Above video: Russian cosmonaut flies around in
the ISS - space station on a vacuum cleaner.
(Press Play!)


Malaysia’s Najib denies using Cambridge Analytica, accuses Mahathir’s son

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 3 hours 38 min ago
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Tuesday denied claims his government had ever engaged the tainted data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, and instead accused his rival Mahathir Mohamad’s son as the person who had used the company’s controversial services before he crossed aisles to join the opposition. Speculation about Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in Malaysia has been swirling since one of the company’s senior executives was secretly recorded by Britain...

South Korea to send K-pop singers to perform in Pyongyang as nuclear tensions ease

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 6 hours 21 min ago
A group of South Korea’s K-pop singers will visit Pyongyang from March 31, the South said on Tuesday, a reciprocal visit after North Korea sent performers to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. The South Koreans, numbering about 160, will visit North Korea until April 3, the South’s Ministry of Unification said in a statement, for the first such performances in more than a decade. The group will include K-pop girl group Red Velvet and music industry veterans Cho Yong-pil and Lee Sun-...

Drug abuser in Singapore gets five years in jail and six strokes of the cane for drug offences and holding toddler hostage

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 6 hours 27 min ago
By Faris Mokhtar A drug abuser who kidnapped and held his girlfriend’s two-year-old son hostage for 17 hours in 2016 was sentenced to five years’ jail and six strokes of the cane on Tuesday (March 20). Muhammad Iskandah Suhaimi, 40, was convicted of four charges last year for kidnapping the toddler, possessing and consuming methamphetamine, as well as for illegally possessing a knuckleduster. The court heard that at about 4pm on September 27, 2016, just seconds after his girlfriend...

Indian real estate firm partnering with Trump Organisation accused of cheating investors out of US$150 million

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 6 hours 36 min ago
An Indian company that is partnering with the Trump Organisation on an office tower project has been accused of running an elaborate real estate swindle that cheated investors out of nearly US$150 million, according to complaints filed with Indian authorities. Ramesh Sanka, the former CEO of the real estate firm IREO, said in the documents he saw “various acts of cheating, fraud and misappropriation of money” at his one-time employer that created “huge wrongful gains...

Australian court told of fresh abuse allegations against George Pell, the Vatican’s finance chief

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 7 hours 22 min ago
Fresh allegations have been made against Vatican finance chief Cardinal George Pell, an Australian court was told on Tuesday during a hearing to determine if he should stand trial on historical sexual offence charges. The 76-year-old, who is a top adviser to Pope Francis, is on leave and returned to Australia to fight the allegations which relate to incidents that allegedly occurred long ago. The exact details and nature of the accusations have not been made public, other than they involve...

Japanese cherry blossom season is here but trees could be wiped out by foreign species of beetle

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 8 hours 6 min ago
After a long and cold winter, the much anticipated announcement that cherry blossom season has finally arrived in eastern Japan has been greeted with enthusiasm. That excitement has been curbed, however, by the warning an invasion by a foreign species of beetle from mainland Asia could decimate the nation’s cherry trees in just a few years. Few things are as quintessentially Japanese as cherry blossoms – the delicate pink flowers rank alongside the profile of Mount Fuji and...

The drug lord known as ‘Mr X’ escapes death, but is jailed for life by a Thailand court for smuggling tonnes of meth

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 9 hours 10 min ago
A major Laos drug lord dubbed ‘Mr X’ was jailed for life on Tuesday by a Bangkok court, as Thailand battles record meth trafficking through its borders. Xaysana Keopimpha, a swaggering Laotian who before his arrest paraded his celebrity links and penchant for sports cars on social media, was picked up at Bangkok’s main airport in January last year. He was accused of being a kingpin in a meth smuggling ring that funnelled tonnes of Myanmar made ‘yaba’ pills and ice...

Cambodia jails British man for unintentionally producing pornography at ‘dirty dancing’ party

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 9 hours 51 min ago
A Cambodian court on Tuesday suspended 10 months of a one-year jail term it handed to a British man found guilty of producing pornography in connection with a party in the town of Siem Reap, home to the ruins of Angkor Wat. Cambodia, a conservative Buddhist country, is frequented by young tourists backpacking through Southeast Asia. Daniel Jones, who was tried on Thursday in the Siem Reap provincial court, was among 10 foreigners the police detained in a January 25 raid on the event, called...

Biometric payments are attractive for Singaporeans who just want to forget PINs and passwords

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 10 hours 12 min ago
By Jessica Lin When it comes to ensuring secure transactions, Singaporeans are keen on using biometric identification methods, a new survey has found. In a study conducted by Visa, 97 per cent of 500 Singapore consumers said they were interested in using biometric methods to verify their identity, while 96 per cent said they would like to use such methods for making payments. For most, biometric methods represent the elimination of passwords and PINs. As many as 41 per cent also said that...

Video of New Zealand criminal offenders’ ‘special treats’ and birthday cakes blasted by victims

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 10 hours 40 min ago
By Anna Leask A video posted by the Waitemata District Health Board explaining how patients in a forensic mental health facility – many referred there for horrendous criminal offending – get birthday cakes, special Easter treats and movie nights has upset and infuriated victims’ families. They are appalled that the DHB is flaunting staff “going above and beyond” to celebrate milestones that their loved ones will forever miss out on and say the video is...

Japan marks anniversary of Tokyo subway gas attack as 13 cult members brace for word they’ll be sent to the gallows

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 10 hours 57 min ago
Japan on Tuesday marked the 23rd anniversary of a deadly sarin attack on the Tokyo metro, as speculation grows that members of the cult behind it could soon be executed. At a solemn ceremony at Kasumigaseki station, one of the targets of the 1995 attacks which is surrounded by key government buildings, Tokyo subway staff gathered to observe a moment of silence and offer flowers. Thirteen people were killed and thousands more injured when members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult dumped bags of sarin on...

Elderly people in Japan are getting arrested on purpose because they want to go to prison

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 11 hours 21 min ago
By Mark Abadi Japan has the world’s oldest population, with more than a quarter of its citizens aged 65 or older. The ageing population has already put a strain on Japan’s financial system and retail industry. But in recent years, another unexpected trend has been unfolding: In record numbers, elderly people in Japan are committing petty crimes so they can spend the rest of their days in prison. According to Bloomberg, complaints and arrests involving older citizens are...

No fireworks at South Korea’s Lotte World Tower this spring

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 11 hours 43 min ago
By Park Jae-hyuk Lotte has decided not to display fireworks at Lotte World Tower in the first half of this year, amid a leadership vacuum following Chairman Shin Dong-bin’s imprisonment, the conglomerate said Monday. According to industry officials, the retail giant initially considered hosting fireworks shows at the nation’s tallest tower this April, May and December. The 123-story skyscraper hosted an 11-minute-long fireworks show worth 4 billion won (US$3.7 million) last April...

US-South Korea military exercises to go ahead in April, despite diplomatic thaw with North

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 12 hours 40 min ago
The United States and South Korea have agreed to resume joint military drills early next month, the Pentagon said, a move that was expected despite US President Donald Trump’s planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Seoul and Washington said in January they would delay the annual exercises, known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, until after the Olympics and Paralympics held in South Korea, helping to create conditions for a resumption of talks between South and North Korea,...

15 Chinese cities record stable housing markets

SHANGHAI DAILY - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 17:01
Housing markets in China’s 15 major cities stayed generally stable in February as tightening policies to curb speculation have been consistently implemented, data released yesterday by the National Bureau of Statistics showed.Twelve of the 15 cities, including first-tier ones and key second-tier cities, saw declines of 0.1 percent to 0.6 percent in new home prices from January. Prices in two cities were flat from a month earlier, and Tianjin was the only city where prices rose month on month, according to the bureau, which monitors property prices in 70 Chinese cities.“Stability extended in the country's 15 hottest housing markets as differentiated policies to curb speculation continued to take effect,” said Liu Jianwei, a senior statistician at the bureau.In the four first-tier cities, new home prices in Shanghai lost 0.2 percent from January while Beijing’s shed 0.3 percent, Guangzhou’s fell 0.4 percent and Shenzhen’s dipped 0.6 percent.On an annual basis, prices in nine cities shed by between 0.3 percent and 2.5 percent, five cities saw rises of between 0.6 percent and 3.1 percent while one was flat from a year earlier, according to the bureau.Nationwide on a month-over-month basis, new and pre-owned home prices in the four first-tier cities both fell at a faster rate compared to January. In second-tier cities, new home prices grew slower while those of pre-occupied houses climbed moderately faster, according to the bureau’s data.In third-tier cities prices of both new and pre-owned homes rose at the same rate compared to January.Among the 70 cities, new home prices in 16 cities declined month on month, a rise of three from January. In the pre-owned home market, 15 cities saw price decreases, down two from a month earlier.

Retailers appeal directly to Trump on China tariffs

SHANGHAI DAILY - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 17:01
SEVERAL large retail companies, including Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and Macy’s, are making a direct appeal to President Donald Trump not to impose massive tariffs on goods imported from China, in a letter sent to the White House yesterday. The Trump administration is said to be preparing tariffs against Chinese information technology, telecoms and consumer products in an attempt to force changes in Beijing’s intellectual property and investment practices. Washington could impose more than US$60 billion in tariffs on goods ranging from electronics to apparel, footwear and toys. “At the same time, we are concerned about the negative impact as you consider remedial actions under Section 301 of the Trade Act could have on America’s working families,” the letter states. “Applying any additional broad-based tariff as part of a Section 301 action would worsen this inequity and punish American working families with higher prices on household basics like clothing, shoes, electronics, and home goods.” The letter is the latest example of the growing division between the Trump administration and the business community over trade policy. On Sunday, a group of trade associations that represent most of the United States’ large businesses penned a letter echoing concerns about the economic ramifications of tariffs. Trade associations publicly pushing back include the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation and the Information Technology Industry Council. Sandy Hill, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which organized the letter, argued that tariffs would eliminate any benefit the tax bill provided the economy. “This is not American industries crying wolf,” she said in a statement.

New home sales fall in Shanghai for 1st time in 4 weeks

SHANGHAI DAILY - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 17:01
NEW home transactions fell in Shanghai for the first time in four weeks along with sentiment cooling among real estate developers, latest market data showed. The area of new homes sold, excluding government-subsidized affordable housing, fell 11 percent to about 83,000 square meters during the seven-day period through Sunday, snapping a three-week rally after the Spring Festival holiday, Shanghai Centaline Property Consultants Co said in a report released yesterday. Around the city, projects in outlying areas targeting budget-tight home seekers continued to dominate last week’s new home sales. Jiading, which saw a week-over-week rise of 15 percent, became the most sought-after area after unloading some 23,000 square meters of new houses. Qingpu followed with some 15,000 square meters of new home sales, up 87.5 percent from the previous week. These new homes cost an average 44,533 yuan (US$7,023) per square meter, a weekly rise of 4.7 percent, according to Centaline data. “Projects asking for between 30,000 yuan and 40,000 yuan per square meter remained the most popular among buyers with six out of the 10 best-selling developments falling into that range,” said Lu Wenxi, senior manager of research at Centaline.

Alibaba invests extra US$2b in Lazada

SHANGHAI DAILY - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 17:01
ALIBABA Group said yesterday that it will invest an additional US$2 billion in the Southeast Asian online shopping platform Lazada Group to drive its integration into the Alibaba ecosystem as the e-commerce giant seeks to accelerate its growth plan in the Southeast Asia market. Alibaba took a majority stake in Lazada in 2016 by investing US$1 billion and further raised its stake to 83 percent with another US$1 billion investment last year. The investment is set to enable Lazada to tap into Alibaba’s resources, which can help it better serve consumers and empower merchants in Southeast Asia. The investment underlines Alibaba’s commitment to provide a broad platform for local talent in Southeast Asia to contribute to the development of the digital economy in their home markets, according to the statement by Alibaba. Lazada’s board of directors also approved a management transition where Lucy Peng, a co-founder of Alibaba Group and chairwoman of Alibaba’s financial affiliate Ant Financial will assume the additional role of chief executive officer of Lazada to drive further growth strategies. “Lazada is well-positioned for the next phase of development of Internet-enabled commerce in this region, and we are excited about the incredible opportunities for supercharged growth,” Peng said in a statement. Chinese Internet firms are expanding globally, hoping overseas nations, especially Southeast Asian countries where online shopping penetration is relatively low, would offer new growth potential in the coming years.

Financial and medical shares climb

SHANGHAI DAILY - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 17:01
SHANGHAI stocks gained yesterday, buoyed by financial-linked shares and medical companies. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.29 percent to close at 3,279.25 points. Financial-related shares led the gain, with Kunwu Jiuding Investment Holdings Co Ltd jumping 7.27 percent and Ping An Insurance rising by 4.68 percent. Stocks related to industrial Internet were also among the biggest gainers yesterday. Baosight Software advanced 3.63 percent and CIG ShangHai Co Ltd added 2.41 percent. Medical shares such as Wuhan Thalys Medical Technology Inc and Dali Pharmaceutical Co Ltd both increased by over 6 percent, and Joinn Laboratories China Co Ltd hit the maximum daily limit of 10 percent.

Bank opens branch in Xiongan

SHANGHAI DAILY - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 17:01
A customer at the Agricultural Bank of China’s first branch in Xiongan New Area. The lender became the first among the country’s “big four” state-owned banks to set up a branch in Xiongan New Area. Li Jun, head of the Xiongan branch, said the branch has set up sub-branches in the counties of Rongcheng, Anxin and Xiongxian. China announced plans in April 2017 to set up Xiongan New Area about 100 kilometers southwest of Beijing. It is the third new area of national significance after the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the Shanghai Pudong New Area.

Australian officials defend early warning system after devastating Tathra fire

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 14:15
The New South Wales government has defended warnings to the residents of Tathra before the devastating fire that tore through the far south coast, displacing hundreds of residents and destroying about 100 buildings. Firefighters saved about 398 homes from the fast-moving, erratic fire that hit the small seaside village and the Bega valley on Sunday afternoon. The fire destroyed about 69 houses, 30 caravans or cabins, and damaged 39 houses. It was the product of a “perfect storm”,...

Philippines takes step towards legalising divorce

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 13:30
The Philippines took a step on Monday towards making divorce legal with the lower house of Congress passing a law allowing people to dissolve marriages, despite opposition from the president and bishops in the mainly Roman Catholic country. The Philippines, which has the largest Catholic population in Asia, and the Vatican are the only two states in the world without a divorce law, Philippine politicians say. Congresswoman Emmi de Jesus said the bill was in response to a clamour from women who...

Doklam dispute keeps Sino-Indian relations ‘challenging’, ambassador tells Hong Kong

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 13:26
The dispute over territorial limits in the Doklam region remains the top source of friction between India and Beijing, the visiting Indian ambassador to China said Monday even as he insisted bilateral ties were not being held hostage by that one issue. In his first official visit to Hong Kong since becoming India’s point man in China last October, Gautam Bambawale also reiterated his government’s sharp reservations over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – viewed by...

South Korean prosecutors seek arrest of former president Lee Myung-bak

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 10:07
South Korean prosecutors on Monday sought an arrest warrant for former president Lee Myung-bak over alleged bribery while in office, Yonhap news agency said. If the warrant is issued, Lee, who was questioned by prosecutors last week, will become the country’s fourth former president to be arrested on criminal charges. Lee, who was in office from 2008 to 2013, is suspected of taking about 11 billion won (US$10.3 million) in bribes from the state intelligence agency, businesses and others...

Why Malaysia wants to help Chinese couples have babies

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 09:08
By Khairie Hisyam Aliman The Malaysian medical tourism industry’s revenue broke through the RM1 billion (US$255.4) mark for the first time in 2016. By 2020, the national target is to double that. It may seem ambitious, but the Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) is confident of achieving that figure. The market in its sights? China. After China scrapped its one-child policy in October 2015, the council estimates there are around 90 million couples in China looking to conceive a...

Singapore tanneries: Africa’s largest market for reptile skins in Asia

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 07:50
By Siau Ming-en In a sign of Singapore’s powerhouse status in the tanning of reptile skins, the little red dot emerged as Asia’s largest importer of reptile skins from Africa in a recent report by wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic. Surpassing demand from larger economies such as South Korea and China, Singapore snapped up 60 per cent — or 933,583 — of about 1.6 million reptile skins that Africa exported to Asia from 2006 to 2015. The skins, mainly from the Nile...

Australia’s greeting for Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi: an honour guard, protests and a lawsuit

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 07:37
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s was feted in Australia on Monday with a military honour guard and 19-gun salute as part of a state visit that has provoked protests over her response to her country’s violent campaign against Rohingya Muslims. Suu Kyi arrived in Sydney over the weekend for a summit of Southeast Asian leaders and her state visit officially began Monday as she was welcomed to Parliament House in Canberra. Her visit comes as she faces international criticism over what...

Jailed Vietnam ex-Politburo member begins second trial – this time for oil giant’s massive financial losses

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 06:10
A court in Hanoi began a criminal trial Monday of a former Politburo member accused of mismanagement at state oil giant PetroVietnam that cost millions of dollars. PetroVietnam and the banking sector have been at the centre of the country’s recent crackdown against corruption with scores of executives being put on trial. Dinh La Thang, formerly the chairman of the state oil giant, already was the first former Politburo to be jailed in decades in another case earlier this year. He was...

Made in Malaysia: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ parody gets Russo brothers’ attention

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 05:38
Talk about creativity! It is one thing to watch our comic book super heroes go live on the big screen. But what if you were given the opportunity to direct the movie? We’re not sure who did it better, but we may have a winner. Perhaps, in a bid for some fun and laughter, twitter user Aiman Sany@awesomerawks and his friends recently made and tweeted a low-budget, frame-for-frame parody video of Marvel’s highly anticipated Avengers: Infinity War. The parody video with a bold and...

Thailand’s corruption ‘too ingrained in society to fix’ according to poll

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 05:10
The Prayut Chan-o-cha government in Thailand will be unable to combat corruption as it is so deep-rooted, respondents told a poll by Bangkok’s Suan Dusit Rajabhat University. The poll was conducted on March 13-17 among 1,157 people throughout the country and suggests the public has little confidence in the government’s boast that it can tackle the scourge. The survey sought people’s opinions on corruption cases involving several government agencies currently in the news. Asked...

Japan: defiant PM Shinzo Abe hits back over cover-up scandal as popularity dives

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 05:04
Japan’s embattled prime minister hit back on Monday at critics over a favouritism and cover-up scandal that has seen his popularity plunge and loosened his iron grip on power. In a hotly awaited statement in parliament, Shinzo Abe stressed he had not ordered bureaucrats to alter documents relating to a controversial land sale as he comes under mounting pressure over the scandal. “I have never ordered changes,” he said. The scandal surrounds the 2016 sale of state-owned land to...

New Zealand animal rights group searching for man who stomped kitten in ‘horrific’ video

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 04:53
A man told a kitten how cute it was moments before violently stomping it to death, catching it all on video and sharing it to social media. New Zealand animal rights non-profit organisation Paw Justice has shared the “horrific” video in an appeal to identify the man in the video and see justice served. “It is horrific to see what goes on in this country,” co-founder Craig Dunn said. They were sent the video by somebody who had been “disgusted” after seeing it...

Top South Korean actress calls #MeToo ‘good pain’

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 04:34
By Park Si-soo #MeToo is all the rage in Korea. Hardly a day has passed in recent weeks without fresh accusations. And the film industry is at the core of the storm. Multiple award-winning actors and directors, including Kim Ki-duk and Cho Jae-hyun, have crashed from grace with some awaiting investigation over alleged sexual misconduct. The shocking suicide of veteran actor Jo Min-ki, accused of molesting his students, was its culmination, at least so far. A recent survey hinted that there are...

Senior North Korea official in Finland for US talks as Kim Jong-un ‘takes stock’ of Donald Trump meeting

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 03:30
A senior North Korean diplomat has arrived in Finland for talks with US and South Korean officials on a mooted nuclear summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. Choe Kang-il, deputy director for North American affairs at Pyongyang’s foreign ministry, was expected to meet retired US diplomat Kathleen Stephens, according to multiple reports. The meeting follows three days of talks between North Korean and Swedish officials in Stockholm that apparently fell short of clearing the way for a...

Just when the TPP thought it was safe … a scandal in Japan and an election in Malaysia come along

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 02:00
The ink is barely dry on the reworked Asia-Pacific trade agreement signed last week by 11 countries from Japan to Australia, Malaysia and Singapore, but there is a question mark over whether the pact will take effect any time soon. All eyes are on Japan, the pact’s biggest economy, with concern over whether the widening favouritism scandal linked to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could roil his ruling party’s grip on power – and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans...

Hundreds in Australia flee as wildfires destroy homes and kill cattle

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 21:31
Australian authorities urged people to remain alert on Monday as wildfires that have destroyed homes, killed cattle and forced hundreds of residents to flee continued to burn out of control in the southeast of the country. No deaths or serious injuries were reported as of Monday morning, but the bush fires have caused extensive damage in rural Victoria and New South Wales states. The fires, believed to have been sparked by lightning on Saturday, were fanned by dry, hot winds as temperatures...

iQiyi opens IPO worth up to US$2.4b in New York

SHANGHAI DAILY - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 17:01
CHINESE video streaming service provider iQiyi Inc, a unit of search engine giant Baidu Inc, has launched an initial public offering in New York worth up to US$2.4 billion, seeking to expand its range of content. The listing is expected to give the firm extra financial muscle as it squares off against rivals in the Chinese market, including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s Youku Tudou Inc. It plans to offer 125 million American depositary shares priced at US$17 to US$19 each, the company said in a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Underwriters have an option to sell an additional 18.75 million shares, which if exercised in full could bring the value of the deal to about US$2.7 billion. IQiyi, which will list on the Nasdaq, said it expects to use about half of the proceeds to broaden and enhance its content offering while 10 percent would be earmarked to strengthen technology. The rest would go toward general corporate purposes. Baidu owns 80.5 percent of the Netflix-like video platform and will continue to be its controlling shareholder upon completion of the offering. At the end of February, iQiyi had 60.1 million subscribers, over 98 percent of whom were paying members, it said. IQiyi saw its 2017 revenue jump to 17.38 billion yuan (US$2.7 billion), up 55 percent over the previous year. It made a net loss of 3.74 billion yuan. Bilibili, another Chinese video streaming company, also set tentative pricing for its New York listing, seeking to raise as up to US$525 million. Its depository shares will be offered between US$10.50 and US$12.50 each. The deal has an option for an extra 6.3 million shares to be sold.

Low-carbon tech to be enhanced

SHANGHAI DAILY - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 17:01
China will hold the first international low carbon technology exhibition in Shanghai next month, which seeks to commercialize low-carbon technologies to boost sustainable development, authorities said on Saturday.China had pledged that by 2030 carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product will drop 60-65 percent from the level in 2005, “which requires efforts from the whole society rather than merely the government, including collaboration among companies and universities,” Li Peng, executive chairman at the Low-carbon Economics Committee of China Electronic Energy-saving Technology Association, said.“The exhibition will be held every year in Shanghai, (which) acts as a bridge to link professionals and companies worldwide to help commercialize low-carbon technologies,” he added.The 2018 (First) China International Low Carbon Technology Expo will feature seven themes of climate change, green building technology, low-carbon cities, low-carbon equipment, low-carbon Internet of Things technologies, new energy and green manufacturing.Seven conferences will also be held on “green” manufacturing and “green” cities development, with experts from the National Development and Reform Commission, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Shanghai authorities, Li said.The expo will be held at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Convention Center (at Exhibition Hall 4) from April 22 to 26, Li said.

Didi unit seeks US$1.6b via asset-backed securities

SHANGHAI DAILY - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 17:01
A unit of Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing has submitted an application to raise 10 billion yuan (US$1.6 billion) through an issuance of asset-backed securities. Didi, which said in December it had raised US$4 billion to support its overseas expansion, did not respond to a Reuters’ request for comment on how the funds would be used. The funds will be raised by Dirun (Tianjin) Technology Co Ltd, according to a filing published on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s bond market website. Dirun’s sole shareholder is Didi Chuxing. The Beijing News newspaper, which reported the proposed fundraising on Saturday, cited sources as saying Didi was also preparing to launch a meal delivery business in Wuxi on April 1. Didi, which holds over 87 percent of the Chinese private ride-share market, is facing new challengers with several firms including Tencent-backed meal delivery company Meituan-Dianping announcing plans to launch ride-hailing services.

Hong Kong’s Li to retire on May 10 and eldest son Victor to take over

SHANGHAI DAILY - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 17:01
HONG Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, announced his retirement as chairman of CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd on Friday, bringing to a close a rags-to-riches story that made him a hero in the freewheeling capitalist hub. Li, 89, will retire after the annual general meeting on May 10, the ports-to-telecoms conglomerate said in a filing to the Hong Kong bourse, passing the mantle to his eldest son Victor Li, who was named successor several years ago. While Hong Kong’s adoration of Li Ka-shing and his story has waned somewhat in recent years, he is still stepping aside from one of Asia’s most outward-looking empires, spanning more than 50 countries and 323,000 employees at last count. A factory apprentice when he was 13, Li has been called “Superman” for his business acumen and success. “I’ve been working for a long time, too long,” a relaxed Li, dressed in a dark suit and striped tie, said. He said the secret to his success included factors like continual self-improvement and unstinting hard work. “I have always taken the straight path,” he said. “I’m very happy and very honored I have had this opportunity.” Li will, as expected, stay on as senior adviser. Victor, who has been a group co-managing director for several years, is seen as a steady hand unlikely to change course. At the news conference, however, when several questions were addressed directly to Victor, Li ended up interrupting his son with his own answers. During his tenure, Li Ka-shing increased the pace of overseas acquisitions, helping boost the group’s profits with growth in the European telecoms business offsetting a drop in the value of the British business following Brexit. Through his flagship CK Hutchison, Li controls the biggest container port operator in the world, Canadian oil giant Husky Energy Inc, one of Europe’s leading telecoms operators, as well as infrastructure assets and a long-time interest in Britain that saw him awarded a knighthood in 2000. “Li Ka-shing is remarkable — he’s a role model and I regard him as such,” said Stuart Gulliver, former CEO of HSBC who in a 38-year career with the bank worked closely with Li. It was HSBC’s 1979 sale to Li of a stake in Hutchison Whampoa, a colonial-era trading house, that vaulted him into the first rank of Chinese tycoons. Commending Li’s long laid-out succession plan, unusual among tycoons in a region where discussing death is often viewed as unlucky, Gulliver praised Victor for being extremely capable. Reinforcing the view that the transition will be seamless, Victor said: “Tomorrow morning when I go to work there won’t be any difference ... (My father and I) are also upstairs-downstairs neighbors, how could we not chat?” The news of retirement came together with the announcement of better-than-expected results at some of Li’s biggest firms. CK Hutchison reported a 6 percent rise in 2017 profit to HK$35.1 billion (US$4.5 billion), versus the average forecast of HK$34.6 billion from 12 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The real estate arm, CK Asset Holdings Limited, saw annual profits surge 55 percent, also beating estimates. “Healthy and synchronised growth in major economies gathered pace in 2017. Provided this trend continues and inflation remains benign, the environment in 2018 should remain supportive for global trade and for our businesses,” Li said. He declined to forecast, however, whether the red-hot local property market, one of the world’s most expensive, had peaked. “I dare not speculate on property prices ... property prices have gone out of reach for the public,” he said, while urging the government to build more public housing. Li, who ranked 23rd on the world’s rich list by Forbes, is the wealthiest tycoon in Hong.

Support for Abe’s cabinet slips below 40 per cent amid cronyism scandal

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 12:33
The approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet has plunged below 40 per cent and fallen behind the disapproval rate, amid a deepening scandal linked to cronyism allegations levelled against Abe over a state-owned land sale, a Kyodo News poll showed Sunday. The support rate stood at 38.7 per cent, down 9.4 percentage points from the previous survey conducted before the Finance Ministry admitted to document tampering linked to the cronyism allegations. A total of 66.1 per cent...

Indian airports starting to strain as passenger numbers surge

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 11:37
India’s airports are struggling to cope with a massive surge in passengers and tens of billions of rupees must be spent to boost their capacity, analysts have warned. The country is witnessing a huge boom in air travel as its growing middle class increasingly takes to the skies but experts say infrastructure is failing to keep up. “There’s an urgent need for capacity building in major Indian airports as they are bursting at the seams and close to saturation,” said Binit...

Japan cult spin-offs persist two decades after subway sarin attack

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 10:26
More than two decades after Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo cult plunged Tokyo into terror by releasing a nerve agent on rush-hour subway trains, its spin-offs continue to attract new followers. Cult head Shoko Asahara is on death row, along with 12 of his disciples, for crimes including the subway attack, which killed 13 people and injured thousands. He was arrested in 1995 in the wake of the sarin attack, but the Aum cult survived the crackdown, renaming itself Aleph and drawing new recruits into...

Asean leaders address Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis, but refuse to point finger at Aung San Suu Kyi

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 09:23
Australia and its Asean neighbours vowed to boost defence ties while stressing the importance of non-militarisation in the disputed South China Sea on Sunday at a summit where the “complex” Rohingya crisis took centre-stage. Leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, at the three-day meeting in Sydney, also agreed to work more closely to tackle the growing menace of violent extremism and radicalisation. But while a final communique noted a resolve to “protect...

At least four dead in Manila hotel fire, hundreds of guests evacuated

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 09:12
At least four employees have been killed and two others were trapped in a fire that hit a Manila hotel, where more than 300 guests were evacuated, some by helicopter. Johnny Yu, who heads Manila’s disaster-response office, said that at least six other people at the Manila Pavilion Hotel and Casino on Sunday were overwhelmed mostly by heavy smoke and brought to a hospital. Yu said reports indicate at least 19 people were unaccounted for but added that only two people, who work as security...

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte urges other nations to quit ‘rude’ International Criminal Court … and then blasts ‘white idiots in the EU’

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 08:45
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday urged other nations to follow his move to quit the International Criminal Court, which is examining his deadly drug war. Duterte lashed out at the war crimes tribunal days after his government notified the United Nations of his decision to withdraw the Philippines from the Rome Statute which set up the court. “I said withdraw simply because to announce to the world, and I will convince everybody now who (is) under the treaty: get out, get out...

Sri Lanka ends state of emergency as tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in Kandy subside

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 07:14
Sri Lanka’s president announced Sunday he was lifting a nationwide state of emergency imposed 12 days ago to quell anti-Muslim riots in which three people died and hundreds of shops were destroyed. Maithripala Sirisena said improvements in the security situation prompted him to end the emergency, under which security forces and the police had sweeping powers to detain suspects. “Upon assessing the public safety situation, I instructed to revoke the state of emergency from midnight...

Who’s the winner and who’s the loser in Trump-Kim talks

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 06:30
Seventy-two hours was all it took to rip up the rule book for international relations – or at least the chapter on Northeast Asia. In the space of just three days, a once unthinkable scenario unfolded as North Korea accepted an invitation from the South for a summit and extended its own invite to the United States. Even if nothing further happens, this alone is a game changer. That these three leaders – America’s Donald Trump, the North’s Kim Jong-un and the South’...

A giant yellow duck named Daphne has gone missing off Australia

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 03:53
An Australian swimming club is appealing for ocean watchers to find their giant yellow inflatable duck Daphne, after the mascot was blown into the Indian Ocean with reported sightings hundreds of kilometres from where it was launched. The duck, owned by Cockburn Masters Swimming Club, was last seen at Perth’s Coogee Beach in the early hours of March 11 as organisers prepared for a carnival. Club president Peter Marr said he tried to swim after Daphne, which is the size of a caravan, but...

Thailand says it is trying to protect migrant workers. So why are they all so worried?

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 03:31
Sai Tun Shwe is a worried man. After 13 years in Thailand, nine of them working at the same garment factory, his work permit is about to expire and for the first time he is unsure if he will be able to renew it. “If I cannot get it done on time, I will be in big trouble”, says the Myanmar-born worker, 41. Sai Tun Shwe is not alone. Two million migrant workers in Thailand are struggling to renew their work permits before the end of March after a new law threatened fines and even jail...

Hong Kong sugar babies, Singapore sugar daddies – but it’s NOT about selling sex, these dating websites insist

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 02:30
Lily is not your average university student. Even among the young Hongkonger’s crowd of affluent friends, her reputation for conspicuous consumption raises eyebrows. She flies business class, sports handbags by Chanel and Hermès, takes foreign trips once every two weeks and, as if by magic, every month thousands of dollars appear in her bank account. Her last birthday party, held in one of Kuala Lumpur’s finest clubs, cost US$10,000. Naturally, her friends flew in from...

Abe’s nuclear disaster: why has Japan been shut out of North Korea talks?

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 01:18
As the only country to have been attacked with nuclear bombs, Japan playing a key role in convincing one of its neighbours to drop its weapons programme would seem obvious. But the out-of-the-blue announcement from US President Donald Trump that he had accepted an invitation to talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears to have given Tokyo’s input a new status: irrelevant. While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reacted to the news positively, his government has scrambled to save face....

Talks between North Korea and Sweden end – and could pave way for Trump-Kim encounter

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 03/17/2018 - 19:35
North Korean and Swedish foreign ministers ended three days of talks on Saturday on the security situation on the Korean peninsula which may help prepare the way for a planned meeting between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. North Korea’s Ri Yong-ho arrived in Stockholm on Thursday for talks with his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom amid a flurry of diplomatic activity concerning the reclusive country and its nuclear ambitions. Trump reaffirmed on Friday that he was willing...

When ride-sharing titans like Uber and Didi collude, it is the customer who loses out

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 03/17/2018 - 15:35
So Uber’s planning to exit Southeast Asia and leave the ride-sharing markets there to Singapore-based Grab. Like its exit from China in 2016, it’s a win for the ride-sharing behemoths and a loss for the public. That didn’t take long. Once SoftBank Group completed its investment in United States-based Uber, adding it to its stakes in Grab, China’s Didi Chuxing, and India’s Ola, it seemed only a matter of time before it calmed down the cutthroat competition in cities...

What key players want from Trump-Kim talks (and what they’ll get)

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 03/17/2018 - 12:35
The March 9 announcement that the US president had agreed to hold a summit with North Korea’s leader, by South Korean officials speaking on the White House lawn, encapsulated the Trump administration’s chaotic, unorthodox approach to foreign policy. President Donald Trump has by turns threatened and lampooned Kim Jong-un, but always kept the door ajar for a future meeting. Despite his fluctuating rhetoric, that the deal maker-in-chief has opted for the high-stakes gambit of a one-to...

Vietnam’s former prime minister Phan Van Khai dies at 84

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 03/17/2018 - 11:23
Phan Van Khai, an architect of Vietnam’s economic rise and the country’s first prime minister to visit the United States after the end of the war, died on Saturday. He was 84. Khai died in his home district of Cu Chi on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, the government said on its website. Khai oversaw Vietnam’s fastest and most stable economic growth during his nine years in office from 1997 to 2006. He signed a bilateral trade agreement with the US in 2000 and oversaw...

Small plane crashes outside Philippine capital, killing seven

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 03/17/2018 - 10:27
Seven people died when a small plane crashed into a house north of the Philippine capital on Saturday, aviation and police officials said. The Piper 23 Apache twin-engined aircraft, operated by Lite Air Express, had just taken off from a local airport, said Eric Apolonio, spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP). It was carrying six people, including two pilots, and was en route to Laoag in northwestern Luzon. The plane crashed into the house of an 80-year-old woman...

Australia, Asean leaders warn of encrypted messaging apps as Southeast Asia vows terror cooperation

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 03/17/2018 - 10:16
Use of encrypted messaging apps to plan terrorist attacks is the greatest threat facing intelligence agencies in modern times, Australia warned Saturday as Southeast Asian leaders vowed closer cooperation to counter extremism. An Asean-Australia special summit in Sydney heard that use of the “dark web” was a spiralling problem and countries in the region must work together to keep on top of it. Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told the meeting “the use of...

Inside the DMZ ‘village’ where Trump, Kim Jong-un may meet

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 03/17/2018 - 10:06
Before President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un hold their summit in May, they must first agree on a secure and convenient venue. Pyongyang? Beijing? Mar-a-Lago? All unlikely. Many experts agree the only logical place is Panmunjom, a heavily guarded “truce village” in the demilitarised zone that divides the Koreas. It is where the North and South have occasionally held talks. Although generally peaceful, Panmunjom has been the scene of defections and violence over...

Legal challenge levelled against Myanmar’s Suu Kyi as protesters take aim at Southeast Asia leaders at Sydney summit

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 03/17/2018 - 09:15
Lawyers in Melbourne have filed a private prosecution application against Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accusing her of crimes against humanity, while she and other Asean heads of state attend a summit in Sydney. But the application – which accuses her of the forcible transfer of a population in relation to widespread and ongoing human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims inside Myanmar – faces significant barriers because a universal jurisdiction prosecution in...

Malaysia’s ‘snake whispering’ firefighter dies after fatal bite ... and no, he didn’t marry a cobra

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 03/17/2018 - 08:14
He had been known for his way with venomous snakes. Pictures and videos of Abu Zarin Hussin show him taking selfies, exercising at the gym, working on his computer and watching television all with his pet cobra. He even kissed snakes on the mouth. The 33-year-old Malaysian firefighter, who had earned the name the “snake whisperer”, died on Friday, a few days after he was bitten by a cobra. Hussin was rushed to a hospital on Monday after he was bitten in Bentong in the state of...

Why the Trump-Kim meeting hinges on China

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 03/17/2018 - 06:04
Donald Trump ’s decision to accept an invitation to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stunned the world. After months of rhetoric between the two leaders that bordered on the juvenile, with the US president boasting about bigger buttons and calling Kim the “little rocket man”, Trump’s policy shifted 180 degrees overnight. What key players want from Trump-Kim talks (and what they’ll get) Trump is a showman at heart, so maybe the desire to make headlines shouldn...

Will India turn its back on the Dalai Lama to appease China?

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 03/17/2018 - 04:02
When India attempted to quietly cancel two major events in its capital that featured the Dalai Lama, it seemed to signal a desire to recalibrate its China policy, possibly to the detriment of the 95,000 Tibetan refugees living within its borders. The events – an interfaith prayer led by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader to be held on March 31 and a “Thank you, India” organised by the Central Tibetan Administration, or government-in-exile, on April 1 – were both...

With Rohingya gone, Myanmar's ethnic Rakhine move into new Muslim-free ‘buffer zone’

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 03/17/2018 - 02:01
Buddhist flags hang limply from bamboo poles at the entrance to Koe Tan Kauk, a “model” village for ethnic Rakhine migrants shuttled north to repopulate an area once dominated by Rohingya Muslims. The new arrivals are moving to parts of Rakhine state mostly “cleared” of its Rohingya residents, whose villages were bulldozed and reduced to muddy stains on a landscape of lush farmland. The Rakhine migrants, who come from the poor but relatively stable south, are – for...

Prabowo vs Widodo: what makes general think Indonesian election will be a case of second time lucky?

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 03/17/2018 - 01:30
The former special forces general and presidential candidate in Indonesia’s last election, Prabowo Subianto, will make another bid for the top job when the country goes to the polls next year to choose its head of state. A formal announcement is not expected until next month at the earliest. Even so, top officials at Prabowo’s party, the Great Indonesian Movement Party, or Gerindra, said they have begun preparations early in a bid to better organise the vast and unwieldy campaign...

Trump, Moon discuss plan to meet North Korea’s Kim, says White House

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 20:00
The United States and South Korea expressed “cautious optimism” Friday that North Korea could enjoy a “brighter future” after a planned summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un before the end of May. Trump and South Korea President Moon Jae-in discussed preparations for their upcoming meetings with North Korea and agreed that “concrete actions” were the key to achieving denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, the White House said in a...

What this Malaysian teacher’s struggle says about the strength of Southeast Asian women

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 12:59
In 2009, Indira Gandhi, a Malaysian kindergarten teacher, temporarily lost custody of her three children. In March that year, her estranged husband embraced Islam and converted her children without her knowledge or consent. In January, after a long, drawn-out legal battle, the federal court declared the unilateral conversion unlawful. Yet, Indira cannot possibly be placated. She has yet to regain her court-mandated custody of her youngest child, Prasana Diska, who her ex-husband has absconded...

Indian pop star Daler Mehndi convicted of human trafficking after smuggling jobseekers to US and Canada

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 12:56
A popular Indian pop singer was convicted of human trafficking and cheating Friday by a court that found he took money to pretend people were in his performance troupe so they could get jobs in North America. Daler Mehndi said he is innocent. The court in the northern city of Patiala sentenced him to two years in prison but freed him on bail while he challenges his conviction in an appeal court. Prosecutors said Mehndi and his brother took “passage money” from Indians they offered...

Australia’s spy chief says journalists are ‘ideal cover’ for foreign agents, cites Chinese attempt to recruit local reporter

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 12:36
Australia’s intelligence agency has warned that media organisations should not be exempt from foreign interference laws because spy agencies would recruit journalists to exploit the loophole. The director general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Duncan Lewis, told a parliamentary committee on Friday that journalism provided an “ideal cover” for foreign spies to seek information that harmed Australia’s interests. Asio’s evidence to the...

Sweden says ‘we don’t think we can solve world’s problems’ after meeting with North Korea on denuclearisation

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 12:12
North Korea’s foreign minister held talks in Stockholm with Swedish leader Stefan Lofven on Friday amid reports Sweden could play a role in setting up a proposed summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. “They had a meeting. We will not disclose what they talked about,” said Lofven’s spokesman Jonatan Holst. Ri Yong-ho arrived in the Swedish capital on Thursday evening with Choe Kang-il, deputy director general of the foreign ministry’s North America section. Ri...

‘Embrace free trade, not retreat from it’: Australia, Asean leaders vow to reject trade protectionism on first day of summit

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 11:10
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and Australia reject protectionism, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Singapore counterpart said on Friday, amid fears about a possible trade war sparked by US plans to raise tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. “You don’t grow stronger by closing the door to other markets. Protectionism is a dead end. It is not a ladder to get you out of the low growth trap, it is a shovel to dig it much deeper,” Turnbull...

Japanese bemused by Trump’s bowling ball car test claim

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 10:51
A claim by US President Donald Trump that Japan tests the quality of cars by dropping bowling balls on them has prompted confusion and ridicule among some Japanese. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Trump claimed in a fundraising speech that Japan was using unreasonable testing standards to keep out US auto companies. “They take a bowling ball from 20 feet up in the air and they drop it on the hood of the car,” Trump reportedly said. “And if the hood dents, then...

Asia in 3 minutes: Japan is scandalised by ‘free boobs’ on YouTube, India by a missing leg in hospital

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 09:56
Doctors in India suspended after patient used lost leg for pillow Indian authorities have suspended two doctors and launched an investigation after a patient’s severed leg was used as a pillow to prop up his head. Administrators at the public hospital in Uttar Pradesh vowed “strict action” after images appeared online of a patient on a stretcher with his amputated limb being used as a headrest. “We have set up a four-member committee to find out who put the severed leg...

Philippines tells UN it will quit International Criminal Court

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 06:55
The Philippines said on Friday it had given official notice to exit the treaty that created the International Criminal Court, which is examining President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. The move comes days after Duterte announced his nation would quit the court over its preliminary inquiry launched last month into allegations his crackdown on narcotics amounts to crimes against humanity. Philippine police say they have killed roughly 4,000 suspects who fought back during arrest, but...

Singapore ‘world’s most expensive city’ for fifth year in a row, survey says

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 06:13
Singapore remains the world’s most expensive city for the fifth consecutive year, with Paris, Zurich and Hong Kong following closely behind, according to the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey published on Thursday. Low inflation meant Tokyo – the most expensive city until 2013 – dropped out of the top 10 in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s biannual study of 133 cities. Meanwhile, euro strength and a weaker pound saw the Irish capital Dublin overtake London, which is now...

Japan’s finance minister Taro Aso skipping G20 meeting as PM’s cronyism scandal balloons

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 05:44
Japan’s finance minister will miss a G20 meeting next week, officials said on Friday, to address parliament as pressure mounts over a cronyism scandal and alleged cover-up dogging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Taro Aso “will concentrate on” dealing with parliament, and will be represented at the meeting by his deputy Minoru Kihara, a ministry official said. Ruling and opposition lawmakers have agreed to hold a hearing Monday on the growing scandal over the cut-price sale of...

South Korea and US to scale down joint military drills

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 05:31
South Korea and the United States will scale down and shorten annual joint military exercises in light of a diplomatic thaw with Pyongyang, a report said on Friday. The Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills held every spring regularly infuriate the nuclear-armed North, which usually condemns them as preparations for invasion and responds with provocations of its own, ratcheting tensions higher. But the two Koreas and the US are in the throes of an Olympics-led rapprochement, with South Korea...

Taiwan to ask Hong Kong’s help investigating teenager wanted for girlfriend’s murder

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 03/16/2018 - 00:32
Taiwan’s government said on Thursday it wanted Hong Kong’s help investigating the murder of a woman from the city, allegedly by her teenage boyfriend, while the couple was in Taipei last month. Deputy Justice Minister Chen Ming-tang said that although there is no extradition deal between Taiwan and Hong Kong, his ministry would try to get an agreement from the Hong Kong side to ease the investigation and any eventual punishment of 19-year-old Chan Tong-kai. “The Justice...

North Korea’s top foreign minister arrives in Sweden for talks that could set up Trump-Kim summit

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 19:17
North Korea’s top diplomat arrived in Sweden on Thursday for two days of talks which could play a role in setting up a proposed summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho arrived at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport around 6.15pm local time before being whisked away in a diplomatic motorcade. Ri is to hold talks with his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom – whose country represents US interests in Pyongyang – on the denuclearisation of the...

Driverless cars on roads sooner

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 17:01
Self-driving cars will hit the roads in China “within three to five years,” the founder of Chinese Internet giant Baidu, one of the world’s leading designers of driverless cars, said yesterday. That is a lot sooner than predicted by China’s information technology minister, who last week said it would only be a reality in 8-10 years, citing constraints related to security. “I’m more optimistic than him, I think it will come sooner,” Baidu CEO Robin Li said. Baidu, often referred to as China’s Google, operates the country’s leading search engine and also invests heavily in services ranging from online payments to connected devices and artificial intelligence. Like Google, the Chinese company is spending on research and development to put a driverless car on the road. In 2019, in cooperation with local manufacturers, the Beijing-based company plans to launch a car featuring “a high degree of autonomy,” Li said. “Highly automated driving means ... for example, on a Beijing to Shanghai trip, as long as you stay on the highway, you will not have to worry about anything — you can eat hotpot or sing inside while you’re waiting to arrive,” he said. The driver would still, however, need to take the wheel again as soon as the car moved away from major highways. “But in the next three to five years, I believe totally autonomous cars will make their appearance on the roads,” he said. In September the company established a US$1.5 billion fund dedicated to developing driverless cars. It also manages an open platform where it shares its technologies with designers and builders.

FDI into mainland records slight gain

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 17:01
FOREIGN direct investment into the Chinese mainland rose 0.5 percent year on year in the first two months of 2018, official data showed yesterday. FDI in January and February reached 139.4 billion yuan (US$22.1 billion), the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement. During the period, 8,848 foreign-invested enterprises were created, a jump of 129.2 percent year on year. FDI to the high-tech sector continued to grow, up 27.9 percent annually, accounting for 19.5 percent of the total. Around 14.5 billion yuan flowed into the high-tech manufacturing industry, up 89.7 percent from a year earlier, with investment in medicine up 129.6 percent and medical equipment manufacturing up 321.8 percent. FDI into western China frew rapidly, up 76.3 percent, while that in central China rose 35.3 percent. FDI from Singapore, South Korea and the United States increased 62.9 percent, 171.9 percent and 56.8 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, investment made by countries along the Belt and Road climbed 75.7 percent year on year. As the business environment continues to improve, China is set to attract steady foreign investment inflows by opening up and easing market access. FDI is expected to keep steady in 2018 despite uncertainties in the world economy, the ministry has said. In 2017, the country’s FDI rose 7.9 percent year on year to 877.6 billion yuan.

Outbound market lifts online travel

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 17:01
TOP Chinese online tourism firms performed strongly in 2017 as they tapped the market for outbound tourists, Shanghai Daily learned yesterday. Shanghai-based Ctrip posted a net profit of 2.1 billion yuan (US$329 million) in 2017, reversing a 1.4 billion yuan loss in the previous year. Its revenue totaled US$4.1 billion last year, after it acquired smaller domestic rival Qunar and international air ticket service provider Skyscanner. Nasdaq-listed Ctrip said offering quality services for out-border tourists is one of its key strategies. Tuniu cut its net loss to 771.3 million yuan last year from 2.4 billion yuan in 2016. Its 2017 revenue surged 53 percent annually to 2.2 billion yuan.

Yirendai’s net earnings jump 23%

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 17:01
YIRENDAI Ltd, a leading financial technology company in China, earned a net profit of 1.37 billion yuan (US$220 million) in 2017, up 23 percent from the prior year, said its unaudited annual financial report. Its total net revenue surged 71 percent to 5.54 billion yuan during the same period, the report said, showing great potential of the fast expanding online financing sector. For 2017, the US-listed company extended 41.4 billion yuan of loans to 649,154 qualified individual borrowers through its online marketplace, up 102 percent year on year. Yirendai said that around three quarters of its borrowers were acquired from online channels during the past year and nearly all of the loan volume originating from online channels was done through mobile. Thanks to its expanded online business, the financial technology firm helped 592,642 investors with a total investment of 48.07 billion yuan from January to December 2017. Total fees billed, a major contributor to the company’s net income, were 2.94 billion yuan in the fourth quarter of 2017, up by 81 percent from the same period of 2016. Fang Yihan, chief executive of Yirendai, said it will grow its online lending, online wealth management and technology businesses in 2018.

Shares end flat after risk caution

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 17:01
SHANGHAI stocks closed generally flat yesterday after a decline by recently-listed companies offset gains made by consumer shares following the securities regulator’s warning of risks and bubbles. The Shanghai Composite Index dipped 0.01 percent to end at 3,291.11 points. The index was dragged by “sub-new shares,” referring to firms listed within one year and haven’t issued dividends, after the China Securities Regulatory Commission on Wednesday warned of risks in these firms where speculation is rife. Recently listed shares Xuancheng Valin Precision Technology Co tumbled 8.70 percent to 25.09 yuan (US$3.97) and Nacity Property Service Co fell 5.11 percent to 41.22 yuan, “offsetting rises in consumer firms today,” said Zhou Jianbing, chief analyst at Sinolink Securities. Meanwhile, consumer goods producers such as Shanxi Xinghuacun Fen Wine Factory Co gained 5.02 yuan to finish at 58.60 yuan while ShangHai JinFeng Wine Co added 4.15 percent to close at 8.28 yuan.

Alibaba plans to return home to list

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 17:01
CHINESE e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is working on a plan to list on a stock exchange in its home country, the Wall Street Journal said yesterday, citing people familiar with the matter. Alibaba is evaluating ways in which its shares could be traded by investors on the Chinese mainland, the newspaper said. The news of a probable listing comes a few weeks after it was reported that China may allow its offshore-listed tech giants to sell depositary receipts, a form of shares, on the mainland. The China Securities Regulatory Commission will start accepting applications from interested firms toward the end of the year, according to a previous report. Alibaba, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, is one of the world’s biggest tech companies listed offshore. Others include Baidu Inc, JD.com Inc and Tencent Holdings Ltd. Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Unilever sites HQ in Netherlands on Brexit

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 17:01
ANGLO-DUTCH consumer giant Unilever yesterday named The Netherlands over London to host its headquarters, dealing a blow to Britain’s efforts to keep multinational companies onside following Brexit. Unilever, whose famous brands include yeast extract Marmite, PG Tips tea and Persil washing powder, announced in a statement that it “intends to simplify from two legal entities, NV and PLC, into a single legal entity incorporated in The Netherlands.” The news represents a blow to British Prime Minister Theresa May, analysts say, as her Conservative administration battles to secure a Brexit trade deal with Brussels. Unilever’s decision comes after a swathe of big-hitting financial institutions, including British bank HSBC, Swiss peer UBS and US giants JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, have already confirmed plans to move some London activities to Paris and elsewhere. Many large international companies insist however that they will retain their London presence as a platform for post-Brexit growth in Europe. Unilever was founded in 1930 after the Dutch margarine producer Margarien Unie merged with British soapmaker Lever Brothers. Until now, it has maintained a dual-headed structure since then, with listings on the London, Amsterdam and New York stock exchanges. Unilever said yesterday that the headquarters of its beauty and home care divisions would be located in London, while its food and refreshment division will remain in Rotterdam. The move will have no impact on its 7,300 employees in Britain and 3,100 in the Netherlands, the company said. While analysts saw the decision as a consequence of Britain’s plans to leave the European Union in March 2019, the government said Brexit had nothing to do with it. “Unilever has today shown its long-term commitment to the UK by choosing to locate its two fastest-growing global business divisions in this country, safeguarding 7,300 jobs and 1 billion pounds (US$1.4 billion) a year of investment,” a government spokesman said. “As the company itself has made clear, its decision to transfer a small number of jobs to a corporate HQ in the Netherlands is part of a long-term restructuring of the company and is not connected to the UK’s departure from the EU.” However Jos Versteeg, an analyst at the Amsterdam-based InsingerGilissen private bank said he believed Unilever’s choice indeed had to do with Brexit. “I think they chose in favor of a Dutch entity because of Brexit and that its better to be in Europe,” he said. “It’s a hard blow for Britain to see Unilever’s headquarters disappear.”

Hard impact expected to be felt from bankruptcy of Toys R Us

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 17:01
THE demise of Toys R Us will have a ripple effect on everything from toymakers to consumers to landlords. The 70-year-old retailer is headed toward shuttering its US operations, jeopardizing the jobs of some 30,000 employees while spelling the end for a chain known to generations of children and parents for its sprawling stores and Geoffrey the giraffe mascot. The closing of the company’s 740 US stores over the coming months will finalize the downfall of the chain that succumbed to heavy debt and relentless trends that undercut its business, from online shopping to mobile games. And it will force toymakers and landlords who depended on the chain to scramble for alternatives. CEO David Brandon told employees on Wednesday the company’s plan is to liquidate all of its US stores, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Associated Press. Brandon said Toys R Us will try to bundle its Canadian business, with about 200 stores, and find a buyer. The company’s US online store would still be running for the next couple of weeks in case there’s a buyer for it. It’s likely to also liquidate its businesses in Australia, France, Poland, Portugal and Spain, according to the recording. It’s already shuttering its business in the UK. That would leave it with stores in Canada, central Europe and Asia, where it could find buyers for those assets. Toys R Us had 60,000 full-time and part-time employees worldwide last year. Brandon said on the recording that the company would be filing liquidation papers and there would be a bankruptcy court hearing yesterday. “We worked as hard and as long as we could to turn over every rock,” Brandon told employees. When the chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last fall, saddled with US$5 billion in debt that hurt its attempts to compete as shoppers moved to Amazon and huge chains like Walmart, it pledged to stay open. But Brandon told employees its sales performance during the holiday season was “devastating,” as nervous customers and vendors shied away. That made its lenders more skittish about investing in the company. In January, it announced plans to close about 180 stores over the next couple of months, leaving it with a little over 700 stores. The company’s troubles have affected toymakers Mattel and Hasbro, which are big suppliers to the chain. But the likely liquidation will have a bigger impact on smaller toymakers that rely more on the chain for sales. Many have been trying to diversify in recent months as they fretted about the chain’s survival. Toys R Us has been hurt by the shift to mobile devices taking up more play time. But steep sales declines over the holidays and thereafter were the deciding factor, said Jim Silver, who is editor-in-chief of toy review site TTPM.com. The company didn’t do enough to emphasize that it was reorganizing but not going out of business, Silver said. That misperception led customers to its stores because they didn’t think they would be able to return gifts. Now, the US$11 billion in sales still happening at Toys R Us each year will disperse to other retailers like Amazon and discounters, analysts say. Other chains, seeing that Toys R Us was vulnerable, got more aggressive. J.C. Penney opened toy sections last fall in all 875 stores. Target and Walmart have been expanding their toy selections. Even Party City is building up its toy offerings. “Amazon may pick up the dollars, but won’t deliver the experience needed for a toy retailer to survive and thrive in today’s market,” said Marc Rosenberg, a toy marketing executive. Toys R Us had dominated the toy store business in the 1980s and early 1990s, when it was one of the first of the “category killers” — a store totally devoted to one thing. Its scale gave it leverage with toy sellers and it disrupted general merchandise stores and mom-and-pop shops. Children sang along with commercials about “the biggest toy store there is.” But the company lost ground to discounters like Target and Walmart, and then to Amazon, as even nostalgic parents sought deals elsewhere. GlobalData Retail estimates that nearly 14 percent of toy sales were made online in 2016, more than double the level five years ago. Toys R Us still has hundreds of stores, and analysts estimate it still sells about 20 percent of the toys bought in the US. It wasn’t able to compete with a growing Amazon: The toy seller said in bankruptcy filings that Amazon’s low prices were hard to match. And it said its Babies R Us chain lost customers to the online retailer’s convenient subscription service, which let parents receive diapers and baby formula at their doorstep automatically. Toys R Us blamed its “old technology” for not offering its own subscriptions. But the company’s biggest albatross was that it struggled with massive debt since private-equity firms Bain Capital, KKR & Co and Vornado Realty Trust took it private in a US$6.6 billion leveraged buyout in 2005. Weak sales prevented them from taking the company public again. With such debt levels, Toys R Us did not have the financial flexibility to invest in its business. The company closed its flagship store in Manhattan’s Times Square, a huge tourist destination that featured its own Ferris wheel, about two years ago. In filing for bankruptcy protection last fall, Toys R Us pledged to make its stores more interactive.

British man involved in Cambodia ‘dirty dancing’ case goes on trial

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 15:10
A Cambodian court held a one-day trial Thursday of a British man who was among a group of foreigners arrested for allegedly posting photos on social media of sexually suggestive dancing at a party. The judge in Siem Reap provincial court said the verdict in the case against Daniel Jones would be announced later. Jones, 31, has been charged with producing pornography. He was among 10 Westerners arrested in late January for posting the photos and faces up to one year in prison if convicted. The...

My Lai massacre: the day US troops slaughtered 504 unarmed Vietnamese civilians in three brutal hours

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 13:03
The shudder of artillery fire woke the boy at 5.30am. Three American soldiers appeared at his family’s home a couple of hours later and forced the mother and five children into their bomb shelter, a structure most every Vietnamese home had during the war, to keep them safe. One soldier set fire to the family’s thatched house while the others tossed grenades into the shelter. Protected under the torn bodies of his mother and his four siblings, 10-year-old Pham Thanh Cong was the only...

Bali to halt flights, shut shops and turn off internet for ‘Day of Silence’

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 12:38
Indonesia’s bustling tourist island Bali is set to go quiet with internet service and flights temporarily halted for a “Day of Silence”, while young people get ready to pucker up. Residents of the Hindu-dominated island stop regular daily activities for a day of meditation, fasting and introspection, an annual rite that includes elaborate beachside ceremonies and demon-like effigies. Known locally as Nyepi, Hindus on the island are expected to stop all work and play and remain...

Indonesia enacts law that makes criticising politicians a crime, and Widodo can’t do anything about it

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 12:08
Indonesians could be jailed for criticising national politicians under a new law that came into force on Thursday, in what critics slammed as a major step back for the world’s third-biggest democracy. The vaguely worded bill passed the 560-member house last month but has just become official, over the objections of President Joko Widodo who refused to sign off on the controversial legislation. Widodo does not have veto power over the bill, although it can be challenged at the...

Thai tycoon eyes youth vote with new party as coups, corruption and old faces fuel hunger for fresh politics

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 10:21
A 39-year-old business tycoon entered Thailand’s political bear-pit on Thursday with the launch of a new progressive party, courting the youth vote in a kingdom plagued by coups and corruption. Dubbed “Future Forward”, the party was born out of a late night conversation three months ago between Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, whose helps run his family’s auto-parts empire, and a young law professor Piyabutr Saengkanokkul. The duo unveiled their new party in Bangkok on...

India eyes Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet for ageing air force in latest twist to jet shopping saga

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 08:34
Boeing Co, considered the front runner in the race to supply the Indian navy with new fighter jets, is now in contention for a much bigger US$15 billion order after the government abruptly asked the air force to consider the twin-engined planes. Until recently, Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-16 and Saab AB’s Gripen were in a two-horse race supply at least 100 single-engine jets to build up the Indian Air Force’s fast-depleting combat fleet. Both had offered to build the planes in...

South Africa criticises ‘sad’ Australian plan to fast-track visas for its supposedly persecuted white farmers

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 08:10
South Africa has criticised Australian home affairs minister Peter Dutton’s offer to fast-track visas for its white African farmers, saying his comments on the supposed threat to their lives and land were “sad” and “regrettable”. A spokesperson for international relations minister Lindiwe Sisulu, said: “There is no need to fear … we want to say to the world that we are engaged in a process of land redistribution which is very important to address the...

The world’s trade and stability rest on three men as they prepare to play the Great Game

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 07:22
For the first time since the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Russia has launched a chemical warfare attack against a member nation. The release of a dirty bomb in public that could wound or kill indiscriminately is a terrorist attack. Such an attempted execution of an enemy of the leadership in a neutral country might be expected of North Korea, but not by a superpower in a leafy English suburb. Naturally Russia denies the attack - and who wouldn’t? It was...

Australia urged to get tough on human rights when it hosts leaders at Asean summit in Sydney

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 07:20
Australia must avoid a “dance with dictators” when it hosts Asean leaders at a special summit this week, and should make human rights a prominent issue, campaigners say. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will welcome heads of government or state from nine of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations heads to Sydney from Friday, including Cambodian strongman Hun Sen and Myanmar’s under-fire leader Aung San Suu Kyi. But Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is a no-show, citing...

Vietnamese trainee paid US$19 a day to do decontamination work near crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 05:55
A Vietnamese man who came to Japan under a foreign trainee programme was made to engage in radioactive decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture without his knowledge, a foreign workers support group heard. At an event organised by the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, the 24-year-old man, who declined to be named, said he would have “never come to Japan” if he had known he would be doing that work near where a nuclear disaster occurred in 2011. The Vietnamese said a...

South Korean ex-president Lee Myung-bak emerges from marathon interrogation session as bribery case builds

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 04:07
Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak returned home Thursday after a marathon interrogation by prosecutors over corruption, the last of the country’s living ex-leaders to be embroiled in a criminal inquiry. Allegations of graft involving the conservative 76-year-old’s relatives and aides during his term have mounted in recent weeks as prosecutors investigate multiple cases of bribery amounting to millions of dollars. The probe means that all four living former South Korean...

European Parliament in ‘secret’ talks with North Korea

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 03/14/2018 - 17:54
A European Parliament delegation said on Wednesday it has been conducting secret talks with North Korea over the last three years to try to persuade Pyongyang to negotiate an end to its nuclear programme. The group led by British MEP Nirj Deva has met senior North Korean officials, including ministers, 14 times and plans another meeting in Brussels in the near future. News of the below-the-radar diplomacy effort comes after the surprise announcement that US President Donald Trump plans a summit...

Indonesia’s Aceh province considers beheading as penalty for murder under sharia law

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 03/14/2018 - 17:05
The conservative Indonesian province of Aceh – known for publicly caning gays, adulterers and gamblers – is considering the introduction of beheading as a punishment for murder, a top Islamic law official said on Wednesday. Syukri M Yusuf, the head of Aceh’s Sharia Law and Human Rights Office, said the provincial government has asked his office to research beheading as a method of execution under Islamic law and to consult public opinion. “Beheading is more in line with...