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Asian Insider, Aug 7: Trump orders ban on Chinese apps, Malaysia’s former Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng charged with corruption, where is Asia’s new Covid-19 hot spot?

Hi all,

In today’s bulletin: Trump orders ban on Tiktok, Wechat, Lim Guan Eng charged with corruption, Sri Lanka’s president tightens grip after huge win, Asia hit by huge slump in remittances, Philippines denies being Covid hotspot and more.

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TRUMP’S ORDERS TO BAN TIKTOK, WECHAT A ‘NAKED HEGEMONIC ACT’, SAYS BEIJING

China has “firmly opposed” United States President Donald Trump’s orders to ban popular Chinese social media apps TikTok and WeChat, calling it an act of political manipulation that overrides market principles, China Correspondent Danson Cheong reports.

Mr Trump on Thursday issued a pair of executive orders to ban popular Chinese social media apps TikTok and WeChat in 45 days, a move that marks a significant escalation in the confrontation between Beijing and Washington.

Both orders state in similar language that any “transactions” between Americans or American firms, and the parent companies of both apps – Chinese tech giants ByteDance and Tencent respectively – would be banned, citing national security concerns. The orders take effect on Sept 20.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Washington was using national security as a pretext to use national power to unreasonably suppress Chinese enterprises, calling it a “naked hegemonic act”.

While he said Beijing “firmly opposed” the latest moves, he stopped short of spelling out what countermeasures China would take.

See also: Chinese state media slams ‘madness’ of US tech purge

And: Why does Donald Trump want to ban TikTok? The saga explained

MALAYSIA’S EX-FINANCE MINISTER LIM GUAN ENG CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION OVER PENANG TUNNEL PROJECT

Malaysia’s former finance minister Lim Guan Eng was charged at the Special Corruption Court on Friday for soliciting a bribe over a controversial RM6.3 billion (S$2.06 billion) undersea tunnel project during his tenure as Penang chief minister, Malaysia Correspondent Hazlin Hassan reports. 

He was arrested late on Thursday night at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) headquarters. He pled not guilty.

The charge sheet alleged that he had asked for a bribe of 10 per cent of future profits from a company that was awarded a contract to build the undersea tunnel. Mr Lim told reporters after the court session: “This is a baseless allegation and it is politically motivated to tarnish and smear my reputation.”

Later on Friday, his wife, Betty Chew, was arrested by anti-corruption officials in Penang over a separate graft case, members of his party said. Ms Chew and businesswoman Phang Li Koon were seen at the Penang office of Malaysia’s anti-graft agency.

See also: Malaysia’s ex-finance minister Lim Guan Eng to file defamation suit over false story on son’s arrest

And: Malaysia’s ex-education minister considers legal action over corruption claim in solar project

SRI LANKA PRESIDENT, BROTHER TIGHTEN GRIP AFTER BIG POLL WIN

Sri Lanka’s parliamentary elections handed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother an overwhelming majority, results showed on Friday, giving the family power to enact sweeping changes to the constitution of the island nation.

President Rajapaksa had sought, and achieved, a two-thirds majority for his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party and its allies to be able to restore full executive powers to the presidency.

The two-thirds majority will see President Rajapaksa’s older brother and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa taking over as prime minister as the tourism-dependent nation struggles to recover from last year’s deadly Islamist militant attacks and, more recently, lockdowns to control the coronavirus pandemic.

Must read: All in the family: The Rajapaksa dynasty

And from Associate Editor Ravi Velloor: Speaking Of Asia: Sri Lanka, the island that lost its way

ASIA HIT BY GLOBAL CRASH IN REMITTANCES

Asia has been particularly hit by a global crash in remittances – a lifeline for many countries in the region – on the back of the pandemic-induced crash in economies around the globe.

“There are indications that the progress that has been made on (the goals of) reducing poverty, or malnutrition, or food insecurity, are unfortunately stagnating or will get worse before they start getting better,” Dr Aziz Elbehri, Senior Economist and Senior Policy Officer at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Asia Pacific, said on ST’s Asian Insider video and podcast.

“We are facing a very tough decade ahead,” Dr Elbehri told Asian Insider host Nirmal Ghosh, ST’s US Bureau Chief. 

The crash will not only affect governments’ ability to fund essential programmes but almost certainly reverse gains in poverty reduction, setting back some goals by decades.

Must read: Pandemic a blow to remittance inflow from overseas Filipino workers: Inquirer columnist

And: Migrant workers in Asia: Far from home amid the Covid-19 pandemic

PHILIPPINE OFFICIALS SAY IT IS NOT THE NEW COVID-19 HOT SPOT, NUMBERS ARE HIGHER BECAUSE OF MORE TESTING

Philippine officials on Friday disputed data that showed the country had the most Covid-19 cases in East Asia, insisting that previous “hot spot” Indonesia was just not testing enough. “Because we test more, it’s not true that we have more cases than Indonesia, Philippines Correspondent Raul Dancel reports. 

“The Indonesians just don’t know exactly how many who are sick are out there. At least we do,” said Harry Roque, the spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte. 

The Philippines on Thursday reported a total tally of 119,460 cases, the highest in all of East Asia. Only India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have more cases in Asia. Indonesia, which untll Thursday had been the epicentre, had 118,753 cases. On Friday, the Philippines’ caseload jumped by over 3,300 to 122,754.

See also: Millions of Filipinos back on lockdown as cases soar

And: Indonesia to step up mask-wearing campaign amid rising Covid-19 cases

IN OTHER NEWS

MALAYSIA’S DR MAHATHIR ANNOUNCES NEW PARTY: Malaysia’s longest serving Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad will set up another Malay-based political party, and will not align it with either of the two largest blocs in Parliament, he announced on Friday.  The party, which is yet to be named, will be formed by Tun Dr Mahathir along with four other MPs who are currently independent after being removed from Parti Pribumi Besatu Malaysia (Bersatu) led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. 

HONG KONG TO OFFER FREE CORONAVIRUS TESTING TO WHOLE CITY: The city’s government  wants to roll out a free voluntary testing programme for Covid-19 to all residents in two weeks with the help of the central government. While details are sketchy, Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Friday said the universal testing programme had to be safe, secure and carried out as soon as possible to detect silent transmissions quickly.

PHILIPPINES INVESTIGATES REPORTED DEATH OF FORMER WIRECARD EXECUTIVE: The Philippines is investigating whether a former Asian executive of the disgraced German payments firm Wirecard has died. The Justice Department is verifying if the person named “Christopher Reinhard Bauer” who reportedly died last week is the same person as the ex-Wirecard official who is part of an ongoing investigation into fraud. Also part of the investigation is to find out the cause of death, Guevarra said.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Have a great weekend, see you on Tuesday.

Tom

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