Asian Insider, July 6: China readies for more crackdown, coronavirus cases spike in Asia, Beijing accuses the US of flexing its muscles

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In today's bulletin: China readies for further political crackdown, coronavius cases spike in Asia, China accuses the US of flexing its muscles in the South China Sea and more.

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The Chinese government has taken steps to boost political policing as a slew of international spats risk sowing domestic unrest that could undermine support for the Chinese Communist Party. A special working group on political security was added to a law enforcement task force first established in April to defuse any social unrest stemming from the government's response to the coronavirus outbreak, reported Bloomberg, citing the Chinese newspaper Legal Daily.

The group recently held their first meeting in Beijing, where they vowed to take strict precautions against and crack down on activities including infiltration, subversion, terrorism, ethnic secession and extreme religious activities. In February, at the height of the coronavirus outbreak in China, the Chinese government tightened its grip on online and social media as criticism of local authorities' handling of the epidemic grew. Chinese President Xi Jinping's government has repeatedly expressed suspicions that foreign nations are spreading disinformation and attempting to foment unrest within China.

See also:

China detains professor who criticised Xi over coronavirus, friends say


Japan, the Philippines and Australia are seeing spikes in new coronavirus cases as restrictions have been eased in recent weeks to boost stalled economies. Tokyo reported 102 new cases on Monday (July 6), marking the fifth consecutive day of more than 100 infections after the city eased restrictions last month. However, city governor Yuriko Koike said she wanted to avoid a broad request to shut down businesses and instead take a more targeted approach focusing on certain industries and specific areas.

The Philippines has also seen an increase in cases after lifting lockdowns last month but the government has sought to reassure the people that the healthcare system is managing to keep up with the surge and pointed out that fewer patients were dying. It said, however, that it may place under lockdown some districts in capital Manila that are reporting clusters.

This was as Australia is planning to shut on Tuesday (July 7) the border between its two most populous states Victoria and New South Wales for an indefinite period to contain an outbreak of the virus in the city of Melbourne. The number of cases in Melbourne, Victoria's capital, has surged in recent days, prompting authorities to enforce strict social distancing orders in 30 suburbs and place nine public housing towers under complete lockdown. The renewed outbreak in the city risks further damaging a regional economy that relies heavily on international tourists, students and migrants, economists say.

See also:

India reports record daily cases in coronavirus battle


China has accused the United States of deliberately sending its warships to the South China Sea to flex its muscles and trying to drive a wedge between countries in the region. Its Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made the comments during a daily press briefing in Beijing on Monday (July 6).

The comments come as two US Navy aircraft carriers are conducting exercises in the contested South China Sea within sight of Chinese naval vessels spotted near the flotilla. The US Navy has brought carriers together for such shows of force in the region in the past, but this year's drill comes amid heightened tension as the US criticises China over its coronavirus response and accuses it of taking advantage of the pandemic to push territorial claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere.

See also:

Chinese troops seen withdrawing from flashpoint Himalayan valley: Indian army


Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike was returned to a second term in office on Sunday (July 5) with heavy bipartisan support across gender and age groups in a thrashing for her 21 contenders, reported Japan correspondent Walter Sim. The 67-year-old, who is Tokyo's first female leader, took about 60 per cent of the vote, beating her nearest rival anti-poverty campaigner Kenji Utsunomiya, 73.
But her celebration was muted given the ongoing surge in coronavirus cases in the capital city.

"I cannot feel completely happy (with this victory) as Tokyo is in the middle of a pandemic," Ms Koike, formerly defence and environment minister, told a televised news conference. In her new term, Ms Koike wants to create a Tokyo version of the United States' Centres for Disease Control, and grow Tokyo's status as a financial hub. She also harbours ambition to return to national politics, analysts say.

See also:

Olympics: Japan to explore 'simplified' 2021 Games, says Tokyo governor


Survivers of Myanmar's worst-ever mine disaster last Thursday (July 2) recounted how they miraculously escaped death but also told of dashed dreams of beating poverty after a landslide in heavy rains entombed 174 people with scores more feared missing.

Mr Sai Ko, 22, survived the spin-dryer of rock and heavy sludge by clinging to the corpse of a fellow miner, and battling to land. His friend Zaw Lwin, 29, and his younger brother San Lwin were miraculously spat out from the churning torrent and delivered naked onto the shore, their clothes ripped off by the deluge.

They are among the poor migrants from across Myanmar who travel hundreds of kilometres to prospect in Hpakant. But big paydays are few and far between for the jade miners in a multi-billion-dollar industry dominated by firms linked to Myanmar's military.

See also:

Myanmar's jade trade 'worth $43b but locals are dirt poor'


BAIL DENIED: A Hong Kong court denied bail on Monday (July 6) to the first person charged with inciting separatism and terrorism under the city's new national security law after he carried a sign saying "Liberate Hong Kong" and drove his motorbike into police. Tong Ying-kit, 23, was arrested after a video posted online showed him knocking over several officers at a demonstration last Wednesday, less than 24 hours after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on its freest city.

ARDEN LAUNCHES ELECTION CAMPAIGN: With promises of extra financing for small businesses and more jobs as a severe economic downturn looms, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Sunday (July 5) launched her party's campaign ahead of a September general election. Ms Ardern's rise to become New Zealand's most popular prime minister in a century, buoyed by her response to the Covid-19 pandemic that has left the country largely unscathed, has boosted her prospects in the Sept 19 election.

DOZENS FEARED DEAD IN JAPAN FLOODS: Rescue workers in Japan on Monday (July 6) combed through the wreckage of houses shattered by deadly floods and landslides in a desperate search for survivors as the death toll rose and more torrential rain loomed. At least 37 people are feared dead after record rains lashed areas of western Japan in the early hours of Saturday, causing rivers to break banks and flooding low-lying regions.

That's all for today, thanks for reading, and we'll be back tomorrow.

Goh Sui Noi

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