Asian Insider Feb 4: Happy Chinese New Year!

Shoppers browsing through Chinese New Year decorations in Jurong West on Jan 17, 2019.
Shoppers browsing through Chinese New Year decorations in Jurong West on Jan 17, 2019.ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

The Year of the Pig

For the Chinese, the Lunar New Year is Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day all rolled into one, so it should come as little surprise that this is a festival whose influence spans across politics, business, entertainment, environmentalism and even - animal welfare.

The Chinese Year of the Dog makes way for the Year of the Pig tomorrow and that has animal lovers in Taiwan worried about a potential spike in abandoned pet pigs once owners realise few shelters house pigs and the cute piglet they brought home now weighs 60kg. In China, a debate has been going on about British cartoon character Peppa Pig’s starring role in festivities meanwhile,  environmental campaigners are urging  people to eat less pork to help save the planet.

Why Asia is watching the SOTU

The American president’s State of the Union address is not typically of much significance in this part of the world. The speeches are, almost by definition, focused on domestic issues and, as US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh notes, this year’s speech - the first one postponed since 1986 when the shuttle Challenger crashed - will likely centre on immigration and trade.

But this year’s SOTU also comes amid high-stakes trade talks between US and China, a possible meeting between US President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, an increasingly tense spat over the arrest of Huawei heir Meng Wanzhou in Canada and preparations for a second summit between Mr Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Among the big questions for SOTU watchers: What will Trump tell the American people about his relationship with China, and has a date been set for the summit with Kim?

Catch up on the issues:

-Trade: US, China confident of reaching a trade deal before deadline

-Huawei: Huawei arraignment in Seattle trade secret case set for Feb 28

-Trump-Kim Summit II: Vietnam most likely to host second Trump-Kim summit, say observers

Pope visits the UAE

Pope Francis is in Abu Dhabi today, the first head of the Catholic church to set foot in the Arabian Peninsula. The symbolic trip - due to last just 48 hours - has attracted its share of controversy.

At the heart of debate is the question of just how tolerant the United Arab Emirates actually is as a country. While it has painstakingly crafted an image as a beacon of tolerance in the Middle East, it has a foreign policy not always as tolerant. It is mired in a protracted conflict in Yemen that does not gel well with its stated aim of hosting the pontiff: To build bridges amid growing nationalism and insularism.

Reporting from the UAE: Pope's visit comes as UAE faces scrutiny over image of tolerance

Church bombing suspect surrenders

A week after deadly twin blasts on the small Philippine island of Jolo, authorities are starting to zero in on culprits. Kammah Pae, A man suspected of helping two suicide bombers carry out the attack has surrendered.

Kammah and four other supposed operatives of the Abu Sayyaf, a gang of self-styled Islamic militants that has pledged allegiance to ISIS, turned themselves in over the weekend, reports Philippines Correspondent Raul Dancel.

The explosions. which killed 23 people and wounded more than 100, came a week after more than 1.5 million Muslims overwhelmingly approved a more powerful autonomous region in Mindanao. Abu Sayyaf opposes any peace deal with the government.

The hunt for the culprits:

8 killed in assault on hideout of Singaporean terrorist

Crack Indonesian team to identify church bombers in Philippines

In case you missed it…

It’s been more than three decades since the first cases of HIV emerged in South-east Asia but a recent high-profile leak from Singapore’s HIV registry has shown that the prejudices surrounding those afflicted with the virus remain.

In a special report, our correspondents speak to those living with the virus in the region on how they cope with the stigma and discrimination.

The people:

-'I'm not dirty even though I have HIV'

-'I had to go to work and face some pointed looks'

-In Asia, old stigmas are proving resilient for those with virus

Explainer: Having HIV can't get you fired but could affect chances of getting a job

Opinion: HIV Registry data leak: Time for change to reduce stigma

And finally, for something completely different

Eat your heart out Marie Kondo. Indonesian security guard Slamet Gunaedi, who works in a high school in the province of Banten, has taken tidying to an altogether different level: motorcycles.

He has been organising the hundreds of motorcycles of teachers and students at the school by colour and make for years.

"I love order,” he says. No kidding.

That’s it for today’s Asian Insider. We’ll be back on Thursday.

To all who celebrate Chinese New Year, Gong Xi Fa Cai!

-J

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