Wednesday, 23 Sep 2020

Asian Insider, June 12: Malaysian PM looks to snap polls, Singapore cancels F1 race, Zoom says China demanded it shut activist accounts

Hi all,

In today’s bulletin: Malaysia PM looks to snap polls, Singapore cancels F1 race, India’s coronavirus cases surpass Britain, Zoom says China demanded it shut activist’s accounts, Hong Kongers rush to secure British passports, and more…

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Malaysia Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is gearing up to call for snap polls as early as this year to end doubts over his mandate amid accusations his Perikatan Nasional (PN) government is a “backdoor” one that lacks a parliamentary majority, Malaysia Bureau Chief Shannon Teoh reports.

Party sources told The Straits Times that the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president made his intentions clear at its supreme council meeting on June 4, and has followed up by briefing divisional chiefs in several meetings over subsequent days.

This comes after the three parties that represent the Malay-Muslim majority in his loose ruling alliance moved towards establishing an electoral pact in the past week.

Meanwhile, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad sarcastically said that he would like to form a new party, specifically meant for Malays who are keen to enrich themselves quickly.

He said the party should be named Parti AAD, or Parti Apa Aku Dapat – What Can I Get Party – following the split in his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).

He was taking a dig at the PN government led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin, whom Tun Dr Mahathir has accused of buying support by elevating MPs as full ministers, deputy ministers and heads of government-linked companies (GLCs).

Must read: Can Muhyiddin survive the Mahathir onslaught?

And: Najib says Malaysia polls likely if political uncertainty stays.


This year’s Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix has been cancelled, F1 and race promoters Singapore GP said on Friday.

The announcement regarding the Sept 20 event, one of the highlights of the local sporting calendar, had been widely expected, given the severe disruptions created by the coronavirus pandemic both locally and internationally.

Singapore GP said it was unable to proceed with the race due to the prohibitions imposed on access and construction of the event venue. Such works around the Marina Bay Street Circuit, which normally start in May, have not commenced and will not be completed in time for the race in three months.

Singapore is well placed to move from phase one to phase two of its reopening, which would mean a further easing of restrictions to allow even more businesses and social activities to resume, said Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.

Thailand, meanwhile, will lift the nationwide night-time curfew on Monday, as part of its phase four easing of lockdown measures, Thailand Correspondent Hathai Techakitteranun reports.

See also: Australian clot-busting drug holds hope for coronavirus treatment.


India’s coronavirus infections have surged to overtake the number of recorded cases in the UK, making it the world’s fourth worst-affected nation.

India recorded 297,535 infections by Friday, compared with Britain’s 292,860 tally, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University, raising the prospect of the return of a lockdown just days after it was lifted. 

The South Asian nation has one of the world’s lowest testing rates, at 3.78 tests per 1,000 people, compared with Britain’s 53.53 tests per 1,000, according to Our World in Data figures produced by the University of Oxford and Global Change Data Lab.

Must read: Desperate search for hospital beds in Delhi as coronavirus cases spike.

Read also from India Bureau Chief Nirmala Ganapathy: Coronavirus: Spike in cases of dogs and other animals being abandoned in India


Zoom Video Communications said on Thursday that it suspended user accounts and ended meetings linked to the anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown on its platform after the Chinese government demanded that it do so.

Zoom, which has seen its global popularity as a video conferencing tool soar during the Covid-19 pandemic, said it would not allow further requests from China to impact users outside the country in the future.

The company’s statement comes after it temporarily shut three accounts belonging to activists, one of whom is based in Hong Kong and two in the United States.

On Thursday, three US lawmakers asked Zoom to clarify its data-collection practices and relationship with the Chinese government. 

The service is not blocked in China, unlike many Western platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, which abandoned efforts to crack China’s market years ago due to government demands to censor and monitor content. 

See also: Twitter suspends Chinese operation pushing pro-Beijing coronavirus messages.


China’s plan to impose a sweeping national security law on the city in response to huge pro-democracy protests has Hong Kongers mulling the prospect of leaving, and many are applying for a British National (Overseas) passport.

A recent survey of more than 800 Hong Kongers by the Chinese University found those aged between 18 and 24 reported the strongest desire to emigrate, with over 50 per cent considering it.

There are currently some 350,000 BN(O) passport holders – a figure that nearly doubled in the last 12 months as the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters raged.

Must read from Associate Editor Ravi Velloor: The long view on Hong Kong

See also: Britain plans citizenship for Hong Kong residents in row with China.


SINGAPOREAN DUO CHARGED OVER ALLEGED LINKS TO CHEATING CASE TOTALLING OVER US$340 million: Two former employees of a crude oil products supplier appeared in a district court on Friday over their alleged links to a cheating case involving more than US$340 million (S$470 million) in loans. Police said in a statement on Thursday that the two allegedly created fictitious sales contracts before submitting them to eight banks, in order to obtain financing between July 2017 and December 2018.

WITH BROKEN BONES AND BLISTERS, 9-YEAR-OLD SOUTH KOREAN GIRL JUMPS TO NEIGHBOUR’S BALCONY TO ESCAPE ABUSIVE PARENTS: A nine-year-old girl in South Korea who escaped from her abusive parents last month was found to have fled home barefoot via a fourth-floor balcony. A neighbour found the girl on a roadside and called the police. The girl was barefoot and had bruises, cuts and blisters on her body. Police later found that she had several broken bones and symptoms of severe anaemia.

CHINA SAYS US SHOULD ADDRESS NORTH KOREA’S CONCERNS: China said on Friday that the United States should take concrete measures to address North Korea’s concerns, amid escalating tensions between Pyongyang and Washington. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said that one reason for the deterioration in bilateral relations since a summit in Singapore in 2018 was because North Korea’s legitimate concerns had not been resolved.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading and have a great weekend.

– Tom

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