Japan’s emperor supported in abdication bid
A Japanese government panel has supported special legislation to allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate, unprecedented for the Japanese monarchy in modern times. In an unusual public comment last year, Akihito, who is 83 and has heart and prostate problems, said he feared age would interfere with his duties. The law, which would apply only to him, is expected to permit the monarch to step down by the end of 2018.
MH370: deferred search could resume
Australia, China and Malaysia announced the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March2014 with 239 people aboard, had been suspended. The aircraft is assumed to have gone down in the southern Indian Ocean, with fragments having washed up in Reunion and Africa’s east coast. Australia’s transport minister, Darren Chester, said the hunt could resume if ‘credible’ new evidence surfaced.
Samsung heir avoids arrest
A South Korean court refused to authorise the arrest of Lee Jae-yong, heir to the Samsung business empire, on charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury. Lee, in day-to-day charge of Samsung since his father’s heart attack, is accused by prosecutors of bribing a close confidante of President Park Geun-hye, who has been impeached in a corruption scandal. The ruling was a setback to the case against the president.
No to independence, says HK’s outgoing leader
Hong Kong’s departing Chief Executive said in his farewell address that independence for the one-time British colony was impossible. Leung Chun-ying’s four-year term has been beset by protests and calls for greater autonomy from China, but he told the legislature that Hong Kong was an ‘inalienable’ part of China, echoing Beijing’s Communist rulers. Leung, unpopular with pro-democracy campaigners, is seen by many in Hong Kong as a pawn of China.
Japanese PM’s historic visit to Pearl Harbor
In a symbol of US-Japanese reconciliation, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Pearl Harbor, where a surprise attack by Japanese aircraft in December 1941 sank eight US battleships, killed 2,000 Americans and brought the US into the Second World War. This followed an earlier visit by then US President Barack Obamato Hiroshima, scene of the world’s first atomic bombing by the US in 1945. The two leaders laid wreaths aboard the USS Arizona Memorial.
Australians get their Vegemite back
Australians spread 22 million jars of Vegemite, a locally-made yeast extract, on their bread and toast each year, and see the food as a national symbol. For nearly a century, however, Vegemite was owned by an American company, Mondelez, even though only 2 per cent was exported. Now the brand has come home, forming part of a deal worth some $350 million with Bega Cheese, an Australian dairy company. “We feel privileged,” said the company’s executive chairman.
Chinese birth rate climbs
China’s birth rates have risen to their highest level since 2000, following the relaxation of the country’s strict one-child policy a year ago. Over 18.46 million new babies were born in China in 2016, an increase of 11.5 per cent, after the world’s most populous nation scrapped its controversial 30-year-old policy. Officials estimate that, as a result of the change, there will be an extra 30 million people of working age in China by 2050.
Tamil Nadu overturns ban on bull-wrestling
Traditional bull-wrestling events, known as Jallikattu, have resumed in Tamil Nadu after Prime Minister Narendra Modi backed an executive order overturning a court ban. Young men compete to subdue angry bulls and win prizes as part of the local harvest festival, but the Indian Supreme Court banned the practice in 2014, ruling that it contravened animal anti-cruelty laws. The executive order came after protests that Tamil culture was being suppressed.