Asian Insider June 11: Why are so many in Hong Kong upset about extradition?

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


In today’s bulletin: what’s driving the protests in Hong Kong, Kim Jong Nam’s alleged links to the CIA, Abe heads to Iran and more.

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Analysis: What is driving Hong Kong protests?

For the moment, the streets of Hong Kong are almost back to normal after the weekend’s massive rally against the proposed extradition law and so we have a chance to take a deeper look at what is the driving force behind the biggest protest since the British handover in 1997. (The reprieve will be temporary with another protest expected tomorrow and protesters likely beginning to gather today.)

What's so bad about extradition?  On paper, the law seems logical, the need for an extradition deal to mainland China was talked about even before the handover in 1997 and has just become a forgotten issue. But as Hong Kong correspondent Claire Huang writes, the heart of the concern isn’t so much the concept of extradition but mistrust of  the Chinese legal system and the perception in Hong Kong that the law undermines the “one country, two systems” principle.

Learning from experience:  Hong Kong has had some experience with mobilising large protests and that is showing the current rally. Experts say the, those on Facebook in the city would have been bombarded the past month with messages about the Bill, explaining why they needed to come out on June 9.

What now?  Expect protests to continue until this law is due to be passed next week. Organisers of the protests are already calling on people to stage a sit-in until the Bill is voted on. But Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has shown no signs of backing down and most don’t expect her to.

Analysis: Fear of losing rights, distrust in China's judiciary helped mobilise opposition to HK's extradition Bill

Latest reports:

China backs Hong Kong extradition law, opposes ‘foreign interference’

US expresses grave concerns over Hong Kong extradition law

Business confidence shaken in Hong Kong as government moves to pass extradition Bill

Was Kim Jong Nam killed because of his links to the CIA?

Today we got yet another North Korea-related report that was shocking yet believable, and also nearly impossible to verify. Today’s bombshell came from the Wall Street Journal which reports that Kim Jong Nam - the half-brother of Kim Jong Un who was assassinated in brazen attack in Malaysia - had links to US intelligence. An upcoming book by Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield contains similar allegations.

Details: The report quoted a “person knowledgeable about the matter” as saying “there was a nexus” between the CIA and Kim Jong Nam. In Fifield’s book, she writes that Kim’s last fateful trip to Malaysia featured a meeting with a US-intelligence agent.

Go deeper: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's slain half-brother was a CIA informant

Abe goes to Iran

Tomorrow, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will become the Japanese premier to visit Iran in 41 years. He is due to hold talks with Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Kamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.

Why is Abe going?  Given the growing tensions between the US and Iran, it is not immediately clear to anyone what is to be gained by Abe heading to the country. One explanation offered is for him to serve as a mediator between the US and Iran given Abe’s relationship with Trump. Yet, few expect him to be able to do anything beyond trying to get the two countries to resume direct talks. Beyond that, it may simply be a case of playing messenger. Abe spoke to Trump today ahead of his trip and may have a message from the Iranians to share when he meets the American President at the G-20 summit.

Go deeper:

Why is Japan's Abe going to Iran? What can he accomplish?

Trump, Japanese premier Abe discuss Iran during phone call

ST exclusive: Rebuilding Marawi, a Philippines city destroyed in a battle with ISIS

In May 2017, about a thousand militants took over the city of Marawi in the Philippines to carve out a province for ISIS. What ensued was the Filipino army’s longest urban battle - a 154 war that now stands as the most lethal blow suffered by ISIS outside Syria and Iraq. And though the army prevailed, some 200,000 people were displaced and an area the size of a third of Singapore was left a jungle of crumbling concrete pocked with bullet holes.

By December this year, however, the first returnees are finally expected back and the government has pledged to rebuild the city by 2021. Philippines Correspondent Raul Dancel filed a report from Marawi on how the city is slowly picking up the pieces.

City destroyed by fighting with ISIS militants picks up the pieces

Malaysian politics roiled by a sex allegation

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad today denied having knowledge of a sex video being circulated that purportedly involves a minister in his Cabinet. The video and photos where two men - one of whom resembles a Cabinet minister - appeared to be engaging in sexual acts, were spread via WhatsApp early on Monday morning. The scandal is bringing back bad memories in a country where its likely next prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was sent to jail twice on sodomy charges.

Read the full report: Mahathir: I don't know anything about sex video purportedly involving a Malaysian minister

Other developments:

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday (June 10) he would visit India this month to forge closer relations with re-elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr Pompeo told reporters that he would outline areas for new cooperation with Mr Modi's India during a speech Wednesday in Washington ahead of his trip to New Delhi.

A populist mayor who can command huge crowds and wants closer ties with China has thrown his hat in the ring to stand as a candidate in Taiwan's upcoming presidential elections. Han Kuo-yu, who seized the mayoralty of southern Kaohsiung city from the ruling party in a shock victory last year, was among five candidates announced on Monday (June 10) by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party for its primary election.

China will respond firmly if the United States insists on escalating trade tensions, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday (June 11) after US President Donald Trump said further tariffs were ready to kick in if no deal was reached at June’s G-20 summit.

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