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Asia Undercovered 15 July 2020

Asia Undercovered 15 July 2020
This week: Singapore election results, press crackdown in Malaysia, and the rise of women in positions of power in Southeast Asia.

Singapore Elections

The outcome was as expected – the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) won another massive majority. But dig deeper, and the results actually show that the opposition has surprising strength, garnering more than 35% of the popular vote and winning 10 seats.

It certainly says something when winning 10 out of 93 seats is a historic results. Remember – Singapore’s elections are stacked in favor of the longtime ruling party. Here’s a piece that explains why the PAP always wins big. Still, this shows that complacency may not be an actionable plan going forward. In this analysis, Michael Barr argues that if the government remains in denial about voters turning more and more against the PAP, it could continue to lose support in future elections (East Asia Forum)

Undercovered this week

On the messaging app Telegram, Uyghurs have created emoji to raise visibility about their culture and the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang. Resistance in exile (Filip Noubel, Global Voices).

Four land rights activists have been arrested in Vietnam, the latest in the ongoing conflict over Dong Tam, which saw a police raid and killing of an elder earlier this year, reports Loa.

The Yamuna River in India flows through the capital Delhi. It is so polluted that it is ecologically dead for many kilometers before it reaches the Indian Ocean. Now, hydropower projects threaten its remaining rich biodiversity upstream, reports Bahar Dutt in The Third Pole.

Meanwhile, in China, the government has announced restrictions on squid fishing by its distant-water fleet cannot, to give two species a better chance of reproducing. This is the first time China has voluntarily imposed a closed season on the high seas (Zhang Chun, China Dialogue Ocean).

There is a crackdown on free press taking place in Malaysia, by the new unelected government. Al Jazeera is the latest target due to their reporting about human rights abuses against migrant workers. Very concerning for a country that, just a few months ago, was seeing press freedom grow (The Malaysia Insight).

The crisis in Ladakh has opened Indians eyes to China’s Great Firewall, which censors many India media outlets. India has, of course, now blocked many Chinese apps, the first country to give China a taste of its own medicine.


Growing evidence of labor violations by Chinese fishing vessels, including several deaths, are resulting in rising tensions between Indonesia and China. In this piece, Anisha Maulida,and Bayu Arif Ramadhan explore the challenges in protecting seafarers rights in Asia.

And worth remembering – for most of the last several centuries, there was no India-China border, but a Ladakh – Tibet border. The history between those two entities does have a direct connection to the conflict taking place today in the Himalayas, writed Akhilesh Pillalamarri in The Diplomat.

Solutions Stories: Women in Power

Indonesia is often portrayed as a monolithic conservative, Muslim country. Yes, in a small regency, an openly trans women was just elected chairperson, defeating six male candidates. As is often the case, sexuality, gender, and political power are more complex on the ground (Jakarta Post).

Neighboring Malaysia, too, has just elevated 3 women to the Federal Courtmaking eight out of 14 judges women, the highest ever, and a figure higher than many western countries. Four are also minority non-Muslims.

Asia Undercovered:  Journalist Nithin Coca’s weekly roundup of the news, events, trends and people changing Asia, but not getting enough attention in the US media.