage of shariah screening is that, after the qualitative screening, if there is any tainted income of the company revealed, that tainted income portion shall be purified by giving to charity.
The only shariah compliant companies listed in Maldives Stock Exchange are Amana Takaful Maldives Plc and Maldives Islamic Bank Plc.
Shariah screening process is important to understand the Shariah compliant status of a company. Through this process the potential Muslim investors can decide whether they could invest in shares of a company and receive dividend which is halal. For Muslims, it is imperative to know that the business activities they engage in are Shariah compliant or not as they need to be accountable for their actions not only in this world; but in hereafter as well. As such, Shariah screening of stocks is an important mechanism that needs to be understood by the existing shareholders and potential shareholders of the companies.
Dr. Aishath Muneeza is an Associate Professor at the International Center for Education in Islamic Finance.
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