Top Asian News 12:43 p.m. GMT
HONG KONG (AP) — A swearing-in ceremony to kick off Hong Kong’s legislative session descended into farce Wednesday as newly elected pro-democracy lawmakers intentionally mangled their oaths in a show of defiance against Beijing. The new crop of lawmakers, elected last month amid swelling anti-China sentiment, object to the oath’s requirement to pledge allegiance to the “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China” and its Basic Law constitution. So they came up with creative ways to get around it. Sixtus Leung, 30, of the radical Youngspiration party draped a blue flag with the words “Hong Kong is not China” over his shoulders.
BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s stock market and currency tumbled and the prime minister canceled an overseas trip Wednesday amid concerns about long-ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s health. His son, the crown prince, returned home from Germany, as Thais in pink shirts — a color associated with the king — gathered outside Siriraj hospital in Bangkok, which has been his home for much of the last decade. The Stock Exchange of Thailand’s benchmark fell nearly 7 percent in afternoon trading before recovering somewhat for a 4.1 percent loss for the day. Thai stocks have slid daily since Sunday, when the royal palace announced that the 88-year-old Bhumibol’s condition was unstable, the first time it has used that phrase regarding the king’s health.
NABATIYEH, Lebanon (AP) — Hundreds of men, boys, and several women, are commemorating the 7th century martyrdom of Prophet’s Muhammad’s grandson Hussein, in a Shiite tradition in Lebanon’s south by lashing their foreheads and backs in a blood-soaked, open air parade. Wednesday’s ceremony was an ode to devotion to Hussein, killed on Ashoura, or the 10th day of battle in Karbala, in modern day Iraq, in 680 AD. The battle and his death marked the first major schism in Islam. In the courtyard of the historic mosque of the southern town of Nabaityeh, boys as young as three wailed in bewilderment as they received incisions with a razor blade on their foreheads, to facilitate bleeding from the lashes.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The fiasco of Samsung’s fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 smartphones — and Samsung’s stumbling response to the problem — has left consumers from Shanghai to New York reconsidering how they feel about the South Korean tech giant and its products. Samsung Electronics said Tuesday it would stop making the Note 7 for good, after first recalling some devices and then recalling their replacements, too. Now, like the makers of Tylenol, Ford Pintos and other products that faced crises in the past, it must try to restore its relationship with customers as it repairs the damage to its brand.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — At least six Afghan civilians were killed when an explosion struck a group of Shiite Muslim worshippers in northern Balkh province, an official said. Munir Ahmad Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor in Balkh, said Wednesday that 36 others were wounded in the attack, which targeted a group as they were leaving a mosque following ceremonies to commemorate Ashoura, a major religious holiday among Shiites. “The death toll could rise, because a number of the wounded people are in critical condition,” said Farhad, adding that the bomb appeared to have been detonated by remote control. Meanwhile in the capital, Kabul, the death toll from a Tuesday night attack on a Shiite shrine rose to 17 people, including a policeman.
TOKYO (AP) — An extensive blackout struck Tokyo on Wednesday, affecting government offices and halting trains in the Japanese capital just before the evening rush hour. Tokyo Electric Power Co., a utility serving the Tokyo region, said officials are investigating the cause of the blackout. The company, known as TEPCO, said smoke was detected at its unmanned power substation in Niiza city, near Tokyo, and officials are looking into whether it’s related to the blackout. TEPCO said as many as 350,000 households and offices were temporarily out of power. Electricity was restored to most of them later. Japanese television showed black smoke billowing from the substation in a business district.
BEIJING (AP) — China on Wednesday protested the attendance of the U.N. human rights chief at a ceremony honoring an imprisoned Chinese scholar and rights activist, saying the official had ignored Beijing’s contention the man was a “violent terrorist.” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein had “confused right and wrong” and “blatantly supported terrorists,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters at a daily briefing. The statement reflected China’s contention that Ilham Tohti had been part of a criminal gang that sought to split the western region of Xinjiang from China. On Tuesday, he was given the Martin Ennals Award bestowed by 10 rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch at a ceremony in Geneva.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine president says he has instructed his defense chief not to prepare for joint exercises with the U.S. military next year as he moved to realize his threat to remove the highest-profile symbol of his country’s treaty alliance with Washington. President Rodrigo Duterte, however, reiterated Wednesday that he will not abrogate a 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the U.S. He has said, however, that he’ll chart a foreign policy not dependent on Washington. Duterte says: “I insist that we realign, that there will be no more exercises next year, ‘Do not prepare,’ I told Defense Secretary Lorenzana.” Duterte also wants U.S.
NEW YORK (AP) — Tethered as we are to our smartphones, Samsung asking users of its fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 to “power down and stop using the device” is not just an inconvenience. It’s crazy. Smartphones have become extensions of ourselves, the last thing we look at before falling asleep and the first thing we grab in the morning. Abandoning them is all but unthinkable, even at the dinner table, even on the toilet. Risking a battery fire might seem like a small price to pay for obsessively checking your latest Instagram “likes,” catching up on email, Skyping your grandkids across the country, getting directions, confirming your travel itinerary, reading the news, searching for a dinner recipe, hailing a ride and so on.
GENEVA (AP) — Swiss federal prosecutors have opened criminal proceedings against Falcon Private Bank Ltd. on suspicion it failed to prevent alleged money laundering linked to the Malaysian state fund 1MDB. The move follows the arrest of the bank’s branch manager in Singapore last week, and fines and other penalties imposed on the bank by Swiss and Singaporean financial market regulators that were announced Tuesday. Switzerland’s attorney general said in a statement Wednesday that his office suspects “deficiencies in the internal organization” at Falcon. Investigators in Singapore, Switzerland, Hong Kong and the U.S. have been probing allegations that people close to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak stole more than $1 billion from 1MDB.