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Asia Undercovered #49

Firstly, apologies for missing last week – was on vacation and, in the rush to finish everything before departing, failed to either prepare a special issue, or send a note. We’re back on our regular schedule from now until the end of the year.

Undercovered this week

First, a harrowing piece by Fred Hiatt on the ongoing destruction of Uyghur Muslim culture in Xinjiang. Mosques, graveyards, and shrines are all being demolished, so much so that everyday is a Kristallnacht (Washington Post).

One reason the world is silent on the Xinjiang crisis is China’s ability to manipulate and control information. Could that tool be exported? (David Wemer, New Atlanticist).

Moreover, China is, many believe, exporting human rights abuses under the Belt & Road Initiative. William Nee argues that more needs to be done to ensure that projects are free from abuses (HKFP).

In response to growing military and police oppression in West Papua, Indonesia, Arah Rakyat has released a call for all working people to support the sovereignty of Papuans. Great to see labor backing human rights.

Also in Indonesia – it’s been a year since a deadly tsunami hit Palu, on the island of Sulawesi. Ian Morse looks at the slow, unequal rebuilding process and why 57,000 are still homeless (The New Humanitarian).

Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest and largest, by volume, freshwater lake, in Russia, is undergoing massive environmental degradation due to industry and tourism. While many point the blame at Chinese tourists, the reality, argues Phoebe Sleet, is mismanagement by Russian authorties (Future Directions).

In Thailand, the king has appointed a “Noble Royal Consort,” essentially, bringing a harem back to the monarchy after a century. This piece by Andrew MacGregor Marshall explores the deeper meaning of this for a king who, some believe, aims to restore an all-powerful absolute monarchy.

To many, Nepal seems to have emerged from years of war and become an open democracy. But Direndra Nalbo argues in Record Nepal that, in reality, conflict has just been brushed under the rug under the rhetoric of “happiness.”


The ongoing Hong Kong protests have made it clear that China’s state media, notably CCTV, are weapons aimed at spreading repression. A must-read piece by Sarah Cook in The Diplomat about the station now available on TVs around the world.

At the same time, China has plans to retake Taiwan slowly, first by connecting islands just offshore from the mainland by bridges, even as it seeks to manipulate elections and reduce the island nation’s diplomatic allies (Stratfor $)


In a few weeks, Sri Lanka heads to the polls. Unlike five years ago, China is not a major issue, as the country’s influence seems to become accepted by all parties (The Third Pole).

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.