2 min read

Asia Undercovered #16 - Debates, Delays, Disappearing Uyghurs & why cheap Street Food = Inequality

Asia Undercovered #16 - Debates, Delays, Disappearing Uyghurs & why cheap Street Food = Inequality

A short, but important edition this week: several elections updates (including a debate), and more worrying news from China.

New to Asia Undercovered? Sign up here.

Undercovered this week

It’s not just Xinjiang. Uyghurs have disappeared from daily life everywhere in China. Another sobering report on China’s ongoing genocide from Fan Zhijie (Taiwan Gazette).

Last year I wrote about how surveillance technology pioneered in Xinjiang was spreading around the world. Using VPNs was one way to get a ticket to jail. Now that might be true elsewhere in China as more netizens are being fined for accessing the broader internet. Oiwan Lam reports for Global Voices.

Worth reading: Human Rights Watch 2019 report has a lot of worrying details about China and Tibet. Just to recap, 2018 saw: Xi Jingping declare himself President life, Interpol President Meng Hongwei disappear, sentenced several disssdents and lawyers to prison, cracked down on students, and much, much more.

Hwok-Aun Lee looks at the thorny issue of race-based preferential policies in Malaysia for SCMP and whether “new Malaysia” can reform a system that had good intentions, but is rife with misuse and corruption.

31 years ago, Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq was killed in a plane crash. Amazingly, the incident, which also killed the US Ambassador to Pakistan and 28 others, remains unsolved. Maroosha Muzaffar writes on the legacy of Zia three decades after his death.

Sadly, there are probably only a few places in Asia who have improved on human rights, cost of living, or quality of life in the past decade. Hong Kong is definitely not one of them.


Indonesia held it’s first Presidential debate. The timing – four months before election day – is odd, as was the format, with both the candidate and running mate debating together. Here’s a good recap from Reuters. Short summary? Nothing unexpected and no change in the campaign dynamics.

For a more interesting read on Indonesian democracy, see Edward Aspinall’s piece in East Asia Forum where he explores the trend towards Islamization, polarization, and authoritarianism over the past five years.

Thailand’s economy is among the weakest in Asia, and the planned election delay could only make things worse (The Nation Thailand).

And an important election begins in the Southern Philappines, where a plebiscite is being held on creating a new autonomous region in parts of Mindanao, where most of the country’s Muslims reside. A good overview on what the law entails and what the results could mean from CNN Philippines.

And Singapore’s (underpriced) hawker centers

There’s usually a dark side to cheap prices, even for street food. This blog post in Yawning Bread looks at how in Singapore, the richest country by per-capita GDP in East or Southeast Asia, the low prices for hawker center food are a window into the country’s substantial inequality problem.

Until next week,

Nithin Coca

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.