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Asia Undercovered 26 August 2020

Asia Undercovered 26 August 2020

Undercovered this week

The war on religion in China continues. We know what’s happened to Uyghur mosques and shrines. Now, more evidence that Buddhism is under threat too, as Bitter Winter reports on the drive to destroy publications by a 92 year old monk – mainly because he is renowned and popular (Wang Yong).

On a different note, it’s worth reading this piece on women in China, which digs into why the country, and a ruling party that once put gender equality central to its “revolution” has become increasingly male-dominated, falling from 63rd to 106th on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index in just 14 years (Made in China Journal).

As protests continue in Thailand, the government is trying to force Facebook to restrict content deemed illegal or insulting to the monarchy. Another sign of growing censorship as the government faces increased pressure (Reuters).

To better understand what’s happening in Thailand, read our Breaking News Backgrounder on the Thailand Protests – for subscribers only.

The Philippines plan to fix its broken economy – build build build. Mass infrastructure projects. The only problem – President Duterte's has yet to prove that he can actually get mega-projects off the ground, and spending often lead to corruption, writes Ralf Rivas for Rappler.

This is sad – according to Shabina Faraz, a dam under construction in Pakistan will drown tens of thousands of ancient rock engravings in the Chilas valley, some of which date all the way back to 8000 BCE! (The Third Pole)


Just one update this week – Indonesia is moving forward with plans for mid-term elections, now scheduled for 9 December, in which regional heads in nine provinces, along with hundreds of local races, will be up for grabs. In this piece for Indonesia at Melbourne, Mada Sukmajati give a preview of the issues that will determine the races, and their importance.


In this piece for Global Asia, Evelyn Goh takes a regional perspective on China’s role in East Asia, and how it needs to be proactive to manage a complex order, which means establishing itself as a trusted and reliable leading power. That won’t be easy if it keeps pushing territorial claims and acting more imperialistic in places like the South China Sea.

In fact, China’s increasing assertiveness – including suppressing Hong Kong, and trying to isolate Taiwan diplomatically, means that activists in both places must find new ways to work with each other and the world. A worthwhile read by Brian Hiou in Lausan.

Two good pieces in The Diplomat on South Asia. First, one from Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan on how India’s regional ties are nearly all in states of distress – to me a damning indictment of Narendra Modi’s policies. Then, a curious piece from Krzysztof Iwanek one why Pakistan is suddenly claiming the former royal territory of Junagadh, now a district in Gujurat state, and how it connects to Kashmir.

Did you see this week’s special issue, focusing on undercovered stories from Kashmir by Raisa Nastukova? She highlights great local writing on resistance literature, apples, saffron, and the fear of forced demographic change.

Solutions Stories

In the Northeast Indian state of Nagaland, students are taking classes atop a hill, the only place they can get mobile data. This piece has great photos of this jungle school, and shows the lengths that many children in Asia have to go to just to get an education (Yimkumla Longkumer, The Print).

There has been a stark rise in anti-LGBTQ discrimination in Indonesia. But alongside this is a more hopeful rise of grassroots community leaders, who are actively working to alleviate poverty, building collectives, and even launching podcasts. A read on LGBTQ resilience by Kade Newell in New Mandala.

And lastly, how I wish I could, someday, visit this Beijing. A Beijing that never was, and likely will never be.

Asia Undercovered: In-depth round-ups and analysis of the news, events, trends and       people changing Asia, but not getting enough attention in the US media.