Asian Insider March 22: Boeing knocked by Indonesia’s Garuda

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In today’s Asian Insider: Hackers take aim at Singapore again, New Zealand’s Ardern shines with dignity, and Xi’s critical mission to Europe.

ARDERN SHOWS THE WAY

The Muslim call to prayer sounded out over Christchurch and around New Zealand and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined about 20,000 people standing quietly at Hagley Park, in front of the Al Noor mosque where most of the victims were killed during Friday prayers last week.

Ms Ardern came to Hagley Park surrounded by ministers and security officials, wearing a black headscarf and a black suit. Female police at the park also wore headscarves, with a red rose on their uniforms. "New Zealand mourns with you. We are one,” she said in a short speech, followed by two minutes of silence.

Tens of thousands of people paid their respects around the country, with some forming human chains in front of mosques. Others said silent prayers at schools, cafes and even offices.

Full story: 'We are one' says PM Ardern as New Zealand mourns with prayers, silence

SINGAPORE : HACKERS AGAIN!

Russian cyber-security company Group-IB revealed has revealed that it discovered the user log-ins and passwords from several Singapore government organisations on the dark Web as well as details of more than 19,000 compromised credit cards over the last two years. The compromised payment card information, valued at more than $600,000, was found last year.

 The organisations involved include the Government Technology Agency (GovTech), Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and the Singapore Police Force, as well as the National University of Singapore. A government spokesman said these credentials comprise e-mail addresses and passwords provided by individuals.

"Around 50,000 of these are government e-mail addresses. They are either outdated or bogus addresses, except for 119 of them which are still being used. As an immediate precautionary measure, all officers with affected credentials have changed their passwords. There are no other information fields exposed apart from the e-mail address and password."

He added that the credentials were leaked not from government systems, but from the use of these government e-mail addresses for the officers' personal and non-official purposes.

Go deeper: Passwords and usernames of staff from MOH, MOE and other agencies stolen and put up for sale by hackers

VICTOR LI HAS BIG SHOES TO FILL

Li Ka-shing, the self-made Hongkong billionaire who over seven decades turned a plastic flower business into a global empire spanning ports and property to telecommunications and retailing, last March announced he would retire. He then handed the top position at the family-controlled conglomerate to his eldest son.

Twelve months later, Victor Li, 54, has learned a tough lesson about being the follow-up act to a legendary figure in Hong Kong and investors have been pretty unforgiving so far.

The stock price of the family's flagship company, CK Hutchison, has dropped 16 per cent in the year since Li Ka-shing announced his retirement. During that time, the benchmark Hang Seng Index has fallen 8.1 per cent.

Full story: Li Ka-Shing's son stumbles in year since father's retirement

CHINA’S XI IN EUROPE

Chinese President Xi Jinping is touring Europe, with his longest stop in Italy, an EU founder member as well as a member of the Group of 7 industrialised nations.

Mr Xi's mission is to persuade Rome to endorse his signature Belt and Road Initiative, which is increasingly viewed with suspicion around the world, and in Europe, says Jonathan Eyal

Meanwhile, Speaking of Asia argues that a breakthrough in Europe is an imperative not only for an increasingly boxed-in China, but perhaps Mr Xi himself.

Commentary: Mr Xi Jinping goes to Europe: Making inroads is a strategic imperative for Beijing

BOEING TAKES A HIT

Indonesia's national carrier Garuda is cancelling a multi-billion-dollar order for 49 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes after two fatal crashes involving the plane, the company said on Friday, in what is thought to be the first formal cancellation for the model.

"We have sent a letter to Boeing requesting that the order be cancelled," said Garuda spokesman Ikhsan Rosan. "The reason is that Garuda passengers in Indonesia have lost trust and no longer have the confidence (in the plane)," he said, adding that the airline was awaiting a response from Boeing.

Garuda had already received one of the 737 Max 8 planes, he said, part of a 50-plane order worth US$4.9 billion at list prices when it was announced in 2014.

Earlier, Indonesia’s Lion Air said it was postponing taking delivery of four new Boeing 737 Max 8 jets.

Full story: Indonesia’s Garuda says to cancel 49-jet Boeing 737 deal after crashes

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Singapore's world class education system is increasingly emulated around the world. Now comes endorsement for its healthcare. Government-run Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has been ranked the third-best hospital in the world by Newsweek magazine, in part for its clinical research and "outstanding nursing". Two American hospitals, the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, placed ahead of SGH.

Cambodia broke ground on Friday on a US$2 billion Chinese-funded expressway from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville as strongman premier Hun Sen denied his country was in danger of becoming a colony of Beijing. The near 200km road being constructed by the China Road and Bridge Corporation is a part of China's ambitious Belt and Road project. Critics say "China is colonising Cambodia... although China wishes to control Cambodia, Cambodia will not let it do so," Mr Hun Sen said.

An explosion at a pesticide plant in Yancheng, eastern China has killed 47 people and injured more than 600, state media said on Friday, the latest casualties in a series of industrial accidents that has angered the public. The blast occurred at the Chenjiagang Industrial Park in Jiangsu province. Survivors were taken to 16 hospitals, with 640 people being treated for injuries.

South Korea's foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha has intervened over a proposal from 27 legislators in Gyonggi province to apply stickers to some Japanese-made items in schools as "made by a Japanese firm responsible for war crimes" -- the latest Korean salvo over issues that date to Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula, with forced labour and wartime sexual slavery key examples.

WHAT’S COOKING THIS WEEKEND

Look out for our special reports from Hiroshima, home to well-known brands such as Calbee, Daiso and Mazda. Japan Correspondent Walter Sim says it now hopes to rediscover its entrepreneurial mojo through a Sandbox Project that provides funding to start-ups, which today includes Askanet, the world's first company to produce videos and objects in midair.

We will also be covering the final hours of the Thai election campaign. Indochina bureau chief Tan Hui Yee will be there with a roundup of the campaign thus far. Keep abreast of Asia, and the world, through www.straitstimes.com

Asian Insider will be back on Monday. Have a good weekend.

Meanwhile, seize the day!

Ravi Velloor