Asian Insider Aug 19: Hong Kong, 1MDB, Singapore’s National Day Rally

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.

In today’s bulletin: Hong Kong had its first peaceful weekend of protests in months, the long-awaited, much-delayed 1MDB trial in Malaysia gets put off again, Singapore’s PM talks about climate change and the US-China trade war during his National Day Rally and more.

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GIVING PEACE A CHANCE

After three months of unrest, protests in Hong Kong and clashes with police have come to be associated with each other. Nearly every mass protest has devolved into a confrontation between police and protesters.This past weekend, for the first time in 11 weekends and after a week that saw some of the worst disruptions to Hong Kong, the protests ended peacefully. It was still a busy weekend for Hong Kong: Among the bigger developments, the Cathay Pacific CEO lost his job and China has warned Taiwan about offering protesters asylum.

What you need to know from the past weekend in Hong Kong:

First largely peaceful rallies in 11th straight weekend of demonstrations

Hong Kong rallies set to spill into September

China lashes out at Taiwan over Hong Kong asylum offer

Analysis: Is Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen the only winner in Hong Kong turmoil?

Cathay Pacific remains under scrutiny as CEO takes fall for protests

1MDB TRIAL POSTPONED

There has been growing impatience among some quarters in Malaysia over how slowly the 1MDB proceedings are taking and there will likely be further dismay after the long-awaited trial of the former Malaysian prime minister - due to begin today - was postponed a week.  The trial was postponed to make way for the hearing of a related case - involving 1MDB subsidiary SRC International - to be completed.

Background: The many attempts to delay 1MDB trial

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak fails in last bid to delay 1MDB trial

Najib charged: A timeline of events leading to his arrest

WILL RECESSION FEARS SPUR TRADE TALKS?

There is a school of thought that a looming recession would push trade negotiators to reach a deal, especially as the US approaches an election year. On Sunday, US President Donald Trump sought to pour cold water on the notion - not so much to rebut the fact that a recession would increase pressure for a deal but to altogether dismiss the possibility of a recession. And even after a week that saw stock markets battered and the yield curve inverted (something that has predicted recessions for decades) Mr Trump insisted he is not yet ready to make a deal.

Trump’s other proclamations about the trade war

Trump says trade war with China will be fairly short

SINGAPORE’S NATIONAL DAY RALLY

Singapore’s National Day Rally, an annual televised address by the prime minister - something akin to the State of the Union address in the US - took place on Sunday. As is a regular feature, PM Lee Hsien Loong took stock of the year past and set out plans moving forward. There were  a bunch of policy announcement but also noteworthy segments on climate change and how Singapore would navigate the tensions between US and China. 

Here is a summary of the what is considered Singapore’s most important annual speech:

Speech excerpt: Singapore's challenges in navigating US-China turbulence

Analysis by ST’s news editor: Identity and an island nation's vulnerability

8 things to know about PM Lee Hsien Loong's speech

A BIKE RIDE SET THE INTERNET ALIGHT

It is not entirely uncommon for political leaders to go for bike rides as photo opportunities, but when that political leader in question is 94-year-old Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the ride is going to get more attention than normal. This past weekend, a short clip of the nonagenarian on an 11km ride in Malaysia’ administrative capital went viral. The clip was just 23 seconds long but it would have been enough to at least momentarily silence doubts about the prime minister’s health.

Watch the video: Malaysia PM Mahathir, 94, goes on 11km bicycle ride

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Afghanistan: Afghanistan's president is vowing to eliminate all safe havens of the  Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)  group as the country marks a subdued 100th Independence Day after a horrific wedding attack claimed by the  local ISIS  affiliate. President Ashraf Ghani's comments on Monday (Aug 19) come as Afghanistan mourns at least 63 people killed in the Kabul bombing.

Missing kayaker: Malaysia has ended search operations for missing Singaporean kayaker Tan Eng Soon, 62, after 10 days of scouring the sea from north Johor to Terengganu on the east coast of peninsula Malaysia. Search efforts were terminated as of 9pm on Sunday (Aug 18).

Iran tanker: The Iranian oil tanker at the centre of a diplomatic dispute has departed from Gibraltar after the British overseas territory rejected a US demand to seize the vessel. According to the monitoring website Marine Traffic, the supertanker – which had been detained since July 4 off the coast of Gibraltar – lifted anchor Sunday evening and started sailing south.

Greenland: Greenland is not for sale and the idea of selling it to the United States is absurd, Denmark's prime minister said on Sunday (Aug 18) after an economic adviser to President Donald Trump confirmed the US interest in buying the world's largest island.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow,

Jeremy