Jovito V Cariño, Chair of the Department of Philosophy, University of Santo Tomas, in Rappler (June 11, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: NDFP-ST)
There are different kinds of critiques of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill. The ones I call “popular” emerge organically, riding the wave of public uproar against the bill with a little push from influencers and social media. The rejection of the bill at this level is almost knee-jerk but thanks to its popular base, it spreads like wildfire and generates public interest.
The next kind of critique, which I call “legal”, calls for amendment of the infirm provisions of the bill but does not reject it outright. For those who espouse this critique, the problems found in the bill are purely legal and are best left to legal minds to resolve.
The third kind of critique, the one I label “academic”, opposes the bill but does not call into question the political culture that gave shaped it. Proponents of this critique are ambivalent about whether or not to reject the political and ideological foundations from which the bill has derived its notorious chilling effect.
The fourth kind of critique I call “political”. Advocates read the texts as mere flexing of power by those who hold the reins of government, which both local and global observers have described as authoritarian.
Some would say that fear of the bill is hypothetical or imaginary. There is nothing hypothetical or imaginary with what we have seen the last four years: the culture of impunity, selective justice, summary killings, perversion of sovereignty, incompetence, and vindictive politics. They are all on record, documented by reports of media organizations and various watchdogs. These are the tales of the change that was promised but not delivered. They make the Anti-Terrorism Bill such a scary specter. I do hope I am wrong but until proven otherwise, I prefer to dissent.
Surekha A Yadav, columnist, in Malay Mail (June 7, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Anthony Quintano)
The world watched as protests erupted following the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white policeman. As Americans took to the streets, people everywhere took to social media to show solidarity. Many Singaporean friends did too, some going so far as to donate funds to help protesters in the US pay legal costs.
The extent that the #blacklivesmatter cause found resonance in Singapore was heartening. It is good when people recognize injustice in other parts of the world, and I applaud their generosity.
I hope it is part of a larger commitment to fighting injustice everywhere because it is notable that so many of us seem far less concerned about injustice at home or in our local region. This is not a competition; this is about solidarity.
For example, the obvious matter of foreign workers. They are in this country legally performing vital services, but their living conditions, wages and general treatment are markedly inferior to what the local population enjoys.
As non-citizens, it can be argued they should not expect equal pay. But even then, these workers have a Covid-19 infection rate that seems to be over 100 times higher than that for the general population.
Yet support for foreign workers in Singapore has been less visible than support for #blacklivesmatter. Part of this is just the cultural power of the USA. What happens in America seems to be happening to us and so hopefully the lessons learned there will resonate and come to be applied here.
This would be the best outcome. The worst case would be that many of us are simply “virtue signaling” with little thought given to the underlying lessons and situations at home. I hope the outpouring of activism we are seeing will bring positive change at home too.
Chen Gang, Senior Research Fellow and Assistant Director of the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore, in Lianhe Zaobao (June 6, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Vasyatka1)
International travel has suffered a significant blow as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. With some countries successfully controlling the virus, we are witnessing the resumption of the domestic economy and international travel. Some governments have started to propose “travel bubbles” or “air bridges” with a limited number of neighboring countries in the hope of resuming the movement of people and revitalizing tourism. While this may appear to be a good solution for restarting international travel, it may also lead to fragmentation and mark a new stage of globalization.
When a travel bubble is established between two countries, healthy residents in these two countries can cross each other’s borders without quarantine measures. For example, New Zealand and Australia recently issued a joint statement on such a plan, while Hong Kong and Macau are exploring similar arrangements. Three Baltic countries (Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia) are considering the establishment of a similar travel-bubble plan.
Travel bubbles are exclusively group together countries with a similar national condition and strong epidemic control. They are regional, rather than global, travel arrangements. The relationship between travel bubbles and global free travel is a bit like the relationships between bilateral, regional and global free trade agreements under the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Not all geographically adjacent countries and regions will establish travel-bubbles arrangements. In addition to meeting the above conditions, there must also be sufficient trust among the countries involved. While there will be many incentives for East Asian countries such as Singapore to introduce travel bubbles if the pandemic persists, overcoming political barriers and strategic differences and conflicts will become a key challenge.
Wong Tai Chee, retired professor at Southern University College, in Oriental Daily (June 6, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: MyLifeStory)
The Trump administration of the United States and the Conservative government of the UK are prime examples of right-wing populism. Right-wing populists often use inflammatory remarks to win the support of the middle and lower classes while creating international and domestic enemies as a means of consolidating power.
In Malaysia, right-wing populism has emerged in another form, blending Malay racism with Islamic elements. It has become a tool to promote cohesion of the country, even if it is rife with internal conflicts of interest. Theoretically, this not only protects the vested interests of Malay elites, but also protects the political and economic interests of the middle and lower classes of Malay people. This form of racism with elements of populism has actually succeeded in giving Malay middle and lower classes confidence in the government. Populism and racism are very different, yet in Malaysia they exist together. We call this phenomenon populist racism.
In Malaysia, the Malay racist upper class has wielded power through the ruling class to control and manipulate the civilian population as a whole. The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) has successfully used poverty alleviation alongside democracy as tools to build legitimacy and a certain degree of justice, thereby giving the majority of the Malay middle and lower classes a sense of security. Malay racism advocates the love of one’s own ethnic and religious attributes as the basis for safeguarding the interests of the ethnic group. To this end, it must exclude political leaders of other races, no matter their contributions to the country.
For the common interests of the people of all ethnic groups, the only hope lies with the intellectuals with a conscience among the Malay elite. But can we expect those with a conscience to be willing to give up their vested interests?
Zhang Zhonglin, commentator on the civil aviation industry, in Guancha (June 4, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
Since May, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has rejected applications from three major US airlines to resume flight routes to China. In response, the US government announced that it would ban Chinese flights. If this ban is introduced, it would not only threaten China-US routes but make relations between Beijing and Washington even more tense.
Following the outbreak of Covid-19 in China at the end of January, major US airlines decided to ground flights between China and the United States in light of falling demand and to protect the health of employees. Shortly after, the US government made a politically motivated decision to ban the entry of all Chinese nationals.
As the pandemic spread, the situations in China and the United States reversed and the US aviation industry was seriously affected. By April, the three major US airlines expressed their desire to resume their routes to China. The uncontrolled epidemic in the US, however, meant this was impossible.
China has sufficient grounds not to approve the US airlines’ requests. The growth rate of Covid-19 cases in the US is at an alarming rate of more than 20,000 (currently over 40,000) a day.
This proposed ban should be seen in the context of the political struggle with the US. If implemented, it will undoubtedly have a very serious impact on the return of Chinese citizens in the United States and charter flights organized by the embassy will also likely be affected. It is clear, however, that the US government really wants to allow US airlines to resume China-US routes. If so, the correct approach, rather than banning Chinese airlines, is to make a concession. US airlines should cooperate with the CAAC’s quarantine requirements on China-US flights and approve China's plans for charter flights.
Nelson Chow Wing-sun, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Social Work and Social Administration of The University of Hong Kong, in Ming Pao (June 5, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: renfeng tang)
As the Covid-19 epidemic has been gradually brought under control, protests have reappeared under the “stir-fry” strategy. The public were not aware what this strategy really entailed until the National People's Congress passed Hong Kong’s National Security Law. In layman's terms, the stir-fry strategy simply means "If we burn, you burn with us". Those who promote this strategy seek to create chaos in society as a means to achieve their overall aim or simply to force those in power to make concessions.
No matter how much its opponents attack the government, the government will simply continue to fight violence with violence. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has made it clear that the government will not set up an independent investigation committee into alleged police brutality. While Hong Kong people are tired of chaos, they recognize that this strategy will not adequately aid their cause.
If the strategy aims to support the attempt by the pan-democrats to win the majority of seats in Legislative Council elections and then force the government into implementing universal suffrage, this would essentially involve forcing your opposition into a corner. Undoubtedly, universal suffrage is what Hong Kong citizens desire, but would they be happy with the pan-democrats being able to veto any legislation? This would certainly put the Hong Kong government and the Chinese central government in a precarious and unsettling position.
Pursuing this strategy would involve directly opposing the national security law and would clearly carry anti-central government undertones. While the strategy may be supported by many Hong Kong people – “Let's jump off the cliff together" is a powerful statement – is this really in line with the wellbeing of Hong Kong people?
Lee Min-yung, poet, in Liberty Times (June 3, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
In 1979, the United States formally established diplomatic relations with China and redefined its relationship with Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act. On June 4, 1989, tanks ploughed through protestors on Tiananmen Square, exposing the Communist Party of China's totalitarian and authoritarian nature. Yet the US still desired to support China's economic development in the hope that it would promote the development of democratic universal values. Neither the US nor the international community imposed sanctions on China.
China continued to attract foreign investment and efficiently transformed itself into the factory of the world. It used the idea of free capitalism to develop its own economy while promoting the concept of totalitarian socialism or “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. Meanwhile, Taiwan was cut off from the international community.
Through Hong Kong's struggles, the Wuhan virus and the aggressive stance of Beijing, the dreamers within the great powers have finally woken up. China’s forces have replaced the old Soviet Union and the essence of the empire has reappeared.
The Communist revolution originally aimed to promote social fairness and justice. Instead, China has become a paradise for private political ambitions. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has become rich but not for the benefit of its citizens or the world. The Cultural Revolution during the Mao Zedong era humiliated and killed many party members and many of the today’s CCP leadership are simply repeating history. Xi Jinping is mimicking Mao Zedong's authoritarian and totalitarian style, just like Hitler in Nazi Germany.
The Hong Kong version of the National Security Law is just a wake-up call. While the ravaging shadow of the Wuhan virus still affects many countries, the Chinese people can accurately understand the nature of the Communist regime. The rest of the world, however, is only just awakening to this reality.
Hurr Hee-young, Professor, School of Business, Korea Aerospace University, in The Korea Economic Daily (May 27, 2020)
Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: PxHere)
There are two department stores standing side by side in Mok-dong ward in Seoul. The first sells products from small and medium enterprises (SMEs). When a bigger Hyundai Department Store (run by chaebol) opened next door, the revenue of the former unexpectedly tripled as the area saw increase in foot traffic. The two co-exist more in symbiosis rather than as competitors.
The newly elected Korean government promised favorable policies towards SMEs. The proposals include further regulating operating hours of big shopping complexes by increasing mandatory closure from the current twice a month to four times. However, whether such market regulations would really result in boosting the traditional markets and protecting local businesses is questionable.
First, the proposed regulations fail to understand that with the increasing dominance of online commerce, offline revenue has been in decline, chaebol-led or not. Second, restricting the operation of distribution chains will only further decrease foot traffic in the offline economy. According to the Korea Employers Federation, online shopping revenue increase by as much as 37 percent on Sundays with mandatory closures of big retail chains. Third, increasing market regulation decreases consumer benefit as demonstrated by Starfield chain of shopping malls which had a project blocked to protect local business but which over 70 percent of residents favored.
The regulation on operating hours of big retail corporations back in 2012 was aimed at protecting the SMEs and local businesses. Despite this, consumers only turned more to online shopping instead of increasing local spending. The biggest losers of the regulations were the farmers whose sales declined due to the mandatory curbs on the operations of their distributors.
The decisive force in the market is consumers’ choice, not more regulations. The key for survival in the marketplace is to understand better what consumers want and then adapt.
Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations and Director of the Comparative Governance and Public Policy Research Centre at Hong Kong Baptist University, in Ming Pao (June 1, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Jules Cahn)
In 1996, then-British prime minister John Major stated that “if in the future there were any suggestion of a breach of the [Sino-British] Joint Declaration, we would mobilize the international community and pursue every legal or other avenue open to us.” To examine how seriously the United Kingdom has remained committed to Hong Kong, we must look at its actions rather than words.
Over the years, the China policy of British governments has focused on economic and trade relations. When they were prime minister, David Cameron and Theresa May happily talked about how London and Beijing would push bilateral relations into a "golden age" through collaboration in the high-speed rail, energy technology or higher education sectors and Belt and Road Initiative projects. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also takes a friendly attitude toward China and places economic interests first. While the US and EU are taking a stronger stance on China, the UK has maintained cooperation and dialogue. But these interactions have not helped improve the governance of Hong Kong.
In the post-Brexit era, the UK is unable to exert influence in EU decision-making. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, however, the UK has applied pressure on China by raising the issue of Hong Kong. More can be done.
The British Parliament should give Hong Kong a greater voice in formulating policies and countermeasures to the situation, while MPs should demand accountability from the UK government. Finally, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office should conduct a more in-depth and detailed assessment of Hong Kong’s autonomy and human-rights situation.
The UK should not unconditionally accept Hong Kong as a regular partner after its "East Berlinization" by China takes place. Instead, the UK should provide ongoing support and impose sanctions on anyone who undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy and human rights.
Wang Yao, columnist, in People’s Daily (May 28, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)
On May 28, the National People's Congress (NPC) passed a vote to approve a National Security Law for Hong Kong. This will help to ensure the stability of "one country, two systems" and provide a “protective umbrella” for Hong Kong people to live and work in peace.
This law is a necessary step to plug the loopholes in Hong Kong's national security laws. It fully embodies the central government's strong will and determination to maintain national security and reflects the central government's overall interest in Hong Kong and its population. As such, the maintenance of national security is crucial and should not be delayed.
The legislation is both reasonable and legal, with national security legislation the purview of the central authority. As such, the decision has been made through comprehensive analysis, evaluation and judgment of various factors after fully communicating with relevant parties. Furthermore, the institutional arrangement conforms to the constitutional provisions and constitutional principles and is consistent with the relevant provisions of Hong Kong’s Basic Law.
Social stability is the prerequisite for addressing all problems including economic issues. If the situation in Hong Kong were to go unchecked, the well-being of Hong Kong’s population, the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong society and the strong rule of law and business environment in Hong Kong would all be lost.
Hong Kong has achieved remarkable results in its fight against Covid-19. All sectors of the society are eagerly expecting that Hong Kong can reunite and start again. Looking to the future, under the protection of national security legislation, Hong Kong can strengthen the system of the special administrative region and write a new chapter of economic prosperity and development for its citizens. Ultimately, Hong Kong will continue to make unique and important contributions to the great revival of the Chinese nation.
Hung Chi-chang, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (2007-08), in China Times (May 28, 2020)
(Photo credit: Yenyu Chen/Pixabay)
China’s National People's Congress (NPC) declared that it will pass a national security law for Hong Kong. Beijing ’s tough handling of the Hong Kong issue can be understood this way:
First, Beijing’s priority is to maintain internal political, economic and social stability, as well as manage competition and cooperation between major powers and regional issues. Hong Kong's internal stability is linked to the internal stability of the country.
Second, Hong Kong is an important economic lifeline for China and for Chinese officials as it remains an offshore center and a renminbi-denominated bond-issuance hub and supports international fundraising for development of the Greater Bay Area.
Third, last year’s protests fueled support for the pro-democracy camp’s victory in the Hong Kong district council election. If the pan-democrats dominate the Legislative Council elections this year, it could generate a wave of support among the democratic forces within China and prompt further action by Beijing.
Fourth, while Beijing is well aware that its tough handling of Hong Kong will generate international criticism, they see Hong Kong as a domestic issue. Unlike with other geopolitical issues such as the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait, with Hong Kong, international pressure is significantly less.
Taiwan is not Hong Kong. Taiwan’s foreign minister has warned that Beijing might soon use force against Taiwan. Taiwan cannot be so naïve as to expect the international community to provide unconditional support. To defend Taiwan’s way of life, Taiwan must continue to deepen cooperation with those in the international community that share our values. To protect Taiwan’s autonomy, Taiwan must continue to play a key role in regional security and the global industrial supply chain.
Koong Lin Loong, Chairman, SMEs Committee, The Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia, and Managing Partner, Reanda LLKG International Chartered Accountants, in Sin Chew Daily (May 30, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
Malaysia is slowly reopening its economy. But after such trauma, how can companies recover?
While the central bank has announced a six-month grace period to help SMEs with loan repayments, by October their cashflow will tighten up. Even if the economy recovers, Malaysians should be prepared to maintain social distancing in the medium and long term. This would make it impossible for companies to return to where they were before Covid-19.
While the situation may appear bleak, there are four things companies should do to prepare:
First, companies should reformulate a one-year financial budget for after this crisis, considering how to reduce fixed costs such as rent and salaries, while trying to maintain their original income and develop more sources of revenue. Second, companies should try and change their working methods (to video conferencing, for example), re-examine their products and services, and optimize productivity. Third, companies should focus on whether their services and products are truly in demand now. Society may need new things. Finally, companies should conduct mid- to long-term analysis of the productivity of employees, machinery and operating models.
Companies should also make good use of the tax incentives and allowances granted by the state to protect cashflow during this difficult period. Furthermore, the government should use this crisis to reform completely the domestic business environment to be more pro-business by reducing bureaucratic procedures, eliminating corruption and attracting investment. This would build a good foundation in the event of another wave of the pandemic.
This crisis has affected many companies, and some will not survive. There is no need to be pessimistic, however. This will pass and normality will return. In the meantime, companies should focus on reducing costs and protecting cashflow. After all, there is there is no such thing as outdated businesses, just outdated thinking.
Goh Choon Kang, former journalist and member of the Singapore Parliament from 1984 to 199, in Lianhe Zaobao (May 27, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Rob O’Brien)
The Covid-19 outbreak among Singapore’s’ migrant worker community has become international news. The density of the living conditions of the 323,000 workers is one of the main reasons for the rapid spread of virus. This poses significant challenges for disease control.
Migrant workers in Singapore are fortunate due to the government’s generosity. The resources Singapore invested in controlling the outbreak is unrivalled, and many countries, including the US, are unable to take care of even their own citizens, let alone migrant workers.
Some citizens, however, cannot help but complain that some of Singapore's own poor people do not receive such good treatment. Such emotions are circulating online and generate a lot of negativity.
As the government is willing to bear the additional operating expenses of the migrant-worker accommodations, some are questioning whether this is a fair use taxpayer money. While dormitory operators should bear some of the responsibilities, they are also business owners and have the right to the assistance provided by the government for virus-control measures.
The most important question is, when will the virus be brought under control? Until now, more than 90 percent of the confirmed cases in Singapore are among migrant workers and the government has promised to test more than 300,000 guest workers in all. Therefore, to reduce uncertainty and its negative side effects, it is necessary to provide the public as much information as possible about the entire testing process and its progress.
Singaporeans, however, should be more considerate as this is an extremely complicated task, which involves preventing more migrant workers from being infected and the outbreak spreading within the community. Only in this way can we hope to resume normal economic and social activities in an orderly and gradual manner after the end of the circuit-breaker (lockdown) controls.
Usman Hamid, Executive Director of Amnesty International Indonesia, and Veronica Koman, human rights lawyer, in The Jakarta Post (May 25, 2020)
Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Marcel Gnauk/Pixabay)
The United Nations is right: It is impossible to practice physical distancing and self-isolation in an overcrowded prison. We therefore applaud the decision by Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly to release almost 40,000 prisoners at risk from the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet Minister Yasonna’s policy falls crucially short: Prisoners of conscience are excluded from the policy, despite the UN urging that “political prisoners should be among the first released”.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s government has detained 69 prisoners of conscience (PoCs) on treason charges, a record in recent times for Indonesia. The majority of them, 54, are indigenous Papuans. All are peaceful activists who have been detained for political expression -- simply carrying flags, organizing or participating in peaceful protests, or being members of political organizations. No one should ever be arrested or detained solely for exercising their human rights.
The majority of these PoCs were arrested during and in the immediate wake of the 2019 West Papua uprising that took place from August 19 to September 23 last year. These protests against racism and for self-determination, likened to an “earthquake” of anger and hope, took place in towns and villages throughout Papua.
Xie Maosong, senior researcher at the China Institute for Innovation & Development Strategy, in Guancha (May 25, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
Throughout history, pandemics have accelerated the rise and fall of major powers and civilizations.
If a powerful country that is in a continuous decline suddenly encounters a pandemic, its ability to respond effectively could be completely disabled. Instead, the crisis will intensify internal struggles and further accelerate the country’s decline. Conversely, if a powerful country is on the rise, a pandemic could inspire the government to utilize their strong organizational mobilization capabilities for society. The challenges commonly associated with the rise of a country can be overcome faster during the crisis and social cohesion will subsequently strengthen.
There are several examples of this. The Roman Empire collapsed following repeated outbreaks of the Black Death, which killed 25 million people between 1347 to 1353. While the Empire had long been deteriorating, this disease accelerated the process. In the 20th century, the pandemic referred to as the “Spanish flu”, which emerged at the end of the First World War in 1918, accelerated the rise of the US.
We can see similar patterns in the history of Chinese civilization. During the late Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 CE), there were more than ten major plagues, which accelerated its decline of the dynasty.
Although dynasties have risen and fallen, Chinese civilization has always survived, unlike Western civilization. A new dynasty represents a historical force that can draw on the lessons of the demise of the previous one. The continuity of ancient and modern Chinese civilizations provides a deeper understanding of the various levels of organization that China has demonstrated in its successful handling of the pandemic. This crisis, meanwhile, has exposed the political incapacity of the US. By comparing the two situations, we can appreciate the significance of the pandemic in accelerating the rise and fall of great powers. China must prepare for this.