Asian Insider Dec 2: Typhoon Kammuri, volatile stocks in Hong Kong, Australia battles spying

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


In today’s bulletin: Philippines - which is currently hosting the South-east Asia Games - braces itself for Typhoon Kammuri; a third Hong Kong stock in less than a week has seen nearly its entire value wiped out in a single day; Australia launches a task force after claims of Chinese spying operations in the country; and more...

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Tens of thousands have been evacuated, schools have been shut and flights cancelled as Typhoon Kammuri looks set to slam into the Philippines later today. Kammuri, which is packing maximum winds of 150kmh near the centre and gusts of up to 185kmh, is headed for the main island of Luzon. Manila, the country’s capital which is currently playing host to the biennial South-east Asian Games, lies in the path of the storm. While Kammuri is the 20th tropical cyclone to enter the Philippines this year, its path through population centres makes it especially dangerous. Some 8 million people are said to be at risk.

See also: Evacuations begin in Philippines as typhoon threatens ongoing SEA Games


China First Capital Group saw its stock on the Hong Kong Exchange plunge 78 per cent in a single day - becoming the third counter in less than a week to be nearly completely wiped out. On the same day last week, two other companies see their stock prices slump over 90 per cent. The sudden wave of stock slumps is raising concerns about corporate governance standards in Hong Kong. This despite the territory’s Securities and Futures Commission and stock exchange operator already having already focused on cleaning up its equity market to try and make extreme swings less common. All this takes place against a backdrop of increasingly dire economic predictions for Hong Kong.

Top stories on Hong Kong today:

Hong Kong to see first budget deficit in 15 years as unrest costs 2 percentage points of GDP growth

'I choose to stay,' says a holdout of Hong Kong university campus siege

Thousands return to Hong Kong streets in fresh round of protests, police fire tear gas at those outside of approved route

Analysis: US laws supporting Hong Kong protests - what good are they


Australia has launched a high-level intelligence task force to prosecute and expel foreign agents. Though no country was explicitly mentioned in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement, the move comes in the wake of claims of brazen Chinese operations in  the country. There have been multiple claims in recent weeks of Chinese interference that goes beyond what one might have considered as a run-of-the-mill state-sponsored influence campaign. In one case, China is accused of trying to recruit a Melbourne businessman and get him elected. China has denied all the claims and says the media has cooked up “so-called China spy cases”.

See also: For Australia, Chinese threat suddenly becomes very real


Recreational use of marijuana remains banned throughout Asia, but several countries in the region have recently started to ease restrictions on medical cannabis. Even Singapore, with a zero tolerance policy on illicit drugs, has allowed cannabis-derived medication for one patient - a young girl who suffers from refractory epilepsy. But there remain concerns around the region about easing the rules too much. Our correspondents travelled the region to file a report on the debate about cannabis currently taking place in Asia.

Read: Medical cannabis: Hope or hype?


The Parti Keadilan Rakyat, the party with the largest number of MPs in Malaysia’s Parliament, is said to be on the verge of an open civil war that would upend all talk of 94-year-old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad handing over the reins next year his named successor, Anwar Ibrahim. In an exclusive report from Malaysia bureau chief Shannon Teoh, the rival factions supporting Mr Anwar, PKR president and his deputy Azmin Ali have been preparing for a battle royale  party congress this week, with party members likely having to pick a side. Animosity has simmered between the two since earlier this year Mr Anwar’s camp was accused of masterminding the release of a gay sex video that implicated Mr Azmin.

Read about what could be the most consequential week in Malaysian politics since the 2018 election: PKR feud at boiling point as annual party congress looms


RUSSIAN PIPELINE: Russia and China on Monday (Dec 2) launched a giant gas pipeline linking the countries for the first time, one of three major projects aimed at cementing Moscow's role as the world's top gas exporter.

TRUMP IMPEACHMENT HEARING: The White House told Democratic lawmakers on Sunday (Nov 1) that United States President Donald Trump would not send legal counsel to participate in a congressional impeachment hearing this week, citing a lack of "fundamental fairness".

LONDON TERROR ATTACK: Britain's Boris Johnson said on Sunday (Dec 1) the security services were stepping up the monitoring of convicted terrorists released early from prison, as the London Bridge attack became embroiled in the election campaign.

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