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Asia Undercovered Round-up: 20 Dec 2022

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 20 Dec 2022

This week: Protesting sand mining in Borneo, a scary new criminal code in Indonesia, and undercovered protests in Mongolia.

Undercovered last week

Though they seem to have mostly died down, the sudden protests across China earlier this month got widespread attention. But many articles ignored the victims that sparked the movement – the Uyghurs who died in an Urumqi fire, and the genocide that has been accompanying it. Jo Smith Finley fills in the details for The Conversation.

In Japan, a female member of the self-defense forces – Japan’s military – is making headlines for speaking out on being harassed, both in her role, but, since she spoke out, online too (Jay Allen, Unseen Japan)/

This is worrying. An updated criminal code in Indonesia will drastically curtail freedoms, including for activists, the media, LGBTQ people, and critics of the government. It is a major step-back towards authoritarian rule (APHR).

A reminder that stereotypes pervade how countries like Indonesia are seen in the English-language media. The same cover page, 100 years apart.

Worth Reading: In Malaysia, Chen Yih Wen reports from Sabah, Borneo, on how locals are protesting the mining of sand by a Chinese-led investor that might destroy local beaches and marine ecology (Macaranga).

Also on the environment – in the Philippines, resin harvesting has been sustainable in protecting forests, but according to Keith Anthony S. Fabro, the tappers aren’t yet benefiting from this boom (Mongabay).

This is getting no attention – there are ongoing protests in Mongolia over a corruption scandal. A great thread on what’s happening from journalist Anand Tumurtogoo.

Censorship can often be absurd. In this case in Thailand, the police compenscated a board game on the Deep South, where there’s been a long-standing conflict between Malay Muslims and the state (Prachatai).

Electoral Politics

In Taiwan’s midterm elections, a referendum to lower the voting age from 20 to the more common global standard of 18 failed to reach a necessary super-majority, resulting in its defeat. Ming-Sung Kuo explores why Constitutional reform remains a challenge in the young democracy for Verfassunsblog.

Meanwhile, things are starting to heat up for Indonesia’s important 2024 Presidential race.


Today, China and Pakistan are close allies, aligned, in many ways, against their mutual neighbor, India (though China’s “border” is through an occupied Tibet). This insightful piece in Hindustan Times goes back to 1962, when the ties started, and how they evolved over the decades.

Geopolitics of fisheries – a Chinese rogue fishing company that is regularly encroaching on Southeast Asia waters, and possibly using forced labor, is also, according to this investigation by Mongabay, supplying fish to one of Japan’s largest companies, Mitsubishi (Annelise Giseburt).

Solutions Stories

I really enjoyed this piece by Filip Noubel about Uyghur electronic music performers, and the role they are playing in raising awareness about their culture and identity in Europe. Despite what China is trying to accomplish, there is creative resistance taking place around the world (Global Voices)

And, according to DowntoEarth the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu is leading the country in acting on climate change, including biodiversity conservation, wetland protection, and mitigation. It shows how regions can act even if the national government will not.

And here’s a sneak preview from our friends at DVB, who are organizing a 'Peace Documentary Award' for the best of 10 original shorts docs about or shot in Myanmar, with the winner to be announced, live, on Dec 24th.

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