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Asia Undercovered 29 July 2020

Asia Undercovered 29 July 2020

This week: Terror capitalism spreads around the world, media outlets shut down in China and the Philippines, and the geopolitics of human rights in Asia

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Undercovered this week

Read this, a story from a Uyghur living in the Netherlands, who lost touch with his family back in 2015, and has heard nearly nothing since then, except pieces – a grandfather who was beaten in detention and died, his family assets confiscated, and then, his father and uncle also having died in concentration camps. A personal narrative of a slow moving genocide (Fazil Munir, Global Voices)

Meanwhile, the technologies perfected by China in Xinjiang (and Tibet) are spreading around the world in what Darren Byler and Carolina Sanchez Boe call “terror capitalism,” with Indian Muslims, Palestinians, and dissidents or migrants in Malaysia and the Philippines the next targets. What happens in Xinjiang will not stay just in Xinjiang (The Guardian).

Yaqui Wang writes for Tortoise Media about Terminus 2049, a crowdsourced project to archive materials censored on the Chinese web. But after just a year, its two founder were detained, and are now facing an unfair trial and likely jail time.

The anti-terror law has come into effect in the Philippines. And one of the first targets – a progressive magazine, Pinoy Weekly, that reported on urban poor and other marginalized people. A worrying sign of what’s to come (Rambo Talabong, Rappler)

Remember Wanchalearm Satsaksit, the Thai activist who disappeared – and was likely abducted – last year? The Cambodian authorities claim to have no knowledge of what happened, reports Prachatai.

Three environmental stories: First, a planned coal road project on the island of Sumatra, in Indonesia, could damage sensitive ecosystems and further reduce the habitat of Sumatran tigers – already endangered (The Parrot).

Second, Bhutan is often considered of the most remote, protected countries in Asia. But even here, bees are dying in mass, putting beekeepers in Bumthang at the bring of economic collapse, reports Kinley Yonten for The Third Pole.

And lastly, in one of the earlier issues of Asia Undercovered, I shared articles on the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoi hydro-power dam collapse in Laos. Two years later, the victims of the disaster, which killed 71 and displaced 14,440, are still struggling to recover what they lost.


And, it’s happened. Hong Kong’s legislative election has been postponed for a year, with the pandemic being used as an excuse. By then, unless the world acts, will it even matter anymore?

A law to encode Indonesia’s founding ideology, Pancasila, has stalled due to opposition from, among others, Islamists. This piece in Indonesia at Melbourne explores the political implications of this for democracy.

Taiwan may be Asia’s model democracy, but it still needs to do more to ensure the representation for its indigenous people.

In 2015, many of Myanmar’s ethnic minorities voted for National League for Democracy, the party of Aung San Suu Kyi. Limited progress towards peace and reconciliation means that many are no longer optimistic about the ruling party, reports Robert Bociaga for The Diplomat.


This week, two articles that focus on the geopolitics of human rights.

First, this analysis in China Media Project that focuses on how China has gained clout at the UN Human Rights Council, turning it into a tool to spread pro-China propaganda, most recently about Hong Kong.

Second, Indonesia seems like a candidate to be a counterweight to countries like China, as a populous democracy and sometimes vocal defender of oppressed groups like the Palestinians. The reality is more complicated, as domestic considerations, most notably in West Papua often limits its ability to take a stand globally (Moch Faisal Karim, The Conversation).

Solutions Stories

It’s been nine years now since Japan’s Tohoku region was devastated by the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami. Fletcher Howell traveled to a small fishing village to look at whether normalcy has returned, and how the village has been rebuilt.

And lastly, a comic, relating a story from the Yami, one of Taiwan’s indigenous, that shows the more fluid gender identities of pre-colonial Asia.

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.