Asian Insider, Nov 20: Royal consent gives Muhyiddin lifeline; Trump, Xi to meet at Apec summit

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

Hi all, 

In today’s bulletin: Royal consent to block polls signals Muhyiddin safe until Covid-19 curbed; Trump, Xi to meet at virtual Apec forum; South Australia state lockdown triggered by a 'lie', restrictions to be eased; Japan aims to expand CPTPP trade pact; Indian comic may face jail for tweet about Supreme Court; and more.

Reading this on the web or know someone who might enjoy receiving Asian Insider? Our sign-up page is here.

ROYAL CONSENT TO BLOCK POLLS SIGNALS MUHYIDDIN SAFE UNTIL COVID-19 CURBED

Malaysia’s King has consented to an emergency declaration that effectively postpones a by-election in the coastal Sabah town of Batu Sapi, which has put Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his slim-majority government back on safe ground for now, writes Straits Times Malaysia Bureau Chief Shannon Teoh. 

The decision by Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah comes as doubt festers over whether Tan Sri Muhyiddin can pass next year’s budget in a vote on Nov 26. 

Sultan Abdullah has advised lawmakers to approve the budget in the interests of the country, and to ensure sufficient funding for combating the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout amid the country’s worst wave of infections. 

But Mr Muhyiddin continues to be kept on his toes by Umno, the largest party in his Perikatan Nasional pact, which has threatened to withhold its support. Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has called for Mr Muhyiddin to make a motion of confidence a priority. 

Observers say Zahid’s move is aimed at ensuring his own survival and primacy within Umno, with Zahid facing 87 charges of graft and party polls due next year, though the top leadership council can opt to defer the ballot for 18 months. 

Go deeper:

KL declares emergency in Sabah ward

Three by-elections loom in Malaysia amid concerns about Covid-19 pandemic

Umno leader suggests bringing opposition parties into govt to stabilise Malaysian politics

TRUMP, XI TO MEET AT VIRTUAL APEC FORUM AS TRADE SPAT ENDURES

US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping were due to attend the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit on Friday (Nov 20), with trade differences between the two economies likely to cloud the meeting. 

At the last Apec summit in 2018, member countries failed to agree on a joint communique for the first time in the bloc’s history, as the US-China spat overshadowed the meeting. 

In the run-up to the meeting, several Apec leaders had warned against protectionism amid a pandemic that has hammered the global economy.  

Here's more:

Trump plans to represent US at Apec for 1st time since 2017

Xi touts China as pivot point for global free trade

Trade is win-win, but US domestic politics may get in the way of multilateralism: PM Lee 

SOUTH AUSTRALIA STATE LOCKDOWN TRIGGERED BY A 'LIE', RESTRICTIONS TO BE EASED

A man at a pizza bar tied to a coronavirus outbreak in South Australia that led to a drastic six-day lockdown lied to contact tracers that he had only bought a pizza there, when he had actually worked several shifts at the food outlet alongside another worker who tested positive. 

Authorities had assumed the man, who wasn’t named, had caught the virus during a very short exposure, leading them to believe the strain must be highly contagious. 

State Premier Steven Marshall said while the outbreak was worrying, restrictions would now be lifted early, with the stay-at-home orders ending at midnight on Saturday (Nov 21), when most businesses would also be allowed to open. 

Read more:

Strict, six-day coronavirus lockdown begins in South Australia

CHINESE GOVERNMENT EXPECTS ‘MORE OF SAME’ FROM U.S. UNDER BIDEN

Chinese Communist Party insiders think there will be “more of the same” from the US under the incoming Joe Biden administration, says The Straits Times’ Global Correspondent in Beijing, Mr Benjamin Kang Lim.

The difference though is that Mr Biden will be “reasonable, rational and respectful”, Mr Lim told The Asian Insider in a special webinar on what Asia expects from a Biden administration.

Asia would generally welcome the Biden administration, Singapore Ambassadors Tommy Koh and Chan Heng Chee told the webinar moderated by ST Associate Editor Vikram Khanna.

JAPAN AIMS TO EXPAND CPTPP TRADE PACT AS UK, CHINA EYE MEMBERSHIP

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says that Japan plans to expand the 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade pact, potentially catering to Chinese and British interest in joining the deal. 

Mr Suga made the comment in a pre-recorded message delivered at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) CEO Dialogues on Friday (Nov 20), after both Britain and China expressed their intent to pursue accession to the pact. 

Mr Suga is set to welcome his first-high level visitor from China next week, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi arriving in Tokyo on a trip that will also take him to South Korea. 

Read more online:

Japan's Suga set for first high-level China meeting as premier

INDIAN COMIC MAY FACE JAIL FOR TWEET ABOUT COUNTRY'S SUPREME COURT

An Indian comedian, Kunal Kamra, has been accused of disrespecting the country’s top court, prompting the Attorney-General to green-light petitions by eight people accusing Kamra of criminal contempt of court over tweets about a Supreme Court decision. Kamra’s tweets had suggested that the Supreme Court had given preferential treatment in granting bail to TV news anchor Arnab Goswami – a vocal backer of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party – in a case of alleged abetment of suicide.

IN OTHER NEWS...

ALMOST A MILLION PEOPLE INOCULATED WITH CHINESE COVID-19 VACCINE: Nearly a million people have been innoculated with an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Chinese company Sinopharm, though it has not yet provided any clear evidence of efficacy. China has been bullish about its homegrown vaccine candidates, with four currently in late-stage testing.  

HK SEES 'NEW WAVE' OF CORONAVIRUS CASES, MORE STUDENTS ASKED TO STAY HOME: Hong Kong Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan says that the city has “probably entered into a new wave” of coronavirus infections, with the financial hub recording 26 new cases on Friday (Nov 20). The authorities will halt in-person classes for primary school levels 1-3 from Monday for two weeks, and has not ruled out stopping classes at all schools if the situation gets worse. 

A CHINESE COUNTY AIMS TO CURB DOG WALKING BY THREATENING TO KILL THE DOG: Officials in Weixing County in China’s Yunnan province have imposed a ban on walking dogs in public, warning that pets may be seized and killed under a three-strike penalty system. The harsh measures were put in place after complaints of dogs biting children and have sparked off outrage and fierce debate across the country. 
 

That’s it for today. Hope today’s bulletin was interesting for you. Thanks for reading and we’ll be back with you next week.

Arvind