Asian Insider July 1: Hong Kong, Indonesia and Trump’s busy weekend

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

PROTESTERS STORM LEGISLATURE IN HK

A fresh wave of demonstrations over the controversial extradition Bill in Hong Kong, planned to coincide with the 22nd anniversary of the British handover of the territory to China, was marred by violence - with some protesters smashing a glass door at the Legislative Council and clashing with police. Just two streets away from the pandemonium at the LegCo, thousands marched peacefully.

Muted ceremony to commemorate the handover:  Amid scattered showers, wet weather plans for the ceremony kicked in with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other senior government officials watching a live feed indoors of a flag raising ceremony being held outside the Convention and Exhibition Centre at Wanchai. And while Ms Lam used her speech at the event to pledge a more open and accommodating style of governance, it did little to blunt the fury of protesters.

Ugly protests:  Despite pleas for calm and a series of measures taken to contain the fallout, today’s scenes matched some of the ugliest in the weeks-long demonstrations. Protesters reportedly armed themselves with iron poles and bricks from construction sites and guard rails taken from nearby roads. Some were seen throwing eggs and police also said protesters threw an unidentified liquid that left some officers with breathing difficulties and swollen, itchy skin. During some skirmishes, police responded with pepper spray.

When will it stop:  It does not appear that the Hong Kong government is going to give in to any more protester demands ( Protesters want a full withdrawal of the Bill not just a suspension) and it appears unlikely that Ms Lam will step down. That leaves no clear off ramp for either side. In 2014, the Occupy Central movement lasted 2.5 months to the point the protesters started to lose support from the general public. Hong Kong clearly knows how to keep a protest going but they may want to avoid a repeat of 2014.

 Latest reports from our team in Hong Kong:

Hong Kong protesters smash Legco building glass door in fresh demonstrations, July 1 march rerouted

Hong Kong's Carrie Lam promises to listen to young people in speech marking handover anniversary

US-CHINA TARIFF TRUCE II

Sequels are very rarely as well-received as the originals and that does seem to be the case here. Though there was a lot of dejavu - another G-20 meeting ended with US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreeing to another ceasefire on new tariffs - the response to this one has been markedly different.

Caution, hazards ahead: Lessons clearly have been learnt and the mood in Asia after what seems like positive progress in Osaka is one of caution. Perhaps the response was best exemplified by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong telling reporters - on the day Trump and Xi announced the truce - that he was worried about the limited progress made on trade at the G-20. In China, editorials from the state media continued to warn about the possibility of the restarted talks still ending without a deal.

Go deeper:

China still cautious, prepared for a no-deal outcome with US despite early trade concessions

A HISTORIC HANDSHAKE, BUT WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?

History was made over the weekend with a hastily arranged handshake between Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong UN at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas as the American president became the first occupant of the White House to set foot on North Korean soil. But just what exactly did this achieve?

The good:  The first thing, and perhaps this was the key point of the exercise, it created a made-for-TV moment that was useful to both leaders. Mr Trump got to burnish his credentials as someone that can bring North Korea to the table and dispel perceptions that the US was not committed to diplomacy. Meanwhile, Mr Kim gets to show his home audience that there remains value in continuing to engage the US. The second thing is that it managed to at least get nuclear talks going again after the Hanoi Summit. 

The not-so-good: Nothing about the fundamental disagreements that scuppered the Hanoi meet appear to have been bridged, however. And in a sense, both Mr Trump’s headline-grabbing meetings over the weekend followed the same script - both are upbeat photo-opportunities that restarted stalled negotiations without appearing to address any of the problems that led to the impasse in the first place. Still, one supposes it is better than nothing.

Go deeper:  

President's reality TV approach gives diplomacy a chance

INDONESIA DECLARES A WINNER

It took over three months - 2 months for counting and another for the Courts to resolve a challenge - but there is finally an official winner of the Indonesian elections that took place on April 17. President Joko Widodo and running-mate Ma’ruf Amin were declared winners yesterday. That means the work of forming the new government can finally begin.

Sandi congratulates Jokowi: Not all that much has been heard of the losing candidate Prabowo Subianto’s running mate Sandiaga Uno since the election but he today released a video on Instagram congratulating the winners. He said it only natural for those who were defeated to feel disappointed because they had wanted to “play a role in building and advancing the nation”. Mr Sandiaga has largely kept a low profile even as Mr Prabowo was alleging electoral fraud and claiming victory in the elections so his remarks today has triggered speculation that he may be angling for a position in Jokowi’s Cabinet. Mr Prabowo has yet to publicly congratulate Mr Jokowi.

Further reading: Indonesian V-P candidate Sandiaga Uno congratulates President Joko Widodo and his running mate

MALAYSIAN LAWMAKERS PUSH BACK ON NEED TO DECLARE ASSETS

For our last item today, let’s look at a move by the Malaysian government to compel all Members of Parliament to declare their assets as part of its anti-corruption push. All MPs of the ruling party are already made to do so but a motion has been tabled to make this rule apply to all MPs. Now, it is understandable that not all MPs are going to be pleased about this rule, but how exactly would they argue against this transparency? Would they claim they were being audited?

One MP argued it would be punishment for gaining wealth, while another said the move was not supported by anything in the law. Still, the best one came from Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, who argued that the motion was against Islamic teaching. 

"If God gives us wealth, you do not reveal it to the public, because it will cause envy,” he said.

IN OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

Dozens of students at several schools in Pasir Gudang, Johor experienced breathing difficulties and nausea hours after 111 primary and secondary schools reopened on Sunday (30 June), after being closed last week due to an air pollution incident.

Afghan security forces on Monday (July 1) were battling Taleban gunmen who stormed a building in the capital, Kabul, after a bomb-laden truck exploded near the defence ministry at rush hour, injuring at least 100 people, including 35 children, officials said.

A Bollywood actress who starred in India's highest-grossing movie said she is quitting acting because it is incompatible with her Islamic faith, sparking a social media storm. In a lengthy social media post published on Sunday (June 30), Zaira Wasim said she was leaving the profession because becoming a Bollywood star had "damaged" her relationship with God.

 That’s a wrap for today. Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow.

-Jeremy