Asian Insider, Sept 22: How nationalism is affecting the Sabah election, China gears up for Golden Week holidays amid pandemic, TikTok deal in the balance

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

Hi,

In today's bulletin: Territorial claims from the Philippines becomes a hot topic in the Sabah elections; all eyes on Golden Week travel in China; TikTok deal hangs in the balance; and more.

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

HOW PHILIPPINES BECAME AN ISSUE IN THE SABAH ELECTION

The recent revival of a territorial claim over the Malaysian state of Sabah from neighbouring Philippines - a dispute which dates back to Malaysia's federation in 1963 - has now become a hot topic in the campaign for the state elections to be held on Sept 26. In an election where nationalism and nativism has come to the fore, the issue has been used to criticise incumbent Sabah chief minister Shafie Apdal, who is accused of encouraging the Filipino claim, especially when he raised the notion of "government -government" negotiations.

The election to elect members of the state government this time has taken on added significance given it is being seen as a proxy battle between two men that could vie for the premiership of the country: Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Mr Shafie, a potential leader of the current opposition alliance.

COVID-19: TOURISM IN CHINA HOPES FOR GOLDEN WEEK BOOST

With the Covid-19 situation in China seemingly under control, those in the battered tourism sector are hoping the coming national holidays - known as Golden Week - will provide a strong boost. This year's Golden Week begins on Oct 1 and includes China's National Day and the Mid-Autumn Festival.

With international travel still restricted, the tourism industry is hoping domestic travel can match or beat the 782 million domestic trips recorded in the same period last year. Experts say there remains pent-up travel demand even though travel between provinces has been permitted since July.

Covid-19 developments at a glance

- India reported 75,083 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours, according to federal health data released on Tuesday (Sept 22), the lowest daily tally in almost a month.

- South Korea suspended free flu shots on Tuesday (Sept 22) after reports of problems in storing the vaccinations during transportation, disrupting plans to pre-emptively ease the burden on a healthcare system already strained by coronavirus outbreaks.

- Main hospitals in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta have reported full occupancy, with some having a waiting list of up to 20 confirmed Covid-19 patients seeking treatment, as cases continue to surge in the country. The government is also set to tap three-star hotels in the capital as centralised quarantine centres for asymptomatic patients.

- Hong Kong will extend virus-related social distancing measures for another week amid persisting signs of hidden Covid-19 transmission, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

THE TIKTOK OWNERSHIP DANCE CONTINUES

Days after US President Donald Trump gave his "blessing" to a deal that would have US-owned Oracle and Walmart buy over Chinese-owned TikTok, the deal continues to hang in the balance. The Chinese-owner of TikTok, ByteDance, has disagreed with the US characterisation of the deal while Mr Trump insists that he would sanction a deal only if ByteDance has nothing to do with TikTok post-sale.

At the same time, a new hurdle also seems to have emerged from China. An editorial from state-backed Global Times today said that Beijing is unlikely to approve an "unfair" deal that "caters to the unreasonable demands of Washington".

See also: What's in the TikTok deal?

THE WORLD AT ODDS AS UN MARKS 75TH ANNIVERSARY

World leaders marked the 75th anniversary of the United Nations with a special virtual session today, though tensions seemed to take centre stage at the meeting.

In remarks seen as a swipe at the US, Chinese president Xi jinping said: "No country has the right to dominate global affairs, control the destiny of others, or keep advantages in development all to itself. Even less should one be allowed to do whatever it likes and be the hegemon, bully or boss of the world.

Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov also seemed to take a veiled dig at the US as he condemned countries meddling in the domestic affairs of others and imposing unilateral sanctions.

KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM FINCEN FILES

While banks involved continue to try to contain the fallout from reports that they moved large sums of allegedly illicit funds, experts say it remains unclear whether there will be any follow-up regulatory action.

Here are five key takeaways from the reports: What went wrong and what does it mean for banks?

IN OTHER NEWS

PILOT WHALES: Rescuers were trying to refloat hundreds of whales stranded on a sandbar off the remote west coast of the Australian island of Tasmania on Tuesday (Sept 22), hoping to end one of the country's worst beaching events.

ANG RITA SHERPA: A famed Nepali Everest climber nicknamed "snow leopard" for his record of summiting the world's highest mountain a record 10 times without bottled oxygen has died at age 72, officials said on Monday (Sept 21)

WORKER ACTION: A group of garment workers in Thailand who were illegally underpaid while making products for global brands including Starbucks and Walt Disney Co are taking legal action to demand compensation after losing their jobs last year.

That's it for today. Thanks for reading.

Jeremy

Want more insights into fast-changing Asia from our network of correspondents? Get this article in your inbox by signing up here.