Asian Insider, Dec 3: US-listed Chinese firms face delisting; Australia eyes tough new veto powers

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

Hi all,

In today's bulletin: Chinese firms on US exchanges threatened by Bill headed to Trump's desk; Australia eyes tough new veto powers over foreign agreements amid China row; Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai denied bail on fraud charge; Japan may ban sale of new petrol-powered vehicles in mid-2030s; Why an Iranian crisis matters to the rest of Asia

Reading this on the web or know someone who might enjoy receiving Asian Insider? Our sign-up page is here.

Chinese firms on US exchanges threatened by Bill headed to Trump's desk

The US House of Representatives has passed a law to boot Chinese firms off US stock exchanges if they do not fully comply with the country's auditing rules, giving President Donald Trump one more tool to tighten the screws on Beijing before he leaves office.

The measure was passed by the House through a unanimous voice vote after being passed in a similar unopposed fashion in the Senate, and the White House has said that Mr Trump is expected to sign it into law.

Separately, the US has restricted travel visas for millions of Chinese Communist Party members, limiting them and their immediate families to one-month single-entry visas.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged the US to reverse course, with the changes likely to further strain a relationship roiled by a trade war, intensified geopolitical competition and mutual recriminations about the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Go deeper:

US curbs travel visas for millions of Chinese Communist Party members

Biden will not immediately remove phase 1 trade deal with China

Australia eyes tough new veto powers over foreign agreements amid China row

Australia's Parliament was set to pass legislation that gives the federal government the power to veto any agreement struck with foreign states, a move likely to anger China and intensify a bitter diplomatic spat between the two countries even though Prime Minister Scott Morrison stressed that the law is not aimed at any particular nation.

Under the law, the government will be able to block any agreement between Australian states, councils or institutions and a foreign government, such as a controversial 2018 deal between the state of Victoria and China.

In a separate development, China's WeChat social media platform blocked a post by Mr Morrison on Wednesday amid a dispute between Canberra and Beijing over a doctored image of an Australian soldier that was tweeted by a Chinese Foreign Ministry official.

Here's more:

China's Wolf Warrior diplomats praised at home for slamming Australia

Allies raise a glass to Australia amid China's anti-dumping tariffs on wine from Down Under

China's WeChat blocks Australian PM Scott Morrison in dispute over doctored image

HK pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai denied bail on fraud charge

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been remanded into custody after being charged with fraud, the latest Beijing critic and democracy campaigner to be prosecuted as China tightens its grip on the territory.

Lai, 73, is the owner of Hong Kong's best-selling Apple Daily - a popular tabloid that is unashamedly pro-democracy and fiercely critical of the authorities - and was charged on Thursday along with two of the firm's executives for the paper's offices allegedly being used for purposes not permitted by the building's lease.

Lai has long said he fears the authorities want to shutter his newspaper, one of the few local outlets still willing to vocally take on Beijing, which has led to him being routinely cast as a traitor in Chinese state media.

Here's more:

Top diplomats say media freedom 'under attack' in Hong Kong

Japan may ban sale of new petrol-powered vehicles in mid-2030s

Japan is mulling over a ban on the sale of new petrol-engine cars by the mid-2030s in favour of hybrid or electric vehicles, aligning it with other countries and regions that are imposing curbs on fossil fuel vehicles.

The move follows Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's pledge in October for Japan to slash carbon emissions to zero on a net basis by 2050, which made the country the second G-7 nation to set a deadline for phasing out petrol vehicles.

Japan's Industry Ministry is expected to set out a roadmap by the year-end, with state interventions to lower carbon emissions fuelling a technological race among car-makers to build vehicles that will lure drivers away from petrol models.

Read more online:

Suga says Japan will attain zero-emissions, carbon neutral society by 2050

Japan lawmakers declare climate emergency after government sets zero emissions goal

Why an Iranian crisis matters to the rest of Asia

Last week's murder of Iran's top nuclear scientist and the fallout from US President Donald Trump's end-of-term moves towards that nation have a bearing not only on West Asia, but also on countries in the eastern span of the continent, writes Straits Times Associate Editor Ravi Velloor.

While the tensions around Iran may be seen as something taking place within the Muslim universe, the rest of Asia will have to step up its watch against the inevitable sense of victimhood if they take on a global dimension or are perceived as a Western attempt to subdue a proud Muslim nation.

More on this:

Iran vows killing of scientist won't stop any US talks

Killing likely a strategic move on several fronts

In other news...

Malaysia pushes employers to improve housing facilities for foreign labour amid pandemic: Malaysian Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob has said employers in the country must prepare adequate housing facilities for their foreign workers before they are allowed into the country. The tough move comes as the government grapples with a surge in coronavirus infections among migrants working for rubber glove manufacturer Top Glove, who reside in Selangor worker dormitories.

Afghan govt, Taleban reach breakthrough deal as calls grow for a ceasefire: The Afghan government and the Taleban have reached a preliminary agreement to press ahead with peace talks, their first written agreement in 19 years of war, which was hailed by the United States as a chance to end the violence wracking the country. The deal is seen as a breakthrough because it will allow negotiators to move ahead on more substantive issues, such as a proposed ceasefire, even as Taleban attacks on government forces and civilians continue unabated.

Cyclone hits Sri Lanka as southern India hunkers down: Sri Lanka was left relatively unscathed after Cyclone Burevi hit the island nation and the weather system packing winds of up to 100kmh is now on its way to southern India. The cyclone is expected to make landfall in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu overnight on Thursday (Dec 3) before moving westwards into Kerala, Indian forecasters said.

Japan prosecutors seek to query former PM Abe in political funding case: Japanese prosecutors have requested former prime minister Shinzo Abe to come in for voluntary questioning in a case involving as much as 40 million yen (S$512,000) in unreported political funds linked to his secretary. Mr Abe, who resigned as Japan's longest-serving prime minister in September, is himself under fire after it emerged that his office helped cover the costs of dinner parties for supporters, a possible violation of funding laws that also threatens to embroil Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

That's it for today. Hope today's bulletin was interesting for you. Thanks for reading and we'll be back with you tomorrow.


Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.