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Asia Undercovered #29

This week: A book store in Istanbul, a viral history game in Taiwan, and the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square Protests.

Undercovered this week

It’s just a month until the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Protests. In those decades, China has changed immeasurably, but the legacy of the clampdown still resonates across Chinese society. Bruce Gilley takes looks back on the state of China today for Journal of Democracy.

Can an Istanbul bookstore save the Uyghur language? A must read piece about the struggle to save a culture being intentionally destroyed by Durrie Bouscaren in Pacific Standard.

A very cool project from Taiwan: An interactive game that teaches youth about the White Terror, which took place under the old military regime, and is surprisingly popular. Would love to see something similar in other post-authoritarian states like Indonesia or the Philippines (Ars Technica).

This is a crazy story – scientist points out, accurately, that medicinal liquor is toxic. Company uses social media to track him, then sends police across the country to arrest him and bring him to company hometown to face trial. Incident is censored on WeChat. That’s how things work in modern China (Global Voices).

Also from China – a debate is emerging on the 996 (9AM-9PM, six days a week) work schedule common in the tech industry. Interestingly enough, the debate is taking place mostly though Github, which is not blocked by the Great Firewall.


Indonesia is freaking out about Europe putting restrictions on palm oil imports, due to their large carbon footprint. They are even threatening to leave the Paris Agreement! Great context on this undercovered trade issue by Hans Nicholas Jong for Mongabay.

Taiwan is facing a difficult choice. Keep its society open, transparent, and free and risk Chinese interference, or take preventative measures that could impact freedom of expression. What’s a small but  vibrant, isolated democracy to do? (Taiwan Sentinel).


Poynter writes about how tech platforms are preparing for elections in Asia. The short version? Too little, too late.

Joydeep Gupta reports for The Third Pole on how politics around the pollution of the Ganges River is playing out in India. Elections there are ongoing in phases across the country, with results to be released in late May.

For anyone hoping that the Philippines midterm elections would put a check on President Rodrigo Duterte, the initial signs, according to World Politics Review, are not looking good, as his party looks poised to win a majority of seats. Election day there is May 13th.

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.