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Asia Undercovered Round-up: 31 August 2021

Asia Undercovered Round-up: 31 August 2021

This week: Fear stalks Hong Kong, protests in Thailand and Malaysia, and a political dynasty cements power in Sri Lanka.

Undercovered last week

As Uyghur culture is being destroyed, it’s being replaced by something completely unconnected to their rich history. If it sounds familiar, it is, well, because it is.

Meanwhile, in Tibet, a businessman who was imprisoned after a false accusation of donating to the exile Tibetan community, is seeing his health deteriorate. His wealth has been taken by China, a story that is far too common in East Turkestan, too (Tibet.net).

Hong Kong has faded from global headlines, despite the growing repression and state of fear encompassing the city. Fear, uneasiness, and dread are spreading, as people like Hari Kumar, a journalist who spent 18 years there, leave (Thinksight).

The big news last issue was the fall of Malaysia’s prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin. He stayed in power as an un-elected head of a backdoor government for 532 days. For Between the Lines, Bridget Welsh explores his legacy and why a return to cynicism and realism a likely future for politics in the country.

Youth-led protesters and the #Lawan movement played a role in Muhyiddin’s fall. They’re also, increasingly, the target of disinformation campaigns, mimicking the anti-democratic tactics used against their brethren in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Thailand (BeritaBaruNakUp).

Speaking of Thailand, this month saw a resurgence in pro-democracy protests, including a week-long one in Bangkok. Prachatai has a recap on what happened, the police response, and photos from the events.

In Myanmar, the situation in looking increasingly grim. But the violence perpetuated by the military has also led increased momentum behind minority language preservation projects, reports Kiana Duncan for Southeast Asia Globe in this illuminating piece.

In Pakistan, two terrorist attacks have targeted Chinese interests in the country, as far-right Islamists hone in on the country’s main foreign investor. For The Hindu, Ananth Krishnan wonders if these attacks cast doubt on China’s future projects.

Electoral Politics

As regional elections in some crucial states approach, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi reshuffled his cabinet for the first time since his BJP party won re-election in 2019. According to Mahendra Ved, the urgent need for reputation management after the mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis, played a key role (East Asia Forum).

A dynasty is forming in Sri Lanka as one family, the Rajapaksas control power. Now, they are facing increasing public discontent due to the economic impacts of Covid-19.  Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu writes on this, the increasingly close relationship with China, and whether the Rajapaksas will circumvent and weaken democracy (The Diplomat).


Tiny Nauru is calling on the global community to finalize rules for deep sea mining. Why is the pacific island nation, itself a victim of colonial resource extraction, pushing for a potentially catastrophic technology? A fascinating piece into resource geopolitics by Elham Shahabat for Hakai Magazine.

I’d never heard of the TAPI pipeline, which connects Turkmenistan to India via Pakistan and Afghanistan. It aims to meet South Asia’s growing energy demand, but governing anything crossing those contentious borders is a challenge. For NBR, Mirza Sadaqat Huda examines some of the political, social, and environmental challenges of this project.

Solutions Stories

Her mom was attacked by Indonesian occupiers or her home in East Timor. Now, she’s running for office.

Lastly, I really enjoyed this feature in Scroll, where Priya Balasubramanian profiles some of India’s earliest women doctors, the challenges they overcame, and how their contributions to medicine were erased by their male counterparts.

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.