News from Asia
Shades of a despot? Muhyiddin’s halt of Malaysia’s democracy has familiar feel
by Bhavan Jaipragas (South China Morning Post) on January 17, 2021 at 1:00 am
Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s decision this week to suspend democracy for the first time in over half a century may have forced a timeout of the furious, months-long efforts by his rivals to topple him by hook or by crook – but by no means has it quelled the disquiet surrounding his leadership.A case in point was a scathing radio interview on Friday by his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad.The 95-year-old, ousted as prime minister in a political coup last February, lamented that…
Cancer-stricken Filipino domestic worker gets key legal backing from Hong Kong’s equality watchdog
by Raquel Carvalho (South China Morning Post) on January 17, 2021 at 12:00 am
Advocates and lawyers have hailed the decision by Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to provide legal support in the court battle of Baby Jane Allas – a domestic worker from the Philippines who lost her job in 2019 after being diagnosed with cervical cancer.The city’s equality watchdog has issued legal proceedings under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance in Hong Kong’s District Court on behalf of Allas, with the first hearing scheduled for March.Allas, a 40-year-old single…
Semeru volcano on Indonesia’s Java island spews hot clouds into the area
by Associated Press (South China Morning Post) on January 16, 2021 at 4:47 pm
Mount Semeru, the highest volcano on Indonesia’s most densely populated island of Java, spewed hot clouds as far away as 4.5 kilometres (nearly 3 miles) on Saturday.There were no immediate evacuations, but the National Disaster Mitigation Agency warned people who live in the villages on the slopes of the 3,676-metre (12,060-foot)-high mountain to be vigilant in looking for signs of danger.Agency spokesman Raditya Jati said that people around the river basin on the slopes of the mountain should…
China offers free Covid-19 vaccines, loans to Philippines as Wang Yi wraps up Southeast Asia tour
by Raissa Robles (South China Morning Post) on January 16, 2021 at 3:00 pm
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi came to Manila bearing gifts, promising half a million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, US$1.34 billion in loan pledges for infrastructure projects and US$77 million (500 million yuan) in grants, underlining Beijing’s support for its “closest neighbour” in the twilight of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration and before Joe Biden becomes US president next week.“As a friend of the Philippines and your closest neighbour, we will firmly stand with the people of the…
Modi’s mistake is in trying to turn the Indian economy into a Chinese dragon
by Hari Kumar (South China Morning Post) on January 16, 2021 at 1:00 pm
At the beginning of this millennium, experts and analysts had written reams about how the balance of power and trade was shifting from the West to the East. China and India were seen as propelling this, and the two countries were spoken in the same breath as future powerhouses that will be pivotal in a new economic order.By then, China had firmly established itself as the factory of the world, whereas India was moving up as a provider of back-end services as multinationals outsourced their…
As exiled Tibetans vote, calls grow for India to help them stand up to China
by Kunal Purohit (South China Morning Post) on January 16, 2021 at 10:00 am
In the first week of January, Tibetan refugees across the globe, from New York to the freezing heights of Ladakh along the India-China border, cast their votes to elect a new political leader and members of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile – with the Dalai Lama’s advancing age and the global rise of an increasingly assertive Beijing chief among their concerns.At least three candidates have emerged as clear front-runners to head the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), which has its seat in the…
Coronavirus: lockdown at two US bases in South Korea; India starts huge vaccine drive
by Agencies (South China Morning Post) on January 16, 2021 at 7:02 am
The US Forces in Korea (USFK) said on Saturday it has imposed a shelter-in-place order on two of its largest bases – US Army Garrison Yongsan and Camp Humphreys – until Tuesday after a cluster of coronavirus infections.Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, is the largest US military base overseas, housing the USFK headquarters and thousands of troops, civilian workers, and their family members.It was not immediately clear how many cases have been reported at the two bases, but the Korea…
Indonesia earthquake: damaged roads, power outages hamper hunt for survivors
by Associated Press (South China Morning Post) on January 16, 2021 at 5:24 am
An aftershock hit Indonesia’s Sulawesi island on Saturday as rescuers searched for people trapped under rubble after a 6.2 magnitude earthquake left at least 45 dead and hundreds injured.There were no reports of further damage after the magnitude 5.0 aftershock at 6.32am local time, said Raditya Jati, spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency.“Further aftershocks are expected, so we advise residents to remain calm and alert,” he said.Operations were focused on about eight locations…
‘Cha-Cha’, anyone? Philippine Congress squares off with Duterte on constitutional changes
by Raissa Robles (South China Morning Post) on January 16, 2021 at 5:00 am
A proposed constitutional revamp is dominating discussions in the Philippine Congress once again as allies of President Rodrigo Duterte make another attempt to barrel through charter changes – the so-called Cha-Cha the country regularly finds itself embroiled in – amid a worsening Covid-19 pandemic.Members of the House of Representatives’ committee on constitutional amendments, who began deliberations on Wednesday, maintained that the proposed changes – allowing foreigners to own land and hold…
Coronavirus: Thailand offered luxury quarantine to tourists to revive economy, but hardly anyone turned up
by Bloomberg (South China Morning Post) on January 16, 2021 at 4:29 am
It’s hard to imagine a more luxurious place to spend two weeks of quarantine than the Anantara Phuket Suites & Villas in Thailand, where visitors are pampered in private residences that can have their own pool and courtyard.Yet more than three months after the resort and more than a hundred like it reopened to extended-stay travellers in an attempt to revive Thailand’s battered economy, foreign arrivals have failed to meet even rock-bottom expectations. Just 346 overseas visitors have entered…
Does North Korea’s Kim Jong-un have a nuclear surprise for President Biden?
by Park Chan-kyong (South China Morning Post) on January 16, 2021 at 12:00 am
As North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed to build up a nuclear arsenal and railed against Washington at a rare party congress this week, Park Won-gon, a professor of international relations at Seoul’s Handong Global University was struck most by what was missing.Bihaekhwa (“denuclearisation”) – a foreign policy priority for global powers in relations with North Korea – was not mentioned once, casting a dark cloud over prospects for progress, even if talks between the United States and North…
Chatbot Gone Awry Starts Conversations About AI Ethics in South Korea
by Dongwoo Kim (The Diplomat) on January 15, 2021 at 6:44 pm
The “Luda” AI chatbot sparked a necessary debate about AI ethics as South Korea places new emphasis on the technology.
India and Nepal Hold Joint Meeting Amid Improvement in Ties
by Abhijnan Rej (The Diplomat) on January 15, 2021 at 6:18 pm
The recent thaw in relations, however, does not mean Kathmandu is willing to budge on its boundary position.
US Justice Department Pushes Ahead With Counter China Plan
by Abhijnan Rej (The Diplomat) on January 15, 2021 at 4:02 pm
The January 14 arrest of an MIT professor as well as a guilty plea by a NASA scientist the day before highlight concerns around Chinese tech espionage – again.
China Is Expanding Its Foreign Policy Vision. Is Latin America Ready?
by Isabel Bernhard (The Diplomat) on January 15, 2021 at 3:17 pm
A more expansive Chinese foreign policy after 2021 will have political and economic implications for its Western Hemispheric partners.
The Trump Administration’s Mixed Messaging on Taiwan Strait Transits
by James Siebens and Ryan Lucas (The Diplomat) on January 15, 2021 at 2:57 pm
The U.S. needs to make clear if transits through the Taiwan Strait are routine demonstrations of its navigational rights or intentional signals of deterrence.
Hong Kong Begins Internet Restrictions on National Security Grounds
by Jessie Lau (The Diplomat) on January 15, 2021 at 2:33 pm
The first blocking of a website has raised concerns that the Great Firewall might be coming to Hong Kong.
North Korea Holds Nighttime Military Parade After Party Congress
by Mitch Shin (The Diplomat) on January 15, 2021 at 1:38 pm
After the Workers’ Party’s Eighth Congress, North Korea held a military parade to display its missiles, with an emphasis on SLBMs (and a curious absence of ICBMs).
China urged to tap RCEP trade deal for future digital payments system as US sanctions loom
by Karen Yeung (South China Morning Post) on January 15, 2021 at 11:30 am
China should consider using digital technology to develop an alternative to the SWIFT financial payments system as a way of insulating itself from being cut off from the US-dominated financial messaging service, according to Liu Xiaochun, deputy dean of the Shanghai New Finance Research Institute.The SWIFT system – the world’s largest electronic payment messaging system – and the US-based Clearing House Interbank Payments System (CHIPS) have afforded Washington broad powers to impose economic…
Filipino women slam ‘sexist’ Duterte after he says presidency is not for women
by Alan Robles (South China Morning Post) on January 15, 2021 at 8:41 am
Filipino women on Friday reacted scornfully to President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that the country’s top leadership role was “not for women” because they were emotionally different than men, deriding the 75-year-old for ignoring the contributions of women leaders and furthering the already-prevalent sexism in the country.Etta Rosales, chair emeritus of Akbayan Partylist, a moderate left-wing group of opposition lawmakers, led the tide of criticism, saying in a statement, “The presidency is…
India to send 20 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to South Asian neighbours, other regions
by Bloomberg (South China Morning Post) on January 15, 2021 at 7:27 am
India, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of inoculations, plans to offer 20 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to its neighbours as it draws up a policy to supply vials to countries across the globe, people with knowledge of the matter said.An Indian state-run company will buy vaccines from the Serum Institute of India Ltd and Bharat Biotech International Ltd for supplying to Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Seychelles and Mauritius, the people said, asking not to be…
The Makwanpur Model: Making Public Healthcare in Nepal Work
by Chitij Karki and Harsh Mahaseth (The Diplomat) on January 15, 2021 at 7:16 am
Administrative decentralization has led to a vast improvement in the delivery of healthcare in Nepal. This is one district’s story.
Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands eyed as venue for World Economic Forum summit: sources
by Reuters (South China Morning Post) on January 15, 2021 at 7:05 am
The World Economic Forum (WEF) is aiming to attract around 1,000 delegates for its Singapore summit in late May and wants the iconic Marina Bay Sands complex to host the event, two sources familiar with the organisation’s plans said.The sources, who did not want to be identified as negotiations are ongoing, said the plans for the May 25-28 event were still fluid given the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic raging across the world.The WEF and Marina Bay Sands declined to comment. Singapore…
Coronavirus: Indians cheer, pray as vaccines ‘like gold’ arrive for massive immunisation drive
by Amrit Dhillon (South China Morning Post) on January 15, 2021 at 6:59 am
It was 4am but a large crowd had still gathered outside the Serum Institute of India in Pune on Tuesday, its members jostling for position to get a better look as the gates of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer opened and a convoy of refrigerated trucks started rolling out.Contained within were the first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine produced by Serum – 6.44 million shots ready to be flown to 14 cities across the country, kick-starting what officials have called the…
Japan lodges ‘serious protest’ after Chinese ships seen near disputed islands in East China Sea
by DPA (South China Morning Post) on January 15, 2021 at 6:29 am
Tokyo has lodged a protest with Beijing over Chinese government vessels repeatedly spotted near a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea.Chinese coastguard ships entered the waters near the islands known as Diaoyutai in China and Senkaku in Japan, Tokyo said.One Chinese coastguard ship entered Japan’s territorial waters on Friday morning and tried to approach a Japanese fishing boat, government spokesman Katsunobu Kato told a news conference.Japanese forced out of own fishing waters…
China-Australia relations: imports of some stranded Australian coal could soon be allowed
by Bloomberg (South China Morning Post) on January 15, 2021 at 6:15 am
China is considering accepting some stranded Australian coal cargoes, an effort that would help ease a logjam of vessels that have stacked up off its coast for months.The shipments that could be cleared are those that arrived before a ban on Australian coal went into effect, said a person familiar with the situation, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are private.The deliberations are at an initial stage and any decision would need the approval of more senior Chinese leaders, the…
Biden’s Cabinet Picks Will Hold India-US Relations in Steady Course
by Saba Sattar (The Diplomat) on January 15, 2021 at 5:57 am
A move away from “America First” stands to help deepen security relations between the two countries.
Earthquake Sets off Landslides, Flattens Homes in Indonesia
by Associated Press (The Diplomat) on January 15, 2021 at 5:29 am
At least 10 people have so far been confirmed dead and more than 200 injured.
Bird in Australia could escape death as ‘US leg band’ comes under scrutiny
by Associated Press (South China Morning Post) on January 15, 2021 at 4:45 am
A pigeon that Australia declared a possible biosecurity risk may escape death after the authenticity of its leg band identifying it as a US racing bird was thrown in doubt.The blue band suggested the bird found in a Melbourne backyard on December 26 was a racing pigeon that had left the US state of Oregon two months earlier.On that basis, Australian authorities on Thursday said they considered the bird a disease risk and planned to kill it.A US bird travelled 13,000km to Melbourne. Australia…
North Korea Holds Huge Military Parade as Kim Vows Nuclear Might
by Associated Press (The Diplomat) on January 15, 2021 at 4:11 am
The parade, which included a new submarine-launched ballistic missile, closed out the eight-day Workers' Party congress.