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Asian Insider, Jan 7: Democrats’ sweep lifts Asia markets; Hong Kong mass arrests

Hi all, 

In today’s bulletin: Democrat win lifts Asia markets; Chinese media mock US capitol chaos; Hong Kong protests attract condemnation, sanctions; Indian farmers block expressway in New Delhi; Australia urges China to give access to WHO officials probing origin of coronavirus, and more. 

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Democrats’ sweep lifts Asia markets; Chinese media mock US capitol chaos

Asian markets were up on Thursday as the win for Democrats in the state of Georgia handed them control of the US Congress, raising hopes for fresh stimulus from US President-elect Joe Biden’s government to revive the economy. 

This was despite chaotic scenes in Washington after supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol. marring the image of the United States. There were concerns that the Biden administration might undo some of the tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations made by Mr Trump, but overall sentiments weighed in favour of gains to come and possible resolution of the Covid-19 situation.

While the Dow and S&P 500 both ended at new records on Wall Street, Asia followed suit, with Tokyo piling on 1.8 per cent, Sydney jumping 1.7 per cent and Seoul surging more than two per cent. Wellington was up more than one percent, while there also gains in Shanghai, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta. Singapore’s Straits Times Index was up 1.4 per cent at 11.34am local time.

Meanwhile, Chinese media mocked the chaotic scenes in Washington. The US had “tasted the karma of its own double standards” after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, the Communist Party-backed Global Times newspaper reported, citing comments from Chinese internet users.

Read more: 

America’s toxic divide explodes and anger likely to remain

US lawmakers denounce violence as they reconvene to announce Electoral College votes

Storming of US Capitol: Timeline of key events in Washington

Pompeo threatens sanctions while others condemn Hong Kong mass arrests

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened sanctions on those involved in the Hong Kong mass arrests and restrictions on the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in the US. 

He also announced that the US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft would visit Taiwan, in a move certain to rile China.

The arrests of 53 people in Hong Kong is the biggest crackdown since China imposed a security law on the island last year. Those detained include American lawyer John Clancey, who was a treasurer for the group that helped to organise the unofficial primary election in Hong Kong last year. Britain and the European Union rebuked the mass arrests in separate statements. 

Meanwhile, other reports said jailed Hong Kong democracy campaigner Joshua Wong was arrested today, in connection with the unofficial primary elections that China has described as an attempt to “overthrow and paralyse” the city government.

Also read: 

Hong Kongers shocked and divided by arrests of pro-democracy leaders

Protesting Indian farmers block expressway in biggest show of strength

Tens of thousands of farmers blocked an expressway on the periphery of Indian capital New Delhi, signalling an escalation of protests as the nation prepared to mark the country’s Republic Day on Jan 26.

Farmers have held fast to their demands despite several rounds of discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has offered to make amendments to the agricultural laws passed last year enabling private sector investment in the sector. 

Farmers, who fear that the change will mean that they lose the guaranteed minimum price for their produce, want the laws repealed.

Go deeper

Indian farmers vow to continue protest until new laws are repealed

Xi’s push against tech giants sparks new threat for firms

China’s crackdown on the country’s tech giants could pose new challenges for the companies that made headway on grounds that they operated relatively independently of the government. 

A day after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning transactions with eight Chinese software applications, including Ant’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay, US authorities were mulling over whether to ban investments in Alibaba and Tencent, reports said.

Female bodybuilder with one leg captures hearts in China

At the tender age of seven, she lost her right leg in a road accident and grew up with school bullies pulling away her crutch to make her fall. She’s overcome that and a lot more to now be recognised as a prize-winning bodybuilder. Her inspirational story has gone viral, especially after the former Paralympian won a contest last October. 

In other news…

Australia urges China to give access to WHO coronavirus experts: Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne has urged China to give access to World Health Organisation (WHO) officials investigating the origins of Covid-19 “without delay”. Her remarks follow those of WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who said yesterday he was “very disappointed” with China for not authorising the entry of a team of international coronavirus experts.

Malaysia’s Registrar of Societies rejects bid by Mahathir’s Pejuang to register:  Malaysia’s Registrar of Societies (RoS) has rejected an application by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) to be registered as a political party. The Registrar also rejected a separate application to register the new Muda party for youths, which is led by former Cabinet minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman.

Japan firm launches new facial recognition system: Japan’s NEC Corp has launched a facial recognition system that identifies people even when they are wearing masks, adapting to a new normal where face coverings have become a key form of protection against the spread of the coronavirus.

Thanks for reading The Straits Times and this newsletter. We will be back tomorrow.     

Shefali 

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