Asian Insider June 4: No longer just a trade war: The China and US fight starts to spread

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

China and US clash over Tiananmen, education

The souring of ties between Washington and Beijing - already abundantly evident in the brewing trade war - today spilled over to the issue of the Tiananmen protests in 1989. Today, June 4, the 30th anniversary of the event was marked by a heated war of words between the two powers. Separately, the Chinese are also warning students about studying in the US.

What was said:  Both sides made very strongly-worded statements, featuring some undiplomatic language. Mr Pompeo said he had lost hope that China would have a “more open, tolerant society”. A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington said Pompeo’s words were an “affront to the Chinese people” while Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang in Beijing  called it “lunatic ravings and babbling nonsense” that will end up in the trash can of history.

Big picture:  Few are surprised by the severity of the pushback from the Chinese. Tiananmen remains a taboo in China and the anniversary is an especially sensitive time. A report from AFP said that in Beijing, police were checking the identification cards of every tourist and commuter leaving the subway near Tiananmen Square. And with anti-US sentiment already growing in the country, the Chinese government likely views Pompeo’s remarks as a severe provocation.

No longer just a trade war:  And while the Tiananmen was the flashpoint today, there have been other reports of tensions spilling into other arenas. Recent reports indicate that students and academics are finding the US more hostile, with annual student visa renewals - which ordinarily take three weeks - dragging on for months. China’s ministry of education is now warning students and academics about the risks of studying in the US. As the trade war drags on, more different areas may well be affected.

Go deeper:

China warns students, academics of risks of studying in US

Silence, security in Beijing on 30th Tiananmen anniversary

China condemns US Secretary of State Pompeo's 'prejudice, arrogance' on Tiananmen

Read the second part of The Straits Times special feature on the impact of Tiananmen 30 years later

A China that's averse to political reforms - for now

Incident still taboo; young Chinese focus on path ahead

Despite harassment, victims' families fight to find the truth

Read part 1 here.

Suicide bomber seriously injured in failed attack

A man seriously injured himself after a failed suicide bombing attempt outside a police post in central Java. No one else was hurt.

The details:  The culprit, identified as 22-year-old Rofik Asharudin, was carrying explosives around his waist during the botched attack, and is said to have sustained injuries to his stomach and hand. The authorities said he was influenced by ISIS teachings, but thought to be a lone wolf.

The backdrop:  His motives are not immediately clear, nor was there any indication that the attempted bombing was related to previous threats to stage an attack when the official election results were announced. Had it been successful, the attack would, however, have come just two days before the biggest holiday season in Indonesia. Millions are are making their way home in an annual mass exodus for the Idul Fitri, or Hari Raya Aidilfitri, holidays, which come at the end of a month of fasting.

Go deeper:

Man seriously injured in failed suicide attack in Indonesia

Man at the centre of HIV data breach goes on trial

The trial of Mikhy Farrera-Brochez, the American at the centre of the Singapore HIV database leak, is finally moving ahead and we are now getting some details as to how he perpetrated a breach that made world headlines.

What we have learnt:  In court, his mother testified that he had asked her to download files, which could have included data from the HIV Registry, from a server he owned in Singapore back in 2016, three years before the leak became known to the public. Two years later, after he had been deported from Singapore after serving a prison sentence for drug and fraud-related crimes, he called her from the Philippines asking her to email him the files. He also reportedly told an FBI agent investigating the case that he would rather put a bullet in his head than turn over the database. He will take the stand later today.

Go deeper:

Mikhy Farrera-Brochez said he'd rather put a bullet in his head than turn over S'pore HIV database: FBI witness

Love, lies, leak: Timeline of HIV Registry data breach

Duterte allows auction of seized Marcos jewellery

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has given the go-ahead for the auction of three jewellery sets recovered from family and associates of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The sets, which include a rare 25-carat diamond and gem-studded tiaras, are estimated to be worth US$19 million. The auction was proposed eight months ago by a commission chasing Marcos’ stolen wealth. Ferdinand Marcos held power for 14 years in Philippines, during which he is said to have pilfered billions.

The big picture:  The auction is notable mainly because of Duterte’s somewhat complicated links to the Marcos family, and some observers see it as a move that helps pave the way for another Marcos to one day become president. Duterte has said that Marcos’ daughter helped fund his campaign and has openly backed Marcos’s son Bongbong as a potential future president. He said he is willing to resign to make way for Bongbong should the late dictator’s son win an election protest and become vice-president.

The full story: Philippine President Duterte allows auction of seized Marcos jewellery worth millions

And finally, India’s rubbish mountain could become taller than the Taj Mahal

This is the towering pile of rubbish at the Ghazipur landfill outside New Delhi. It is the tallest such pile in India and is now on the verge of becoming taller than the iconic Taj. The Taj Mahal is 73m high and rubbish mountain is 65m but growing at a rate of 10m a year.

Other developments:

At least four people were killed and two injured in a mass shooting in the Australian city of Darwin on Tuesday (June 4). The man walked into the Palms Motel on Darwin's Esplanade and opened fire with a pump-action shotgun just before 6pm on Tuesday, according to witnesses.

Thailand's anti-military Democratic Front alliance will on Wednesday (June 5) nominate rising political star Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for prime minister, facing off against junta leader Prayut Chan-o-cha, a spokesman said.

North Korea's nuclear envoy, who a South Korean newspaper said last week had been executed, is alive but in custody and under investigation for his role in a failed summit with the United States, CNN reported on Tuesday (June 4).

Thanks for reading. There’ll be no bulletin tomorrow as it is Hari Raya Puasa. To all our Muslim readers, Selamat Hari Raya!

-Jeremy