Asian Insider, Feb 24: Indonesian Minister cancels Myanmar visit; HK’s trading tax hike

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

Hi all,

In today's bulletin: Indonesia's Foreign Minister cancels Myanmar visit; US President Joe Biden and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau take up China's influence in first meeting; Sedition cases in India; HK's trading tax hike; China orders man to pay his ex-wife for housework in landmark ruling, and more.

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

Indonesia scraps foreign minister Retno's planned visit to Myanmar

Indonesia scrapped a visit by the country's foreign minister to Myanmar in a move that raised further concern about ongoing developments in Myanmar, with relentless protests continuing daily despite warnings from the military junta.

Had the visit taken place, it would have been the first by a foreign envoy to Myanmar. Announcing the cancellation of the visit by Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said she wasn't going as it was "not an ideal time".

With Myanmar being a part of Asean, much discussion has been taking place in the region on a way out of the crisis. Ms Retno has been rallying support in South-east Asia for a special meeting on Myanmar, travelling to Brunei, the current Asean chair, and Singapore last week to exchange views on the ongoing developments in Myanmar, writes our Regional Correspondent Arlina Arshad.

Meanwhile, Myanmar's military-appointed foreign minister has flown to Thailand for talks on diplomatic efforts by Asean, reports said.

Also read

Asean should facilitate talks, not deal solely with junta: Envoy of ousted Myanmar lawmakers by Tan Hui Yee, Indochina Bureau Chief

Biden, Trudeau pledge to counter China in first meeting

US President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a first virtual meeting to rebuild ties and turn the page on the Trump era during which both also pledged to work together to counter China's influence.

The two leaders discussed the release of the two Canadians held by China - Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig - and Mr Biden assured Mr Trudeau of America's support.

In another development on the US-China front, US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer directed lawmakers on Tuesday to craft a package of measures to counter China's rise.

Also read

Taiwan gets reassuring signals of steady US support

Disha Ravi's case shows spurt of sedition cases in India

The arrest of 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi, for helping to prepare an online document detailing methods to support ongoing farmer protests, has turned the spotlight on a colonial-era sedition law, under which she was detained. Ms Ravi was held for nine days before being released yesterday.

Several Indians have been detained for alleged anti-state actions under harsh laws that rarely lead to convictions and sedition cases in the country are at an all-time high, writes India Correspondent Rohini Mohan.

In the last year, a range of government critics have been accused of sedition. The list includes students protesting contentious changes to India's citizenship laws and an opposition MP who tweeted about the death of a demonstrator in the farmers' protests.

Hong Kong's first trading tax hike since 1993 pummels stocks

Hong Kong's move to raise stamp-duty on stock trades, for the first time in nearly 30 years, sparked a sell-off in the US$7.6 trillion (S$10 trillion) market, resulting in shares plunging to a level not seen in the past five years.

Finance Secretary Paul Chan's plan will see the trading-tax increase to 0.13 per cent from 0.10 per cent of the value of each trade. Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index sank 2.9 per cent as of 2.48pm. local time, led by a 8.6 per cent tumble in Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing (HKEX). The bourse operator was headed for its biggest slump since 2015, even after reporting record annual earnings on Wednesday, reports said.

As such, the trading tax increase was part of a series of measures in the HK$120 billion (S$20.4 billion) plan to stabilise the city's economy hit by the pandemic. New measures include loans for the jobless and vouchers to fuel consumption.

Delve deeper

HK finance chief unveils $20.4 billion plan to stabilise economy as deficit peaks by Claire Huang, Hong Kong Correspondent

Australia's anti-trust chief claims victory after Facebook stand-off

The architect of Australia's law, that will force tech giants such as Google and Facebook to pay media companies, claimed victory in the discussions with the two companies, although critics said the tweaks made on Tuesday favoured tech giants over smaller news outlets. Mr Rod Sims, chair of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said the bargaining power imbalance had been righted. Reports said his comments might bolster efforts by Canada and Britain with their plans for similar laws.

Also read

Will Europe and US join forces against Big Tech? By Markus Ziener, Global Affairs Correspondent

In other news

Chinese court orders man to pay ex-wife for housework: In a landmark ruling, a Chinese man has been ordered to pay his ex-wife more than S$10,000 for years of unpaid housework. The case has sparked furious debate across the country.

China targets Uighurs with more prosecutions: China has dramatically increased its prosecution of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang through the formal court system, handing out long prison terms for dubious charges such as "picking quarrels" and giving gifts to overseas relatives, the Human Rights Watch group said today.

North Korean defector undetected for hours after swimming to South: A North Korean defector wore a diving suit and fins during a daring six-hour swim around one of the world's most fortified borders, and was caught only after apparently falling asleep. This even though he appeared several times on CCTV after he landed.

That's it for today. Thanks for reading The Straits Times and today's Asian Insider newsletter. We'll be back tomorrow.


Want more insights into fast-changing Asia from our network of correspondents? Get this article in your inbox by signing up here.

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