Asian Insider June 10: One million take to the streets in Hong Kong, but will it make a difference?

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

Extradition law to proceed despite mass protest

One day after an estimated one million people took to the streets against a proposed extradition law, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam was defiant, declaring that the Bill will progress as planned. The Bill will be read a second time in the legislature on June 12 as scheduled and could become law by the end of June.

The protest:  Hong Kong came to a standstill on Sunday as a sea of people swept through the city. If estimates are accurate, it means that nearly 15 per cent of the city’s population joined the protest, making it not just one of the largest in Hong Kong’s history, but also among protests globally with the highest rate of participation. The march was largely peaceful except although there were reports of violence near the city’s Legislative Council. The numbers of those arrested were not immediately clear.

The issue:  The stated goal of the protests  is for the proposed extradition law to be abandoned.The law will allow for extradition requests from authorities in mainland China and Taiwan and Macau with each request decided on a case-by-case basis. Hong Kong officials say the law will prevent Hong Kong from becoming a haven for fugitives. Critics say it is a significant step in what they see as China’s ongoing attempt to curb the city’s independence. They raise concerns that the law could be used to persecute political fugitives. Protesters say this is a fight for the freedom of Hong Kong.

What now?:  A second protest is scheduled for Wednesday but even those joining in have voiced scepticism that anything will change. Beijing, meanwhile, has said it will continue to support the Hong Kong government’s push to put the law in place.

Go deeper:

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says extradition Bill has to be passed as opponents call for fresh protests

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says extradition Bill has to be passed as opponents call for fresh protest

Alleged hitman points finger at former Indonesian army general

And the twists keep coming. A bombshell of a report from Indonesian news outlet Tempo has an alleged hitman claiming a former army general asked him to assassinate four high-ranking government officials. The ex-general in question, major-general Kivlan Zen, a close ally of losing presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto, has denied any involvement.

The targets: The hitman, named Iwan Kurniawan, told Tempo he was originally asked to kill a publicist of president Joko Widodo but was later given four other names: Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security Affairs Wiranto; Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan; State Intelligence Agency chief Budi Gunawan; and Presidential Special Staff on Intelligence and Security adviser Gories Mere.

The big picture: Jakarta has been non high alert since tensions erupted on the day official election results were announced last month. Prabowo had made it clear he does not accept the results. Everything that has happened since then has, however, served to erode his standing. In the wake of the post-election riots, Indonesian police had said the rioters were “paid thugs” found with envelopes of money on them. And if it now seems a Prabowo associate was trying to have prominent ministers killed, it would wipe out even more of his credibility.

Go deeper: Alleged hitman names former Indonesian army general Kivlan Zen as mastermind of assassination plot

G-20 finance leaders meeting manages expectations

The meeting of G-20 finance leaders in Fukuoka this week has been seen as something of amuse bouche for the summit later this month that could feature a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. If the discussions over the weekend are an indication, however, then don’t place too many hopes to an end to the current trade war, or even a ceasefire.

A missing clause:  Fiery negotiations nearly ended up with the now far too common ignominy at global summits of failing to produce a joint communique. Instead we got one that had all the hallmarks of people being unable to agree.  The leaders said that geopolitical tensions were risking global growth and left it at that. A proposed recognising the “need to resolve trade tensions” was deleted on the insistence of the US.

Read the full story: G-20 finance chiefs warn of trade, geopolitical threats to growth

ST exclusive: El Nino Ground Zero

For a while a few years ago, El Nino was pretty much blamed for everything. Unseasonably warm weather? Must be El Nino. Too much rain? Blame El Nino. Droughts? Floods? That darned El Nino again.

In our ongoing push to cover the growing story of climate change, this week we took a long hard look at the bad (little) boy of weather. Environment Correspondent Audrey Tan and Executive Photojournalist Mark Cheong travelled to Riau in Indonesia and Galapagos in Ecuador with the support of the University of California's Scripps Institution of Oceanography to take a look at El Nino and its impact - ranging from changing rainfall patterns to warming seas, that could offer a glimpse into what things would be like in a warming world.

Impact of El Nino: A peek into a changing world

Interactive: From Indonesia to the Galapagos - El Nino Ground Zero

Galapagos: El Nino rocks the cradle of biodiversity

Indonesia: The scars of El Nino

And finally, the Trump-Macron friendship tree is dead

Ah, remember those days, way back in 2018 when Trump and Macron were BFFs, planting a tree as a symbol of their friendship? Well, that tree apparently died shortly after they planted it. It was indeed a special tree, one that could predict the future.

Other developments:

A column of thick ash was spewed 7km high into the sky from the crater of Mount Sinabung volcano on Sumatra Island of western Indonesia on Sunday, the country's national volcanology agency said.

Japan's air force said on Monday (June 10) that "spatial disorientation" likely caused one of its pilots to fly his F-35 stealth fighters into the Pacific Ocean in April, hitting the water at more than 1,100kmh.

New Zealand will withdraw its troops from Iraq by June next year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday (June 10), ending a mission that helped train Iraqi defence forces to fight Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.

That’s a wrap for today. Thanks for reading.

-Jeremy