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Asia Undercovered Round-up: 24 March 2021

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 24 March 2021

Undercovered this week

Arguably, the Philippines is one of the worst countries for journalists in Asia. In this interview. Inday Espina-Varona shares how she battles fear and harassment everyday, yet perseveres (Global Voices).

In China, an app driver protests against unfair working conditions. He ‘disappears.’ In a surprising move, others take action in response. RFA reports on a rare, labor protest taking place in parts of the country.

On a more sobering note, David Bandurski writes on an open letter posted by Gao Yu, a deputy editor at Caixin Media, reflecting, indirectly, on how bad the situation for journalists has gotten in China, and the fierce blowback even this got (China Media Report).

Sand mining, primarily for construction, has severely impacted China’s rivers, reports Marc Goichot, and all this extraction from rivers and lakes could be increasing the likelihood of floods (The Third Pole).

Worrying news from Bangladesh, where Future Directions reports on how food security has declined for the second straight year, something that could become even worse as climate change impacts water quality and quantity in the low-lying, densely populated country.


Taiwan has, compared to other Asian countries, a relatively open referendum system, which allows voters to decide on several issues. This August, there are four controversial issues up for vote, ranging from energy imports, pork, nuclear power, and the referendum system itself (Lev Nachman, The Diplomat).

Indonesia is in the midst of revising its election law. It may raise the threshold for parties to gets seats in Parliament and cancel regional elections in 2022 and 2023 – moves that would entrench the ruling elite while liming voting power, writes Alexander R Arifianto for East Asia Forum.


It’s a question that is asked again, and again, and again – how will China avoid international consequences for Its Uyghur policy?But in this piece, Bonnie Girard argues that the domestic consequences are what Beijing should really fear (The Diplomat).

North Korea and Vietnam are two unique allies, with over 70 years of diplomatic ties that were just reaffirmed last year. In this piece, Khang Vu analyzes the connections and current relationship between the two Communist countries despite their vastly different economic trajectories (Lowy Intepreter).

As the crisis in Myanmar continues to worsen, the failure of ASEAN, the regional bloc of which Myanmar is a member, to do anything, is glaring. In this feature, Johanna Son argues ASEAN needs to stand up as a mediator and play a role in ending the violence (Reporting Asean).

Solutions Stories

I didn’t expect this. Despite the pandemic, plant-based alternatives are seeing increased growth and popularity across Southeast Asia, partly due to the influence of social media and awareness of sustainability (HB Stiftung).

In North Sumatra, Indonesia, Tonggo Simangunsong reports for New Naratif on how a group of indigenous women are fighting to stand up to sugar companies trying to steal their land, and the challenges they face.

And in South India, Anjana Shekar profiles Supraja Dharini, an inspiring female scientist who runs one of the country’s largest sea turtle conservation programs, and was recently named one of Explorers Club '50 People Changing the World’ (The News Min).

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.