3 min read

Asia Undercovered 4 February 2021

Asia Undercovered 4 February 2021
Hey everyone — I’m taking a needed break from work this month (in nature) so this week’s issue was written by Daniela Kazuko Münzel, who previously wrote several special issues, including ones focused on Public Health and Black Lives Matter in Asia.

Undercovered this week

As environmental degradation has forced 18 million people in South Asia to migrate, Pakistan, one of the hardest hit nations (in spite of contributing very little to global carbon emissions) calls for help from the international community (Deutsche Welle).

Another piece on the impacts of climate change in the region: This piece The Third Pole investigates the worsening water crisis in India’s Indus-Ganga-Brahmaputra basins putting millions of lives and livelihoods under threat - and talks to experts about necessary changes in groundwater use, crop growing and irrigation practices.

In Indonesia, decades of discrimination against religious minorities is hampering the development of democracy and human rights. This article by Andreas Harsono looks at the history of religious affairs in the majority Muslim country, and the role government has played in stifling progress (New Mandala).

Hong Kong’s future prospects are bleak, but it would be a mistake to write them off. This piece by Jocelyn Chey in East Asia Forum, interlaced with Cantonese proverbs, captures the current dynamism as it looks back at the events in 2019 and 2020, and predicts that popular protests will continue.

Global discourse in the past year has focused in on police violence, and in Asia institutionalized killings are driving demands for justice too. Christmas week in the Philippines opened with the shooting of mother and son, caught on camera – sparking civil society protests and shedding light on the country’s police forces’ bloody track record (Karlo Mongaya, Global Voices).

Thailand finds itself in a pressure cooker, as short-term mitigation and pandemic control leave the addressing of longer-term economic and social crises on the sidelines. (Johanna Son, Reporting Asean).

Worth reading: this translated piece by Leo Tang, and organizing officer of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, on how a new labor movement that links up with various nodes of the pro-democracy movement is needed to nurture morale, build solidarity and offer a key to safeguarding collective communities in face of top-down repression.

Like this issue? Forward it, or share on social media using the button below!


China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Xi Jinping’s flagship global infrastructure and trade program, looks like it is practically being abandoned. Joseph Brouwer’s piece in China Digital Times looks at the multiple explanations, from the impact of COVID-19 on investment to claims that China is merely adopting a new lending strategy.

Japan’s long standing elephant in the room. Hirotaka Fujibayashi’s piece in East Asia Forum looks at the island nation’s long criticized refugee policy – which, contrary to its recent shifts from long-lasting resistance to immigration, still has a long way to go.

Solutions Stories

Or perhaps a vanity project. As India plans to reintroduce Cheetahs to India, Simon Evans questions the move which, when taking into consideration the science behind it, looks more like it is driven by a commercial, wildlife-tourism-based agenda, rather than a conservation imperative (Madras Courier).

A long untold side of the heroic stories during one of the worst genocides in Human history. Peter Stebbings covers how Shanghai came to be a little-known sanctuary for thousands of Jews fleeing the Holocaust – and the ties that remain today. (Hong Kong Free Press)

Lastly, associate professor Li Zhongqiu’s piece on his academic research into an ecological threat which, due to its extremely high population density and its ability to incite emotionally loaded refusals against control measures, is thriving in many Asian cities: stray cats (Sixth Tone).

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.