Top Asian News 4:01 a.m. GMT
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s prime minister says his country has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and extended visas for Hong Kong residents in response to China’s imposition of a tough national security law on the semi-autonomous territory. Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday announced a range of visas that will be extended from two to five years and offers of pathways to permanent residency visas. It is not clear how many residents are expected to get the extensions. The move comes after China bypassed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to impose the sweeping security legislation without public consultation. Britain, too, is extending residency rights for up to 3 million Hong Kongers eligible for British National Overseas passports, allowing them to live and work in the U.K.
DENPASAR, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s resort island of Bali reopened after a three-month virus lockdown Thursday, allowing local people and stranded foreign tourists to resume public activities before foreign arrivals resume in September. Normally bustling beaches and streets on the idyllic Southeast Asian island emptied in early April except for special patrols to ensure health protocols to contain the coronavirus were observed. Authorities restricted public activities, closed the airport and shuttered all shops, bars, sit-down restaurants, public swimming pools and many other places on the island that’s home to more than 4 million people. The local government began lifting the limits Thursday, but tourists will face stringent rules in hotels, restaurants and on beaches, Bali Gov.
SINGAPORE (AP) — Singaporeans vote Friday in Southeast Asia’s first election since the coronavirus pandemic began, with the health crisis and a grim economy expected to bolster Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s party and extend its unbroken rule. While victory seems secure for Lee’s People Action Party, the entry of his estranged younger brother into the political fray has given the opposition some hope of expanding its toehold in parliament. His brother, Lee Hsien Yang, joined an opposition party last month but decided not to contest the election, saying the country “doesn’t need another Lee.” Their father, Lee Kuan Yew, was Singapore’s first prime minister and during 31 years in office turned the resource-poor nation into an affluent city-state.
TOKYO (AP) — Flooding and mudslides have stranded hundreds of people in scenic hot springs and hiking areas in central Japan, while rescue workers searched on Thursday for more people missing in the disaster that already has killed nearly 60 people in a southern region. Parts of Nagano and Gifu, including areas known for scenic mountain trails and hot springs, have been flooded by massive downpours. More than 300 people, including hotel employees and visitors, were trapped in Kamikochi, as floods and mudslides hit a main road connecting the town to Matsumoto, another tourist destination in Nagano. All of the stranded people were safe, prefectural officials said.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Mining giant Rio Tinto said Thursday it will close its aluminum smelter in southern New Zealand, resulting in 1,000 job losses and dealing a major economic blow to the region. But environmentalists say the closure of the Tiwai Point smelter could help New Zealand’s push to become cleaner and greener. The smelter sucks up about 13% of New Zealand’s electricity and its closure will mean a greater proportion of the nation’s energy needs can be met from renewable sources. Rio Tinto said it will wind down operations over the coming months and close the plant next August.
BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s Cabinet has approved two draft bills that would give same-sex unions legal status similar to that of heterosexual marriages. The draft Civil Partnership Act and amendments of the Civil and Commercial Code will be sent to Parliament soon for approval, deputy government spokeswoman Ratchada Thanadirek said after Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting. The Civil Partnership Act would allow couples who were born with the same sex to register their partnership if they are both at least 17 years old and at least one is a Thai citizen. Although their union is not defined as a marriage, it grants many legal rights that are the same as those held by married heterosexual couples in matters such as adoption of stepchildren and inheritance.
BEIJING (AP) — China defended the World Health Organization and lashed out at the U.S. decision to withdraw from the U.N. body, adding to a litany of disputes between the world’s largest economies and increasing geopolitical rivals. Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the move was “another demonstration of the U.S. pursuing unilateralism, withdrawing from groups and breaking contracts.” WHO is “the most authoritative and professional international institution in the field of global public health security,” Zhao said at a briefing Wednesday, adding that the U.S. departure would particularly hurt developing countries in need of international support. WHO plans to send a team to China to investigate the source of the virus, which was first detected in the central city of Wuhan last year.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Confirmed coronavirus infections in the Philippines soared past 50,000 on Wednesday in a troubling milestone for a country that has reopened an economy on the brink of recession while still struggling to combat the pandemic. The Department of Health reported 2,539 new cases, bringing the country’s total to 50,359, including 1,314 deaths. The Philippines’ caseload is the second largest in Southeast Asia, where the combined number of infections has surpassed those in China, where the pandemic emerged. President Rodrigo Duterte eased a tough virus lockdown in the Philippine capital of more than 12 million people on June 1 after the economy shrank slightly in the first quarter, its first contraction in more than two decades.
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Unidentified assailants late Wednesday fatally shot a pro-India politician along with his father and brother in Kashmir, police said, in a first major attack against India’s ruling party members in the disputed region. Police blamed militants fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir for the attack. Militants fired at Sheikh Wasim Bari, a leader with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in northwestern Bandipora town Wednesday night, police said in a statement. The statement said “during indiscriminate firing,” Bari, his brother and father were injured but later died at a hospital. Bari’s brother and father also were BJP members.
KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal’s prime minister could be forced out of office within weeks amid an internal tussle for power within his governing party following his sharp rhetoric on neighboring India and as Chinese influence grows in the country. Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli was set to meet Wednesday with his Nepal Communist Party rival, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who argues it is his turn to rule, ahead of a series of party meetings in coming days and weeks that will decide whether Oli is removed from his post. Oli’s troubles within the party also come as he deals with blowback from India over a new map of the Himalayan country that includes a disputed area claimed by both India and Nepal.