Asian Insider, Oct 1: Carrie Lam hails HK’s ‘return to peace’ on China’s national day, Muhyiddin’s Sabah win hastens march to M’sia polls, and more

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

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In today’s bulletin: Carrie Lam hails Hong Kong’s ‘return to peace’ on China’s national day, Muhyiddin’s Sabah win hastens march to national polls, India’s Covid-19 super spreaders drove its explosive outbreak, the implications of Wirecard’s collapse, and more.

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Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam hailed her city’s “return to peace” after China imposed a security law that helped quash last year’s massive democracy movement, as thousands of police stood by to stamp out any fresh protests during National Day on Thursday (Oct 1). 

The People’s Republic of China celebrates its founding on Oct 1 with a holiday and carefully choreographed festivities. But in Hong Kong, it has become a day of grievance for those worried about authoritarian Beijing’s intensifying crackdown against its opponents. Protesting has been effectively outlawed for most of this year.  

On the mainland, meanwhile, Beijing hailed the country’s achievements in battling Covid-19 and poverty under the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping. Measures in fighting the pandemic and ensuring economic and social development were implemented with people's lives and health as top priority, Premier Li Keqiang said. 

Also read: 

China’s Mars probe Tianwen-1 sends birthday wishes - and selfies - to motherland 

Millions on the move for Golden Week as China eyes holiday bounce


Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's decisive victory in last weekend’s Sabah election has come at the cost of mounting unhappiness from his largest ally, Umno, over not being given the chief ministership, Malaysia Bureau Chief Shannon Teoh writes. 

With the Muhyiddin administration -- largely made up of MPs from his Perikatan Nasional coalition, the Umno-led Barisan Nasional and Sarawak's ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak -- numbering just 113 for a wafer-thin majority in the 222-strong Parliament, political observers believe the momentum towards snap polls has accelerated. 

The once-dominant Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia have pushed for fresh polls practically from the moment the main opposition pact Pakatan Harapan collapsed in February, despite eventually backing Tan Sri Muhyiddin as prime minister. The next general election is due only in 2023. 

In case you missed it: 

Muhyiddin's pick Hajiji Mohd Noor sworn in as Sabah Chief Minister 

Malaysian experts raise Covid-19 alarm over holding snap general election


Coronavirus super-spreaders were behind the explosion of Covid-19 in India, researchers say in the first major study of transmission in a developing country, published this week in the journal Science. The research was based on tracing more than three million contacts in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu through Aug 1. 

A group of patients that included about 8 per cent of India's confirmed cases led to almost two-thirds of its total infections. In contrast with the super-spreader minority, 71 per cent of confirmed cases whose contacts were traced were not found to have spread the virus to anyone. 

Meanwhile, if you’re planning to travel during the pandemic: 

Singapore to allow visitors from Australia and Vietnam from Oct 8 

'Cruises to nowhere' from S'pore set to resume 

Malaysia urges tourists to defer holiday plans in Sabah, a new coronavirus epicentre 

Get the latest Covid-19 updates at our dedicated website.


There is rising military pressure on Taiwan as China sees the United States to be veering from the One China policy. In our latest edition of the ST Asian Insider video, The Straits Times' Global Affairs correspondent Goh Sui Noi joins US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh to discuss the implications of this. 

Among the issues examined include whether the Taiwan Strait median line has now been rendered meaningless as well as the rising factor of unpredictability and “strategic ambiguity” in China-Taiwan ties. Catch the premiere at 8pm on ST’s YouTube channel here.


German fintech giant Wirecard’s dramatic collapse in what has been described as the largest auditing scandal since US energy company Enron's demise in 2001, is bound to hurt consumer confidence in Singapore. Experts say the case is a demonstration of the risks outside the traditional financial sector and that it could have an impact on regulations for payment services. With Wirecard is unlikely to revive its fortunes, Singapore retailers will have to turn to other forms of e-payment such as Nets.

Before its collapse in June -- owing creditors almost US$4 billion (S$5.5 billion) and admitting that €1.9 billion (S$3 billion) of cash in its Philippines bank accounts did not actually exist -- Wirecard provided cashless payment services to big international brands such as Samsung, Google and Apple. In Singapore, it had major clients like taxi firm ComfortDelGro, convenience chain Cheers and telco Singtel for its mobile wallet Dash. 

Go deeper: 

Singaporean linked to Wirecard scandal slapped with 5 more charges 

Wirecard to stop payment services in S'pore: How am I affected?


Malaysia’s palm oil giant has defended its labour practices after the US banned imports from the firm over concerns that its workers face a litany of abuse, Malaysia Correspondent Ram Anand reports. The ban came after an Associated Press report alleged widespread human right violations at palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. 

FGV Holdings Berhad, the world’s biggest crude palm oil producer, said it was disappointed with the ban and that it has progressively worked towards rectifying its labour standards since 2015. Palm oil is a common ingredient in items ranging from processed foods to cosmetics, and Malaysia and Indonesia together produce 85 percent of the world’s supply. 

Read more: 

Malaysia's palm producers to recruit prisoners, ex-drug addicts to solve labour crunch 

Malaysia fights international criticism with new slogan: 'Palm oil is God's gift'


COVID-19 CONTROLS TURN ASIA INTO GLOBAL SURVEILLANCE HOT SPOT: Asia has become the world's surveillance hot spot and is at risk of serious privacy breaches as measures rolled out to contain the spread of Covid-19 become permanent in many countries, researchers warn. The Right to Privacy Index (RPI), published by British-based risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, rated 198 countries for privacy violation. According to the findings, Asia was the world's highest-risk region for violations. 

JAPAN PM SEEN HOLDING OFF ON SNAP ELECTION THIS YEAR: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is likely to hold off calling a snap election this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the economy, the Yomiuri newspaper reported. Such a decision would reflect his intention to focus on preventing the spread of the coronavirus and cushioning the pandemic’s economic blow, the report said. 

INDIAN VILLAGE UNDER EMERGENCY LAW AS GANG-RAPE VICTIM’S CREMATION SPARKS CLASHES: Indian police have imposed emergency laws n a village where a woman from the lowest rung of the country's caste system was allegedly raped and killed, barring gatherings of more than five people after clashes erupted following her cremation. The 19-year-old victim died from her injuries on Tuesday, having been attacked and gang raped on Sept 14 in a field near her home, the authorities said. 

FOUR BP S’PORE OIL TRADERS LEAVE AFTER PROBE INTO DISPUTED DEALS: Four members of BP’s Singapore-based crude oil trading team left the company this week after more than two months of internal investigations into their involvement in several disputed deals, said people with knowledge of the situation. A manager in BP’s Asia trading team, two oil traders and an originator were placed on leave in July after their names were mentioned in court documents filed by banks that alleged suspicious transactions between other trading houses. They left the company on Sept 30. 

That’s it for today. Hope you enjoyed today’s stories. Have a happy Mid-Autumn Festival.