Modi sparks panic and long queues by suddenly pulling banknotes
Indian banks had to call in thousands of police officers to handle queues outside branches as people tried to exchange banknotes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi abruptly pulled from circulation. Modi announced the move to ditch all 500 and 1,000 rupee notes – worth a combined US$256 billion – on Monday. He said they fuelled corruption, were often forged and even paid for attacks by Islamist militants against India. Lines formed before banks reopened, having shut on Wednesday to prepare for the change. People tried to swap the worthless cash for smaller bills or new 2,000 rupee notes, supposedly harder to forge, being rushed into use.
What next? Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said India was moving to a “cleaner system”, and denied the government was resorting to arbitrary and authoritarian methods. He said it would take two or three weeks for new 500 and 2,000 rupee notes to be put into circulation.
Park’s power wanes further with PM concession, but enemies demand more
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has watched her power and popularity erode rapidly, engulfed by the scandal surrounding her top adviser Choi Soon-sil. Investigators are looking into whether Choi made major government decisions and used her relationship with Park to force companies to donate money to two foundations she controlled. Scrambling to defuse a massive scandal, Park on Tuesday conceded to lawmakers the power to name her new prime minister, a move that could seriously hurt, or even destroy, her ability to govern. But lawmakers, who must still settle on a nominee, demanded even more. Some opposition members want the president to abandon all domestic affairs and focus only on foreign matters.
What next? The scandal also threatens to embroil K-pop star Psy, who became a global sensation with his song Gangnam Style in 2012, after the singer postponed a planned appearance on a popular talk show. Many believe he is uncomfortable facing questions about his relationship with other artists, who have in turn been linked to Choi.
British banker jailed for life over Hong Kong murders of two women
A British investment banker in Hong Kong who slit the throats of two Indonesian women he paid for sex in 2014 was jailed for life after a jury found him guilty of both murders. Rurik Jutting, 31, appeared calm as the two unanimous verdicts were read out. The jury rejected Jutting’s claim of diminished responsibility due to alcohol and cocaine use.
What next? Tri Tharyat , Indonesia’s top diplomat, pledged to help the victims’ families as they move to sue Jutting for compensation. “I was shocked. I mean, where in the world could a human do it? It is beyond anyone’s mind for a person to take this kind of action to innocent people for whatever reason,” Tri said.
Worry for dissidents over new Chinese head of global police body
The international police organisation Interpol elected a Chinese security official as its president, raising concerns among human rights advocates that the appointment could fortify Beijing’s efforts to hunt down political opponents abroad. Interpol’s general assembly elected Meng Hongwei, China’s vice-minister for public security for the past 12 years, to the post effective immediately during a meeting in Bali, Indonesia. Interpol’s charter officially bars it from “any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character”. But critics say some governments – primarily Russia and Iran – have abused the system to harass and detain opponents of their respective regimes. Interpol says it has a special vetting process to prevent that from happening.
What next? Meng’s election comes as Chinese president Xi Jinping seeks to give new momentum to his four-year campaign against corruption, including a hunt for former officials and other suspects who fled abroad.
Even more Hong Kong legislators could lose seats for ‘insincere’ oaths
Two Hong Kong lawmakers embroiled in an oath-taking saga should be disqualified irrespective of the Basic Law interpretation Beijing announced on Monday, lawyers for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying wrote to a Hong Kong court. Youngspiration legislators-elect Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang were the subject of a legal bid by the Hong Kong government over their words during the Legislative Council’s swearing-in. They pronounced “China” in a way deemed derogatory. In response, China’s National People’s Congress stated lawmakers must be “sincere” during their oaths and that those who do not comply face removal.
What next? Up to 15 legislators could be at risk of losing their seats after two Beijing spokesmen catalogued eight types of “insincere oath-taking”. Chen Zuoer, former deputy director of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, accused the city’s prosecutors and judiciary of “not living up to people’s expectations”.
Singles’ Day sellers aim for another record despite slowdown
Alibaba Group posted US$1 billion of sales in the first five minutes of Singles’ Day, a 24-hour event that may offer clues on the health of the Chinese economy and its largest online retailer. The spending blitz dwarfs Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US, and Alibaba enlisted Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson, former footballer David Beckham and former basketball star Kobe Bryant for a pre-sale gala. Pioneered by Alibaba (which owns the South China Morning Post) in 2009, Singles’ Day has become something of a barometer of Chinese consumer sentiment. Executives predicted a record-breaking day, despite slow economic growth and a weakening yuan.
What next? “Alibaba will likely break another Singles’ Day sales record this year as bargain-seeking Chinese consumers again flex their spending muscle and shrug off any concerns there may be about China’s slowing economy,” Andria Cheng, an industry analyst, said.
Compiled by Tom Sturrock