Top Asian News 4:58 a.m. GMT
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Friday blamed foreign interference over his government’s decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing for anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital Honiara in recent days. But critics also blamed the unrest on complaints of a lack of government services and accountability, corruption and Chinese businesses giving jobs to foreigners instead of locals. Honiara’s Chinatown and its downtown precinct have been focuses of rioters, looters and protesters who have demanded Sogavare, who has intermittently been prime minister since 2000, to resign. The National Parliament building, a police station and businesses have been set alight during two tumultuous days in which police failed to control the mob.
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Five U.S. lawmakers are in Taiwan on Friday in a surprise one-day visit, said the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto embassy. The lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives arrived in Taiwan on Thursday night and will meet with senior leaders on the island. No further details were provided about their itinerary. The visit comes as tensions between Taiwan and China have risen to their highest level in decades. Taiwan has been self-ruled since the two sides split during a civil war in 1949, but China considers the island part of its own territory. “Just touched down in the Republic of Taiwan,” tweeted Republican Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina on Thursday night, using the island’s unofficial name.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Singapore’s top court will decide Tuesday on the fate of a Malaysian man on death row who is believed to be mentally disabled, his family and a rights group said Friday. The hearing at the Court of Appeal was originally scheduled for Nov. 10, a day before Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam was to be executed by hanging for trying to smuggle less than 43 grams (1.5 ounces) of heroin into the country. But the hearing was postponed after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 in a case that has drawn international attention. His sister Sarmila Dharmalingam said she has been informed by a Malaysian lawyer that the hearing will now take place on Tuesday.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen opened a virtual meeting of Asian and European leaders Thursday with a call for sustainable and shared global growth as the world seeks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty European countries and 21 Asian countries, along with multinational organizations representing the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, are represented at the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting. The biennial event is being hosted by Cambodia after being postponed from last year due to the pandemic. ASEM’s membership accounts for 65% of the global economy, 60% of the world’s population, 75% of global tourism and and 55% of global trade, according to the organizers.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines’ defense chief rejected on Thursday China’s renewed demand that it remove its outpost on a disputed South China Sea shoal and said Chinese coast guard ships should leave the area and stop blocking Manila’s supply boats. Philippine forces use a grounded warship, the BRP Sierra Madre, as an outpost on the submerged but strategic shoal that is at the center of an ongoing dispute with China. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Second Thomas Shoal lies within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which China has ratified.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit northwest Myanmar near India’s border early Friday but there is a low likelihood of casualties and damage, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The earthquake occurred at a depth of 32.8 kilometers (20.4 miles) near Hakha city, the capital of Chin state, sending tremors that spread across the border to towns and cities in India and Bangladesh, it said. The agency said recent earthquakes in this area have caused secondary hazards such as landslides that might have contributed to losses, but predicted the current quake exposed little or no population and areas to such risk.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A year after suffering a huge election loss, New Zealand’s conservative opposition leader Judith Collins was ousted Thursday by her caucus. Collins was in the role for a tumultuous 16 months. She never polled well as leader of the National Party, even after liberal Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s popularity began to fade somewhat in recent months as a coronavirus outbreak took hold in Auckland. Rumors about a possible move against Collins had been circulating for weeks. But she ended up making the first move on Wednesday night by stripping former leader and potential rival Simon Bridges of his portfolios.
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh on Thursday began relocating hundreds of Rohingya refugees to an island in the Bay of Bengal, despite ongoing concerns from rights groups over the conditions on the vulnerable low-lying island and that no refugees should be sent forcibly. The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic group, over 700,000 of whom fled persecution and violence in neighboring Myanmar in August 2017. Bangladesh has been sheltering 1.1 million of the refugees in crowded camps near its coast. A U.N.-sponsored investigation in 2018 recommended the prosecution of Myanmar’s top military commanders on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for the violence against the Rohingya.
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s top court ruled Thursday that the country’s widely criticized Job Creation Law is unconstitutional and ordered the government to amend it within two years. The law, passed last year, triggered days of protests in many cities that turned violent as thousands of enraged students and workers charged it would cripple labor rights and harm the environment. The act amended 77 previous laws and was intended to improve bureaucratic efficiency as part of efforts by President Joko Widodo’s administration to attract more investment. The Constitutional Court voted 5 to 4 in favor of the petitioners — a private company employee, four students and the Confederation of Indonesian Workers’ Unions, known as KSPI — who argued that the way the legislation was handled was procedurally flawed.
HONG KONG (AP) — A renowned Chinese fashion photographer has apologized for her past work after online critics called it insulting to the Chinese people and fashion house Dior removed one of her photos from a show in Shanghai. Chen Man acknowledged the criticism of her earlier work, including “Young Pioneers,” a series of images of a young model with backdrops of major landmarks such as China’s massive Three Gorges Dam or with an image of the country’s first lunar orbiter flying out from under her dress. The criticism was reported by the state-owned Global Times newspaper, which said that comments on social media had called her work “implicit child pornography and insulting the young pioneers,” the name of a Communist Party-affiliated youth organization.