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Asia Undercovered 7 January 2021

Asia Undercovered 7 January 2021

Undercovered still: Uyghur Crisis

The tragedy continues unabated, even as we enter a new year. Global Voices has been doing a superb job of trying to put a human face on the crisis, publishing stories about Uyghurs abroad. This one, published anonymously, interviews Mehbube Abla, a 38-year-old Uyghur living abroad, who was told by her mother to not come home.

Meanwhile, RFA undercovers that a statue of a 4th century Uyghur medicine pioneer was removed from a hospital outside Urumqi, back in 2017. All signs of Uyghur history are not allowed under this regime, even ones from centuries ago.

In a broader trend, the few positions for minorities in China are being handed over to ethnic Han Chinese – including, for the first time, the head of National Ethnic Affairs Commission, reports Linda Lew for SCMP.

And lastly, a bizarre story from Afghanistan as security forces uncovered a Chinese espionage cell that, apparently, was trying to create a fake East Turkestan Islamic Movement cell to entrap Uyghurs in the region (Hindustan Times).

Also Undercovered this week

The situation is bad for media in Pakistan, where the hope that accompanied the election of then-outsider Imran Khan has completely disappeared. Niha Dagia writes on how the current environment is particularly dangerous in the country (The Diplomat).

Villagers from Southern Thailand are protesting an industrial zone pushed by the military, that they feel will harm their local environment and livlihoods (Prachatai).

Indonesia is a country of islands, many of which still lack electricity. The culprit, according to this feature by Norman Harsono for Jakarta Post is red tape and bureacratic inefficiency that is, among other things, preventing the rollout of distributed solar, wind, and other clean energies that are tailor-made for remote, renewable-rich islands.

A warning for South Asia, a region that saw widespread flooding in 2020 – if climate change isn’t addressed, there could be as many as 40 million climate migrants by 2030 (Soumya Sarkar, The Third Pole).

It’s not getting much attention, but India is seeing widespread agitation over labor and agricultural reforms. This piece by Gandhar Desai gives an overview of what the government is trying to accomplish, and why its seeing so much opposition from farmers and other agricultural laborers (East Asia Forum).


Worth reading: A female mayor in Jember, Indonesia is popular for focusing on human rights over corporate development. But she faces widespread opposition from other politicians in her state. A fascinating story about local political dynamics in Southeast Asia’s largest democracy (Indonesia at Melbourne).

And its happened – Pakistani opposition leader Khawaja Asif has been arrested on corruption charges. While the allegations are possibly true, it’s more likely that he was targeted for political reasons as much as his actual crimes (Stratfor).


Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has pivoted to China and opened up the country to investment, but what does he have to show for it? Little, according to Demond Ng and Sumithra Prasana in Channel News Asia.

Solutions Stories

A glimmer of hope in Cambodia, as a new outlet, CamboJA, has been shortlisted for a Press Freedom Award. In this piece, Alexi Demetriadi explores the people behind this effort, and the challenges they face in a country with a hostile journalism environment (Southeast Asia Globe).

A city in Kerala, India has a 21 year old, female mayor (from the local Communist party, too).

And in this piece for DownToEarth, Deepanwita Gita Niyogi argues that, with one snow leopard being killed every day in India, the country needs to play a bigger role in promoting the conservation of the world’s remaining wild snow leopard populations.

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.