3 min read

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 17 May 2021

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 17 May 2021

This week: Myanmar falling increasingly under military control, can anyone overcome "Duterismo" and China occupying territory in...Bhutan.

Undercovered last week

A reminder that the human rights crisis in Xinjiang and Tibet are still not getting adequate attention in global media, or from governments, who’ve yet to take action to address what is, at least in one case, a genocide.

There are real human stories of unbearable suffering. Take, for example, this moving, tragid piece about Nurali, a Uyghur who studied the Quran with his aunt in Cairo. That act – and his family’s religiosity – was enough to have his mother sentenced to 16.5 years in prison for abetting “terrorism” (Darren Byler, SupChina).

In Tibet, at least 157 Tibetans have self-immolated in protest of Chinese occupation. For exiles, their sacrifice is remembered on Martrys Day, a day to remember all of those who lose their lives due to Chinese state oppression (Tibet Post).

The main responsible for unprecedented oppression and genocide is Xi Jinping, whose grip on power remains firm. In this piece for Global Asia, Walter Clemens explores whether his “empire” is really strong, and if overreach could led to collapse.

Also undercovered: Myanmar is falling increasingly under military control and violence and fear is limiting protests. For exiles watching the situation from across the border in India, the struggle is between their safety, and participating in the resistance. A thoughtful piece on the human side of struggle, reported by Frontier from Mizoram.

Similarly, Hong Kong had faded from global headlines, despite the rapid stifling of civil liberties and press freedom since the passing of the National Security Law last year. For HKFP, Candice Chau explains just how bad the situation has gotten for journalists (H/T Splice Slugs).

Worth reading: this eye-opening piece by Chen Yih Wen for New Naratif, which profiles Wong Kueng Hui, a Malaysian by birth, but, due to his mother’s unknown nationality, officially stateless and under constant threat of arrest of deportation.,

Tragedy, again, in Thailand where Somsak Onchuenjit, a land rights activist, was killed in what looks like a targeted assassination. Despite threats, he wasn’t afforded police protection. It’s the latest in a series of attacks on human rights defenders, especially in the south of the country (HRW).

A wonderful way to tell a story. Kenneth Wee explores the threats facing orangutans in Indonesia through immersive, data-driven storytelling, focused on the role of palm oil (Kontinentalist).


Next year will see critically important elections in the Philippines, where Rodrigo Duterte is ineligible to run due to the country’s single-term limit. But does the opposition have a chance? In this piece, Cleve Arguelles explores if a new popular front could defeat “Dutertismo” (East Asia Forum).

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, remains popular despite the pandemic, and other economic challenges. This piece for IIAS Asia explores what that means for the country’s democracy juxtaposed with its legacy of dictatorship (Jean-Luc Maurer).


Over the past 6 years, China has been building villages across the border, in a disputed, sacred valley of Bhutan. In fact, 232 miles of Bhutanese territory is, essentially, being occupied by China. Is history repeating itself, as Bhutan’s border is with occupied Tibet? (Robbie Barnett, Foreign Policy).

At the same time, China is actively, intentionally and deliberately encroaching into Philippines territorial waters, a country that as been acquiescing its large neighbor. A series of angry tweets from the foreign minister, however, may point to tensions growing in Manila (China Digital times).

Solutions Stories

We’ve featured their reporting from Thailand several times in Asia Undercovered, due to their independent and fearless reporting. Learn more aboutPrachatai, a bold nonprofit newsroom committed to freedom of expression and democracy, even in challenging times (GIJN).

And despite the overwhelming odds, activism can succeed. Take, for instance, this controversial bridge project in Palawan, Philippines – which would have harmed a coral haven, but was suspended due to scientist and indigenous opposition (Keith Fabro, Mongabay).

Asia Undercovered: Weekly round-ups and in-depth analysis of the news, events, trends and people changing Asia, but not getting enough attention in the US media.