Category - Asia

Taiwan opposition wins presidency, China warns against independence move

Reuters, By J.R. Wu and Ben Blanchard, January 16

Taipei – Taiwan’s independence-leaning opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen won a convincing victory in presidential elections on Saturday and pledged to maintain peace with giant neighbor China, which warned it would oppose any move towards independence.

Tsai, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will be thrust into one of Asia’s toughest and most dangerous jobs, with China pointing hundreds of missiles at the island it claims, decades after losing Nationalists fled from Mao Zedong’s Communists to Taiwan in the Chinese civil war in 1949.

Tsai said she would establish “consistent, predictable and sustainable” relations with China and not be provocative, to ensure the status quo.

IBT: Taiwan Elections: Opposition Leader Tsai Ing-Wen Elected Country’s First Female President

Thousands displaced, women raped in military offensive in Myanmar – rights groups

Thomson Reuters Foundation, By Alisa Tang, November 27

Bangkok – A Myanmar military offensive against ethnic rebels in the country’s east has uprooted more than 10,000 people, rights groups said, accusing the army of bombing schools and Buddhist temples, firing on civilians and raping women.

Since Oct. 6, the army has shelled six villages, shot and injured three people, and fired on 17 villagers who are now missing, according to activists in Shan state.

The Shan Human Rights Foundation has documented eight cases of sexual violence since April 2015, including a 32-year-old woman gang-raped by 10 soldiers on Nov. 5 while her husband was tied up under their farm hut in Ke See township.

“We are very concerned that there has been no public condemnation by the international community about these war crimes and these attacks on civilians,” rights activist Charm Tong told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

China to end decades-old one-child policy, bowing to demographic strain

Policy shift, which comes after family planning restrictions were eased in 2013, will allow couples to have two children.

Al Jazeera, October 29

China will ease family planning restrictions to allow all couples to have two children, ending the country’s decades-long one-child policy in a move to alleviate the looming demographic strain on the labor market.

The decision, announced by the ruling Communist Party, is a major liberalization of the country’s family planning restrictions, but follows months of rumors of a policy change. It also comes after the one-child rule was eased in late 2013, with Beijing saying then that it would allow more families to have two children providing that at least one parent was an only child.

“China will allow all couples to have two children, abandoning its decades-long one-child policy,” the official Xinhua new agency said in a short report.

The decision was contained in a Communist Party communiqué that followed a meeting of the party’s Central Committee on planning the country’s economic and social development through 2020.

Beijing summons US ambassador over warship in South China Sea

Chinese foreign ministry says Washington acted illegally when USS Lassen entered waters near disputed Spratly archipelago.

The Guardian, By Tom Phillips, October 27

Beijing – China has reportedly summoned the US ambassador after Washington launched a direct military challenge to Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea with naval manoeuvres near two artificial islands.

State television reported that the Chinese vice-foreign minister, Zhang Yesui, had branded the move “extremely irresponsible” when meeting with the US ambassador to China, Max Baucus.

Chinese authorities said earlier they had monitored, followed and warned US warship USS Lassen as it “illegally” entered waters near the disputed reefs, and urged Washington to “immediately correct its mistake”.

The USS Lassen began its mission through waters near the disputed Spratly archipelago at about 6.40am local time on Tuesday.

Exclusive: ‘Strong evidence’ of genocide in Myanmar

Al Jazeera investigation reveals government triggered deadly communal violence for political gain.

Al Jazeera Investigative Unit, October 27

Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit has uncovered what amounts to “strong evidence” of a genocide coordinated by the Myanmar government against the Rohingya people, according to an assessment by Yale University Law School.

The Lowenstein Clinic spent eight months assessing evidence from Myanmar, including documents and testimony provided by Al Jazeera and the advocacy group Fortify Rights.
“Given the scale of the atrocities and the way that politicians talk about the Rohingya, we think it’s hard to avoid a conclusion that intent [to commit genocide] is present,” concluded the clinic.

Exclusive evidence obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit and Fortify Rights reveals the government has been triggering communal violence for political gain by inciting anti-Muslim riots, using hate speech to stoke fear among the Myanmarese about Muslims, and offering money to hardline Buddhist groups who threw their support behind the leadership.

Massive earthquake shakes South Asia

Dozens reported dead in Afghanistan and Pakistan as powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake rocks South Asia.

A powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake has struck in northern Afghanistan and has been felt in a large area from northern India to Pakistan with scores of people killed across the region.

The US Geological Survey put the epicentre of Monday’s quake near Jarm in Afghanistan’s northeast, 250km from the capital Kabul and at a depth of 213km.

The total death toll stood at about 111 with at least 85 people killed in Pakistan and at least 26 more in Afghanistan, according to official reports from the two countries.

Hikmat Fasi, a resident of Parwan Province in northern Afghanistan, said the quake caused a lot of damage in the area.

“We are safe but I saw a lot of buildings collapse,” Hikmat Fasi said. “It [earthquake] caused severe damage to our area. We are just praying.”

The Guardian: Live Blog

China to ban ivory trade within a year or so as pressure mounts on Hong Kong

Washington Post, By Simon Denyer, October 21

Hong Kong — It could be the beginning of the end for the illicit trade in ivory.

Last month, on a state visit to Washington, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to stop the commercial trade in ivory in his country but gave few details about the timing and extent of such a move.

Now, a senior U.S. government official says that the Chinese ban could be in place within a year or so, with very narrow exceptions, describing it as a “huge” deal.

Such a move, conservationists say, would be a major step toward ending the poaching crisis that is decimating Africa’s elephant herds.

“This commitment goes all the way up to President Xi,” Catherine Novelli, U.S. undersecretary for economic growth, energy and the environment in the State Department, said in a telephone interview. “They have made it very clear this is what they want to do.”

Via Boing Boing: China plans to ban ivory trade “within a year or so.” US official: Yes it’s a “huge” deal.

The New China Syndrome

American business meets its new master

Harpers, By Barry C. Lynn, November 2015

It’s May Day, and a rambunctious crowd of well-dressed people, many carrying blue and yellow parasols, has pushed into a Ford dealership just north of Chongqing, China. Mist from a car wash catches the sun, and I watch a man in a striped shirt poke at the gleaming engine of a midsize Mondeo while his wife sits in the driver’s seat and turns the wheel. Overhead, a giant banner of a Mustang painted Communist Party red ripples in the spring breeze.

At the showroom door, I am greeted by three saleswomen who smile and stare, clearly shocked to see a Westerner. Finally, a manager leads me over to a young man, the resident expert in English. Other than the Ford logo and the corporate mantra of the moment, go further, the front of his card is entirely in Mandarin. He carefully pronounces his name for me: Yi Xuanbo. Then he leads me past a potted rubber plant to a small aluminum table and hands me a paper cup of tea.

Yi places a luxurious brochure on the table and flips to a picture of a silver Mondeo hovering over the Manhattan skyline. He then turns to a page extolling the interior and the sound system — in English, the accompanying text describes the car as “a sensory palace.” Yi tells me how much a basic Mondeo costs before taxes: 179,800 yuan, or about $28,000. I ask him whether he owns a Ford and he shakes his head, but with a smile. “I think maybe next year, I can buy one, too.”

Business Insider: China is making a new 5-Year Plan — and it’ll decide the fate of the global economy

Japan Ignores Protesters, Authorizes Overseas Military Operations

Move Was Loudly Backed by US, Which Envisions Japanese Support in Future Wars

Anti-War, By Jason Ditz, September 18

Ignoring polls that showed a showing a strong majority of Japanese voters opposed, and weeks of massive public protests, the upper house of the Japanese parliament today voted in favor of changes to reverse limits on war fighting in the post-WW2 Japanese Constitution, allowing the military to conduct overseas operations in “collective defense” of allies.

The limits were imposed after WW2 by the United States to prevent Japan rearming, but it was ironically also the US that pushed heavily to pitch those restrictions, envisioning growing Japanese military involvement in their assorted wars abroad. Current PM Abe Shinzo backed the move heavily, though polls show it is hurting his favorability ratings quite a bit.

The real question yet to be resolved is exactly how much this vote loosens restrictions on Japanese wars abroad, as Abe and other politicians have downplayed the matter, while military officials say there will be “almost nothing” they won’t be able to do abroad in the future.

And while many in the military are salivating at the budget hikes this upgrade portends, some are expressing concern that the change is going to open up increasing US pressure to join the war against ISIS and other major conflicts, and risks a US backlash if they refuse.

New York Times: Japan Military Bills Provoke Scuffling in Parliament

Military-backed Thai council rejects new constitution

Rejection of draft sets back plans for Thailand’s return to democracy, with the military retaining substantial powers.

Al Jazeera, September 6

Thailand’s military-appointed National Reform Council has rejected a new draft constitution, delaying a return to democracy following last year’s coup.

The authors of the draft in the National Reform Council had hoped the charter would move the country past almost a decade of political conflicts, but it met strong opposition from almost all sides of the country’s political divide.

One of the most contentious provisions included a 23-member panel, with military members, that would be empowered to take over from the parliament and prime minister in times of “national crisis”.

Almost all parties criticised the draft, and it risked being voted down in a referendum, further complicating a transition to electoral democracy.