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Asia Undercovered #47

Asia Undercovered #47

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Undercovered this week

More evidence of crimes against humanity. A video showing a massive prison transfer in Xinjiang has been verified as being authentic. It looks like something straight out of World War II.

In Taiwan, Su Beng, an independence activist who lived for decades in exile in Japan, passed away at the age of 100. He was a strong supporter of incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen, and in one of his last interviews said a victory by the opposition KMT would be disastrous for the island nation (Chris Horton, SupChina).

Last month saw the 115th birthday of Deng Xiaoping, who led China through its post-Mao reform era. As it turns out, some articles on his accomplishments were censored, notably, one focusing on his move to abolish lifelong tenure for leaders. Of course, Xi Jinping changed that last law March when he declared himself President-for-life (China Media Project).

Xi’s China, of course, has turned down a dark path of cultural genocide. This piece by Dave Kang in Japan Times documents the story of Yalqun Rozi, a Uyghur who navigated the Chinese bureacracy to promote his peoples culture. He was among the first detained three years ago, sentenced to 10 years in jail for nothing more than caring about Uyghur identity.

Former Indonesian President BJ Habibie passed away last week. He was appointed as caretaker after the fall of Suharto, and helped move the country towards independence, and allowed East Timor to hold a referendum. Retno Maruti and Suahasil Nazara write about his lasting legacy for Lowy Intepreter.

Down to Earth has just released a worrying investigation on the growing threat of desertification, driven by both climate change but also unplanned development. If unchecked it could threaten hundreds of millions across much of India.

Meanwhile, Himal South Asian has released a report on the situation in Kashmir following the third week of an ongoing communications blackout, a story that is, sadly, already falling off from global attention.

In this touching piece for Mekong Review, Abby Sieff documents the lives and stories of those living along Cambodia’s Tonle Sap, one of the largest and most productive freshwater lakes in the world, which also faces threats from development.


It’s money > human rights or religious freedom in Kazakhstan, which has watched silently as China arrests, detained millions of Kazakh and Uyghurs across the border. When one man, Serikzhan Bilash, tried to raise awareness of what was happening in Xinjiang, his own government colluded with China to shut him and his organization down. A chilling tale by Ben Maruk (London Review of Books).


Taiwan has a new candidate for President – former Vice President Annette Lu Hsiu-lien, running on a strongly pro-independence platform. Many see this as a boon for the KMT, as it splits the opposition (Stratfor).

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.