Asian Insider, June 29: China to impose visa restrictions on US citizens, Australia's Victoria state considers reimposing restrictions as Covid-19 cases surge, floods in India and China displace two million

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

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In today's bulletin: China to impose visa restrictions on American individuals in its row with the US over Hong Kong, Australia's Victoria state considers reimposing restrictions as Covid-19 cases surge and as Asian countries continue to cautiously ease rules, floods in India and China displace nearly two million, and more.

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China warned on Monday (June 29) that it would impose visa restrictions on US citizens who had "behaved egregiously" over Hong Kong after Washington on Friday said it was restricting US visas for some Chinese officials for infringing on the autonomy of the financial hub.

This row between the two major powers comes as China's lawmakers are set to approve on Tuesday a controversial national security law for Hong Kong that would enforce punishment for acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday that the US "scheme... to obstruct the passage of the Hong Kong national security law will never prevail".

China has decided to legislate this law after sometimes violent massive pro-democracy protests that have rocked the city over the past year. Hong Kongers who have gone into the streets to protest the new law did so again on Sunday (June 28) and at least 53 people were arrested after scuffles erupted during a relatively peaceful protest.

See also:

Taiwan's refuge offer to Hong Kong residents measured, mass exodus unlikely, says Global Affairs Correspondent Benjamin Kang Lim


Australia's second most populous state Victoria said on Monday (June 29) it is considering reimposing social distancing restrictions after the country reported its biggest one-day rise in new coronavirus infections in more than two months.

Propelled by Victoria state reporting 75 cases, Australia recorded 85 new Covid-19 infections in the past 24 hours, its biggest daily outbreak since April 11.

In the Asian region, other countries are cautiously easing social distancing rules as efforts continue to revive economies ravaged by the coronavirus. Malaysia will allow the reopening from Wednesday (July 1) of 54 theme parks that employ more than 10,000 people. It will also relax temperature checking for mall and hotel visitors.

In Thailand, the government is extending its state of emergency, in place since late March, to July 31, even as it proceeds with its final phase of easing its lockdown measures, reports Thailand correspondent Hathai Techakitteranun. Among the venues allowed to reopen on July 1 as part of Phase 5 are all schools, bars and nightclubs, as well as entertainment venues such as karaoke bars and soapy massage parlours, and game and internet cafes.

Read more:

Indonesian President Joko Widodo orders quick disbursement of $7 billion Covid-19 health budget

'Revenge outings' all the rage in Taiwan as Covid-19 fears subside, but night markets see slow recovery

Covid-19 to spark exodus in Australia from cities to regions

Beijing residents worry over takeaway orders after deliveryman diagnosed with Covid-19


Severe floods triggered by monsoon rains have forced more than a million from their homes in India's Assam state as hundreds of thousands in China have also been displaced by inundations caused by heavier than usual rainfall in different parts of the vast country. In India, the Brahmaputra River, one of the largest rivers in the world which flows from Tibet into India and then into Bangladesh, burst its banks in Assam over the weekend, inundating more than 2,000 villages, and it was still raining on Monday (June 29).

In China, torrential rain is set to hit China's eastern coastal regions this week after overwhelming large parts of the south-west, inundating villages and tourist spots and displacing more than 700,000 people, state weather forecasters said on Monday (June 29). Nearly 14 million people in 26 different provinces had been affected by storms and floods by Friday, with 744,000 evacuated, and 78 people have been confirmed dead or missing, with direct economic losses at 27.8 billion yuan (S$5.5 billion).


Allies of Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Monday (June 29) openly attacked his dalliances with a man who helped bring down the Mahathir Mohamad government in February, writes Malaysia bureau chief Shannon Teoh. This came after Datuk Seri Anwar accused them of conspiring behind his back.

Tun Dr Mahathir was ousted from office after his failed move to block Mr Anwar from succeeding him as Prime Minister. The two rivals had earlier made a pact for Mr Anwar to succeed Dr Mahathir sometime during the latter's term of office if their coalition should win the 2018 general election, which it did. But it is now in opposition after the fall of Dr Mahathir's government.
Dr Mahathir, who earlier said he wanted to make a third comeback as prime minister, has thrown his support behind Parti Warisan Sabah leader Shafie Apdal as the opposition's Prime Minister-designate in the event of snap polls.

This move was backed by some members of the opposition as they believe Datuk Seri Shafie is a better bet than Mr Anwar in pulling support from the crucial Malay Muslim majority as well as fellow East Malaysians. But this has angered Mr Anwar.

See also:

Mahathir drops bid to return as PM, backs Sabah leader Shafie Apdal for premiership


A group of Rohingya say they were beaten by traffickers and drank their own urine to stay alive on a perilous four-month journey at sea until their dramatic rescue near the Indonesian coast.

The bedraggled survivors - about 100 in all, mostly women and children - described a high-seas horror story that saw them having to throw their dead overboard as their rickety craft drifted thousands of kilometres towards Malaysia. They were rescued by fishermen in Indonesia last Wednesday and pulled to shore by locals the next day, thousands of kilometres south of Bangladesh.

See also:

Outrage as Asean nations abandon Rohingya boat people


SIX KILLED IN ATTACK ON PAKISTAN STOCK EXCHANGE: Four gunmen attacked the Pakistani Stock Exchange building in the city of Karachi on Monday (June 29) but security forces soon killed them all, police said. Two other people were also killed, the military said. Pakistan has long been plagued by Islamist militant violence but attacks have become less frequent in recent years.

INDONESIA WILL RESPECT INTERNATIONAL LAW AS SINGAPORE PROBES FOREST FIRES: Indonesia has pledged to respect international law as Singapore investigates companies and individuals linked to the 2015 land and forest fires that enshrouded the region in toxic haze. Transboundary haze pollution from Indonesian forest fires has affected neighbouring countries, especially Malaysia and Singapore, for around two decades now. Haze pollution between June and October 2015 was one of the worst on record.

That's it for today, thanks for reading. We will be back tomorrow.

Goh Sui Noi

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