Asian Insider Aug 23: Hong Kong airport braces itself, poverty in Malaysia, Amazon burns

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

In today’s bulletin: After a weekend of relative peace, Hong Kong braces  itselffor more disruption at its airport; there is growing global concern about the fires in the amazon rainforest; a UN rapporteur is challenging Malaysia’s claim of having eradicated poverty and more.

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Just over a week since protesters brought Hong Kong airport to a standstill, Hong Kong is bracing itself for the possibility that its airport might get swarmed again. Though some protesters had issued an apology to tourists after the previous sit-in caused hundreds of flights to be cancelled, others have indicated they want to “increase pressure on airport transport” this weekend. There had been hopes that the last weekend - the first weekend in three months where protests ended peacefully - was a turning point. It now seems likely that is not going to be the case.

How Hong Kong is trying to protect the airport

Court order against Hong Kong airport protests extended ahead of more planned rallies

What happened the last time protesters occupied the airport: 

Hong Kong protests shut down airport in biggest disruption yet

Protesters disrupt Hong Kong airport operations for 2nd straight day

Other developments in Hong Kong today:

Chinese state media accuses Hong Kong metro company of helping protesters

Protest fears stalk Hong Kong businesses as China threat looms

Canadian consulate suspends travel to China for Hong Kong staff

Video of Hong Kong police officer gently dissuading protesters goes viral


As concern worldwide grows over the size of the fires in the Amazon rainforest - satellite images now show smoke stretching across the continent - Brazil is accusing critics of exaggerating the environmental problems. Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro is also taking exception to French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for the G-7 to hold an urgent meeting about the fires. Amid the war of words, however, what exactly is being done to contain the damage to one of the world’s most critical ecosystems is being lost.

Further reading:

Igniting global outrage, Brazil's Bolsonaro baselessly blames NGOs for Amazon fires

Fires in the Amazon rainforest have surged this year

Tropical forest the size of England destroyed in 2018, satellite data reveals


Malaysia’s claim to have essentially wiped out poverty in the country is being challenged by the UN. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said Malaysia’s official 0.4 per cent poverty rate statistic was achieved by using an unduly low poverty line. By his calculation, Malaysia’s national poverty line means a family of four surviving on just over US$2 a day would not be considered poor.

The story: UN envoy challenges Malaysia's claim to have low poverty

See also: UN report condemns sexual violence by Myanmar military


The state of the global economy is set to be the main item on the agenda when the leaders of the US, France, the UK, Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan meet this weekend. However, with large gaps between the positions of China and the US, most observers are expecting this to be another one of those meetings featuring the two powers that end without a joint communique. Disorder would not be entirely new to the G-7. Last year, US President Donald Trump left the meeting in Canada early, and then backing out of the joint communique over a disagreement with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. This year, on top of the conflict with China, the G-7 will also be the international debut of the new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

A primer on this year’s G-7 meeting:

Trump, G-7 leaders to open summit focused on world economy

Trump or Europe? UK's Boris Johnson to sample post-Brexit reality at G-7 summit


To save you looking it up, from Wikipedia: floccinaucinihilipilification = floccus (“a wisp”) +‎ naucum (“a trifle”) +‎ nihilum (“nothing”) +‎ pilus (“a hair”) + -fication

It’s a word formed by mashing up four Latin words that mean “nothing” and adding a “fication”. All together, it means “the act of describing something as being worthless” and we are talking about it today because Indian Central Bank monetary policy committee member and Scrabble enthusiast (I assume) Chetan Gate used it during a recent meeting of the committee. He said “ "estimates of economic growth in India have unfortunately been subject to a fair degree of floccinaucinihilipilification. Notwithstanding this, growth is likely to pick up". It’s enough to give someone hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.


Boris puts his feet up: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may have taken a month to embark on his first trip abroad, but he was quick to make himself at home in President Emmanuel Macron's gilded palace, putting his feet up on the furniture - a move for which he now getting roundly criticised. 

Japan-South Korea: South Korea will share intelligence with Japan through a three-way channel involving the United States, despite a decision this week to scrap a pact with its neighbour, a senior official of the presidential Blue House said on Friday (Aug 23).

Typhoon Bailu: Taiwan braced for Typhoon Bailu on Friday (Aug 23), prompting cancellations of domestic flights amid warnings of floods and high seas. Typhoon Bailu, categorised at the weakest typhoon level by Taiwan's weather bureau, is expected to approach off the island's south-eastern coast early on Saturday.

Sri Lanka Easter attacks: Sri Lanka has ended a four-month state of emergency declared after Easter suicide bombings by Islamist extremists that killed 258 people, officials said on Friday (Aug 23). President Maithripala Sirisena has been extending the emergency on the 22nd of each month since the April 21 attacks on three hotels and three churches.

Dugongs: Jamil, an orphaned dugong under the care of Thai veterinarians died on Thursday (Aug 22), less than a week after the loss of another calf which became a social media darling for its human-friendly antics.


Today, we are launching a new companion video series for Asian Insider. Each week, ST’s US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh will speak to correspondents around the world and special guests to get the Asian perspective on an issue that is making global news. In the first episode, the show deals with the Hong Kong protests. 

Catch the pilot here.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend. We'll be back on Monday.