In today’s bulletin: Malaysia’s Mahathir fights back after being removed from Bersatu, coronavirus restrictions to ease across Asia, China to allow flights from some countries, the rich continue to buy luxury homes in Singapore, a top China general says an attack on Taiwan is an option, and more.
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MAHATHIR AND FOUR OTHERS SAY THEIR REMOVAL FROM BERSATU IS ILLEGAL
Former premier Mahathir Mohamad and the four Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia MPs removed from the party on Thursday have decried the move as illegal and reflective of party president Muhyiddin Yassin’s insecurities and dictatorial leadership, Malaysia Bureau Chief Shannon Teoh reports.
In a joint statement late on Thursday, they rubbished the interpretation of their decision not to join Prime Minister Muhyiddin’s government bench in Parliament as joining another party.
“This reflects the president’s dictatorial attitude. We also state here that the unilateral move by the Bersatu president in sacking us without cause is due to his difficulties in the face of party elections, as well as his insecurity as the most unstable prime minister in the history of this country’s administration,” they said.
Their exits confirm ST’s report on May 11 that Dr Mahathir and his son would have their memberships terminated for breaching the Bersatu constitution which states that members who join other parties would be automatically ejected, without the need to be sacked via a disciplinary process.
CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS TO EASE AROUND ASIA
President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he is lifting one of the strictest and longest lockdowns enforced in South-east Asia, as the Philippines pivots to rebuilding an economy devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, Philippines Correspondent Raul Dancel reports.
Japan is taking similar measures starting on Monday, with cram schools, gyms, and theatres among the facilities that will be allowed to reopen in a phased relaxation process.
Singapore will also ease restrictions next week, allowing some activities to return ahead of a planned Phase 2 of further easing that may be decided later in June.
Indonesia is taking a unique approach to safe-distancing violators, forcing them to recite Quran verses, stay in “haunted” houses and submit to public shaming on social media as the country battles to contain surging coronavirus infections.
Must see: How coronavirus is spreading across the world
And: The world is still far from herd immunity for coronavirus, studies show
CHINA TO ALLOW SINGAPORE AND OTHERS TO APPLY FOR ‘GREEN CHANNEL’ FOR FLIGHTS
China will soon relax its border controls for Singapore and several countries, allowing certain categories of people to travel to some cities, China Bureau Chief Tan Dawn Wei reports.
Chinese state media reported that the Civil Aviation Administration of China will let domestic and foreign airlines apply for “green channels” for chartered flights to airports on the mainland. The countries given the green light are Singapore, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland.
Singapore government officials have been in talks with their Chinese counterparts to re-establish some essential reciprocal travel. An announcement is expected soon.
South Korea Correspondent Chang May Choon reports that over 1,000 business travellers have benefited from ‘fast track‘ entry deal between China, South Korea
See also: China plans to extend curbs on international flights until June 30.
ST ASIAN INSIDER VIDEO: TURNING POINT FOR HONG KONG
With Beijing extending its control over Hongkong with a new national security law, and the US potentially stripping the city of its favoured trade status, worries are growing over the future of the Asian financial hub.
Ironically much depends on the United States; if the US ceases to deem Hongkong autonomous then what many in Hongkong fear – that it would become “just another Chinese city” – will be closer to reality. But from the point of view of business, pragmatism rules.
The Straits Times’ Hongkong Correspondent Claire Huang, and China Correspondent Elizabeth Law, discuss the latest developments in conversation with US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh in Episode 31 of the ST Asian Insider.
Read also: Hong Kong government warns removing US special status is ‘double-edged sword’
WEALTHY BUYERS CONTINUE TO SHOP FOR LUXURY HOMES IN SINGAPORE
Wealthy Singaporeans are still buying high-end properties, even as the overall private housing market slumped in April and the first half of May when strict measures to stem the viral outbreak curtailed non-essential activities.
And China’s richest investors are finding luxury real estate is a good hiding place from the economic fallout of the coronavirus. Across China and in some of their familiar hunting grounds in Asia, wealthy buyers are snapping up top-end housing, in many cases to guard their wealth against anticipated inflation and a weakening yuan.
In Singapore, virtual tours and photos have been enough to seal multi-million dollar deals, pointing to how transactions are evolving. That’s in contrast to London and New York where real estate remains sluggish amid lockdowns.
See also: Loaded with cash, global property buyers wait for sellers to crack.
TOP CHINA GENERAL SAYS ATTACK ON TAIWAN AN OPTION
China will attack Taiwan if there is no other way of stopping it from becoming independent, one of the country’s most senior generals said on Friday, a rhetorical escalation between China and the democratically ruled island Beijing claims as its own.
Speaking at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on the 15th anniversary of the Anti-Secession Law, Li Zuocheng, chief of the Joint Staff Department and member of the Central Military Commission, left the door open to using force.
Also read: Taiwan risks becoming collateral damage amid US-China tensions
And: Time to step back from the brink over Taiwan
IN OTHER NEWS
INDIA’S CORONAVIRUS DEATHS TOP CHINA AS GLOBAL HOT SPOTS SHIFT TO DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: India is the latest country whose coronavirus death toll, at 4,695, has topped the number of lives lost in China, where the pandemic started, as hot spots shift to developing countries ill-equipped to contain its spread.
INDIA SIDESTEPS TRUMP MEDIATION OFFER OVER CHINA BORDER SHOWDOWN: India sidestepped US President Donald Trump’s offers to mediate the country’s border showdown with China, saying it was already engaged with Beijing to “resolve this issue”.
SINGAPORE CONSIDERING MALAYSIA’S REQUEST TO FURTHER SUSPEND KL-S’PORE HSR PROJECT: Malaysia has asked for a further suspension of the proposed Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) line, ahead of a May 31 deadline to decide whether to proceed with the project.
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Have a safe weekend.