For Lunar New Year, we take a look back at the past year. From the Olympics to the Oscars, Asians prevailed across the world. We also experienced government neglect, regressions in policy, and violent protests. From Iran to Taiwan, we witnessed disasters and grief, but also saw resistance, inspiration, and coming together. This past year was polarizing. While Anna May Wong became the first Asian American face featured on the US quarter, South Korea elected a president whose campaign was rooted in anti-feminism. We stepped forward, we stepped backwards. Villages were wiped out, stampedes killed thousands. We experienced solidarity, we felt angry, and we demanded accountability. We learned how the COVID lockdown affected Shanghai and why the Sri Lankan president ran away. We learned a lot about what’s happening in Asia, in the diaspora, and most importantly – to Asians across the world. Here’s a recap of the year’s most notable stories.
From Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan to Indian movie RRR, Asians had a lot to celebrate at this year’s Golden Globes. Michelle dedicated her award to her support system and “those who came before and look like her”. The movie RRR (Rise, Roar, Revolt) is the first Indian movie to win best original song, beating heavyweights like Rihanna and Taylor Swift. Ke Huy Quan won Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, which is only the second time an Asian actress has won this award. Now we hope Michelle will also win the Oscar for Best Actress, which will be another first in history for Asian women.
Religious conservatism in Indonesia has led to a new criminal code that will persecute millions, especially the LGBTQIA community. The Muslim-majority country has just banned sex outside of marriage, and remember they don't even recognize same-sex marriage. But, these new laws don’t apply to tourists, because that wouldn’t be good for the economy. Indonesia is imposing jail time to those who protest or insult the government, and criminalizing all sex between unmarried, hetero couples. And to make matters worse, victims of sexual violence may be criminalized instead of protected. These laws will impact millions of Indonesians, and were passed with just over half of parliament voting.
‘Moshari’, meaning mosquito nets, is the first Bangladeshi film to qualify for an Oscar. Nuhash Humayun’s latest horror movie, a post-apocalyptic vampire tale, is about climate change. Two sisters, played by Sunerah Binte Kamal and Nairah Onora Saif, survive climate change–something that is less fiction than reality for South Asia countries in recent years. Nuhash Humayun, a self-taught filmmaker, wrote, directed, produced and edited the film. Jordan Peele and Riz Ahmed are signing on as executive producers. Peele has previously won an Oscar for ‘Get Out’ and Ahmed for his film ‘The Long Goodbye’. Have you watched ‘Moshari’ yet?
Asian teams have beat out some of the best European and Latin countries in the World Cup, with Japan and South Korea securing unlikely spots in the next round. While Japanese fans erupt in the streets and online to celebrate, others are debating whether Japan’s winning goal should be allowed. Team Japan made history after beating 2010 world champion Spain in a shocking upset. Germany has been eliminated as a result. South Korea also knocked out Portugal and, as a domino effect, Uruguay was eliminated. Do you think the ball crossed the goal line in time?
On Thursday, an apartment fire in China’s Xinjiang Province is reported to have killed nearly a dozen people. The tragedy was the last straw for the region’s residents who had been in lockdown for over 100 days, prompting widespread protests against China’s strict covid measures. City officials have explained that fire trucks were blocked by cars and a narrow gate–something that had been a safety issue for years. The fire, which spread from electric outlets on the 15th floor, took almost 4 hours to extinguish and left at least 10 people dead and 9 injured. After Chinese citizens at home and abroad began protesting the Zero COVID Policy, government officials have announced they will lift policies in phases. Is it too late?
We still don’t have a definitive answer as to who Malaysia’s 10th Prime Minister is, and now the King must choose. While the elections have been tense, the polls have seen more voter turnout than ever, and the results may expose a rise of Malay nationalism and Islamic extremism. Despite heavy rain and floods, Malaysians showed up to vote for either multi-ethnic coalition Pakatan Harapan or new right-wing party Perikatan Nasional. The two leading coalitions failed to negotiate and they have also failed to secure the majority vote. So now, Malaysia awaits the King to make the final decision.
When Pakistani Muslim artist Ali Sethi couldn't travel to India due to politics, he created a song that could. And it was a hit. Featured on Ms. Marvel, ‘Pasoori’ is the first Pakistani song to top Spotify’s global charts and has over 400M views on YouTube. It has transcended borders, bringing together Indian and Pakistani fans during the Cricket World Cup and musicians worldwide through their covers. Have you taken a listen yet?
After a three-hour convo at the G20 Summit 2022, China and the US are back in business. Developing a healthy, stable relationship between both countries will debatably be better for everyone— especially the planet— as they resume negotiations about climate change, war in Ukraine, and more. This is Indonesia’s first time hosting the G20 Summit bringing together leaders of 20 countries that hold over 75% of global trade and 80% of global GDP. And they spent $35M preparing for a moment that not only reunited China with the US, but also gave British PM Rishi Sunak his first world stage appearance. Russian President Putin was absent, as most leaders have condemned the war in Ukraine. The meeting is supposed to conclude with a joint statement of action but with non binding declarations, and climate change targets woefully unmet, many are left asking how effective the G20 really is.
Australian Senator Pauline Hanson is facing review by the Human Rights Commission for racism, after her latest tweet to Senator Mehreen Faruqi. Hanson has historically championed a Muslim ban, mockingly worn a burqa, and linked Islam to terrorism. Will Australia continue to allow it? This comes off the back of Queen Elizabeth’s death, where Faruqi tweeted that she couldn’t mourn the leader of a racist empire. Hanson tweeted back to Faruqi, telling her to “piss off back to Pakistan”, amongst many other offensive remarks. In her string of decades of racist, anti-immigrant comments, Hanson has also tweeted that Australia is in danger of being “swamped by Asians” Will the Australian Human Rights Commission uphold the racist complaint or continue to allow her outbursts? To learn more about Australia’s history of racist and anti-immigrant laws and their lasting impact, check out EST Explains episode on the White Australia Policy here.
A century-old footbridge in India collapsed on Sunday, leaving 135 people dead–including many children. Built in 1877, the bridge was recently renovated for 20M rupees and had reopened just 4 days earlier. CCTV footage shows a group of men rocking the bridge moments before the cable snap. The bridge, originally made by the British, became overcrowded as locals gathered for Diwali celebrations. The firm in charge of the bridge’s operation, the Oreva Group, is under fire. While Oreva’s owner said, “nothing will happen to the bridge for the next 8-10 years”, police reveal that the cables were rusted and not replaced during the renovation. 9 people have been arrested with the firm, including managers, contractors, and ticket clerks.
On Saturday, nearly 100,000 people gathered in Itaewon, South Korea for the first Halloween with no social distancing rules since the pandemic. 156 people were killed in the crowd. As victims’ families mourn, Korean officials admit inadequate preparedness. Most victims were teens, in their 20’s, and women. More than 3 hours before the incident, emergency calls began warning police, but the 130 officers present were focused on cracking down on drugs instead. At 10PM, those at the bottom of a narrow, sloped alley fell and toppled over each other. Koreans are left to ask–why did this have to happen?
In the US, it's spooky season–but how about in Asia? Is there anything similar to Halloween? From India, the Philippines and Cambodia to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia, you’ll come to learn that spirits, festivals, and rituals exist across Asian cultures alike. Burning incense, offerings from cars to houses, and honoring spirits are ways that people celebrate during the Hungry Ghost Festival. In other parts of Asia, millions visit cemeteries on All Saints Day like in Manila. Pitru Paksha is a time when ancestors visit the living in India, for Hindu believers. Does your culture believe in ghosts? What traditions do you observe to honor the dead and their spirits?
Rishi Sunak, the UK’s new Prime Minister, is Hindu, of Indian descent, and the first PM of color. He is also one of the richest men in Britain, and his family’s wealth is almost twice that of the monarchy. While many Hindus celebrate the win, others are questioning if Sunak is right to lead. When Sunak was the Chancellor of the Exchequer - equivalent of the finance minister - he raised taxes around the same time his family was accused of tax evasion. The former banker and husband of a tech heiress, is being called to question by critics, like Labour Party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner, MP Zahra Sultana and writer Basit Mahmood. Calls for a general election are mounting from both the left and the right. Still others are calling this moment historical for minority representation. Meanwhile in India, many are celebrating his victory as a “gift of Diwali”.
Anna May Wong was the first Asian American star in Hollywood, and will break barriers again as the first to grace the quarter coin. After a 40-year-long career filled with xenophobia, "yellowface", and being typecast as the sex worker, Anna is finally getting well-deserved recognition in American history. Born Wong Liu Tsong in LA in 1905 to an immigrant family with a laundry business, Anna chased film sets until she finally landed her first role at 17 years old. As an Asian actress during this time, she faced constant challenges including laws that banned her from portraying interracial romance on screen or being pigeon holed into villain roles. She even lost a lead role in a story about Chinese farms to a white actor. Anna eventually left Hollywood but persevered in the business–and advocated for better representation. On Monday, she will be recognized as a pioneer as her image is memorialized on the quarter.
90% of Koreans use Kakao apps daily. So when Kakao experienced an outage last weekend, the country went into chaos. Everyday interactions like ordering coffee or getting a cab were disrupted, and the government is now opening an investigation on their monopoly on the market. The outage was caused by a fire at a data center that affected over 30,000 servers, and services are still not fully recovered. Meanwhile, Naver - a competing IT giant that also shared the data center - was able to quickly restore its services. Now, experts question if Kakao is investing enough in data backup and emergency prep, while national security concerns rise in case of similar blackouts. On Monday, Kakao Corp shares plunged more than 9%, to their lowest since May 2020. 47 million people can’t live without Kakao–are you one of them?
“KPOP” is now a musical on Broadway, and it opened for previews yesterday in New York City. The show features a medley of talented K-pop and Broadway stars, including Luna, Kevin Woo, Min, and BoHyung. The story centers K-pop artists’ ambition, talent, and sacrifices in an industry notorious for grueling practices, perfectionism, and scrutinous beauty standards. The lead, Luna, hopes to encourage curiosity and bring a fun show to the audience, while breaking negative perceptions. For these stars, bringing Korean culture to Broadway is an honor. Composers Helen Park and Max Vernon produced the music and lyrics, which are both in English and Korean. What makes you excited about seeing a KPOP musical?
A mass shooter in Thailand killed 36 people, including 24 children, in a daycare last week. Panya Khamrap attacked the staff and children during nap time before killing himself. Only one child, a three year old girl, survived. Panya was an ex-police sergeant who was fired earlier this year for drug possession. Authorities initially blamed his drug use, but his autopsy revealed no trace of drugs in his system. His colleagues and neighbors share that he showed troubling signs, like locking his girlfriend and son in his house, and praising another 2020 mass shooting in Thailand by a soldier who took 29 lives. Victims were cremated at Rat Samakee Temple in Northern Thailand on Tuesday, where hundreds gathered to mourn.
One of China’s biggest #MeToo cases just settled in Minnesota, and both parties’ lawyers say the “misunderstanding” has consumed substantial public attention. In 2018, Chinese tech billionaire Liu Qiangdong was accused of rape by then 21-year-old student, Liu Jingyao. Known as China’s Jeff Bezos and founder of JD.com, Liu Qiangdong attended a global business program where Liu Jingyao was volunteering. Liu Jingyao alleged that after a group dinner with executives, she was followed to her apartment and raped by Liu Qiangdong. She has faced endless online shaming and blaming for her allegations, which the founder denied. On Saturday, just two days before trial was set to begin, they settled because the incident “has brought profound suffering” to them and their families.
Indonesian police fired teargas at soccer fans this past weekend, leading to one of the worst stadium disasters in history. After fans ran onto the field in Kanjuruhan Stadium, police used excessive force that led people into narrow exits where they got trampled. Officers are now being investigated. 125 people are dead, including 33 children, and more than 300 injured after home team Arema FC lost to its rival Persebaya Surabaya. The police chief says, things got “anarchic” once fans started attacking officers and damaging cars. FIFA’s security guidelines clearly prohibits the use of firearms or “crowd control gas” inside stadiums. Since Saturday, vigils have been gathering to mourn the victims–and the government says officers responsible will face criminal charges.
Kim Jung-youn lost her father this year, and became the world’s youngest billionaire because of it. Founder of Nexon, Korea’s largest gaming company, Kim Jung Ju passed away in February and left both his daughters 1 billion dollars’ worth of stakes at his holding company. Nexon is known for iconic games like Maplestory, Dungeon & Fighter, and Kart Rider. But outside of Nexon, Kim was known for philanthropic work like founding a children’s hospital and Asia’s first museum dedicated to computers and gaming. Kim’s company issued a statement that he was suffering from depression, while also being the 3rd richest man in Korea at the time. His daughter has now surpassed 20-year-old Kevin David Lehmann, who was the world’s youngest billionaire, owning half of his father’s German drugstore chain.
Violent clashes between British Hindu and Muslim groups erupted in Leicester, England this past weekend - and spread to nearby Smethwick on Wednesday. Earlier headlines tied these events to the recent India vs. Pakistan cricket matches in the Asia Cup tournament, but locals say the tension has been brewing for weeks, fueled by disinformation. Social media videos show both groups engaging in acts - like men marching in Muslim areas shouting a far-right Hindu nationalist chant, and other outside a Hindu temple vandalizing religious flags. 47 people in total have been arrested since late August. Leicester had previously been called a model city for multiculturalism, with Hindus and Muslims making up almost an equal percentage of the population according to the 2011 UK Census data. Now, community leaders from both sides are urging for solidarity and calm, and calling out “foreign extremist ideology” for causing division.
Cox’s Bazar is now the biggest refugee camp in the world. Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh are at a breaking point, with almost 1 million refugees. And the Rohingya, a Muslim minority who have suffered decades of persecution, are left with little basic rights and no secure way of returning home. More than half of this vulnerable population are children under 18. Refugees are not only banned from education and work, they are vulnerable to trafficking. The fragile temporary shelters are prone to fires, floods and landslides every year. Myanmar's Buddhist-majority state cracked down on the Rohingya in 2017, killing at least 7,000 people and forcing almost 700,000 refugees across the border. Today, human rights and aid groups say these camps will collapse, and are calling for the Bangladeshi government and the UN to work together to come up with measures beyond confinement. Here is a list of non-profit organizations that are helping the Rohingya on the ground rated by Charity Navigator: https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=5522
Vietnam loves instant noodles more than you. South Korea used to be number one, but now Vietnam is the world’s top consumer of instant noodles per capita. According to the World Instant Noodles Association, Vietnam’s consumption rose steadily from 55 servings in 2019 to 87 in 2021. Meanwhile, Korea consumed 80 servings in 2020 but that dropped to 73 last year. COVID lockdowns and inflation both point to why people keep coming back for instant noodles. Here are three Vietnamese favorites.
Last Wednesday’s episode of ABC’s “Grown-ish” featured the first Indian lesbian couple on American TV. Zaara Ali, played by Queer model, comedian, and actor Tara Raani, is a recurring character in the show. Her recent lover Yazmine, played by filmmaker, comedian, and actor Sahana Srinivasan, shares an intimate bed scene with her in the latest season. This imagery, reflecting the lived reality for many, is something considered by some to be inappropriate, taboo, and even shameful in Asian culture. For others, this is the most representative the South Asian experience has ever looked. From shame to pride, this mainstream imagery has surfaced a spectrum of feelings in the South Asian community. Both actors are known for leading conversations about identity–from queerness to being South Asian. Raani has amassed a TikTok following of nearly 300,000 followers for her comedy skits, and Srinivasan is known for silly one liners about her cultural identity. “Grown-ish” is known to address issues around sexuality and identity, as exemplified in this latest season. Much like other series have begun exploring previously hidden parts of many people’s identity, such as Partition and Islam in Ms. Marvel, and colourism in Bridgerton’s latest season.
India’s Silicon Valley Bengaluru is flooded, forcing tech workers to ride boats and tractors to get to work, contributing to larger climate-change-induced damages across South Asia. Record heat waves & monsoons are worsening issues of water logging, which left a 23-year-old woman dead. The heavy rain and waterlogging has led to traffic jams, flooded apartments and lack of drinking water. A 23-year-old woman whose first name Akhila has been released, has died after being electrocuted when she grabbed an electrical pole to stand up after her moped skidded on a flooded street. On Tuesday, Karnataka state officials said they would release 300 crore rupees, or over 37 million US dollars, to restore infrastructure in Bengaluru alone. But the lack of stormwater management system remains a larger, long-term problem as unpredictable weather conditions are only expected to get worse in the future.
Akihiko Kondo identifies as fictosexual. He married popular virtual singer Hatsune Miku – the one who toured with Lady Gaga – 10 years ago. Now, the software that allows him to talk to Miku’s hologram, is now providing a network error, and Kondo may never get to speak to her again. Gatebox, the developer of the hologram device, has ended its service for Miku during the pandemic and forced Kondo to say goodbye to the vocaloid he spent 17,000 US dollars marrying in 2018. He says Miku lifted him out of depression and social withdrawal after being bullied by coworkers, and now he can no longer communicate with his virtual wife.
Pakistan produces less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and this year the climate change ministry budget was cut by ⅓. Now, ⅓ of the country is under water because of climate change, while the country’s 7,200 glaciers are melting. With lack of planning from the government and infrastructural weaknesses, the country is facing a $10B catastrophe. And that’s not including thousands dead and millions displaced, including millions of already displaced Afghan refugees. The country's already struggling economy is at risk of defaulting, and now health officials are warning of major outbreaks of disease.
Last week the US Senate passed the largest investment for climate change ever, putting $369B into clean energy initiatives. It’s not as nearly as much as China has already spent, and doesn’t include helping poor countries cope with global warming, an act of reparations some say the US owes as the world’s largest consumer and polluter. The Inflation Reduction Act promises to private from fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by up to 40 % by 2030. This is good for every single person, especially front-line communities in Asia who bear the brunt of the climate crisis like extreme heat and severe flooding. Is Biden’s latest climate bill going to be enough to reverse the effects of climate change globally?
If Cambodia does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country, how successful will Cambodian authorities be in identifying over 300 Taiwanese victims trafficked, subjected to illegal labor, torture, and sexual assault? Taiwanese police have arrested 16 suspects who are believed to be involved in international crime rings trafficking Taiwanese people to Cambodia. The government says the victims are trapped in Cambodia, after being lured by scams promising high-paying jobs. Victims also reported being resold to other countries in the region. Last week, 9 victims returned home to Taiwan after being rescued during a layover in Thailand. Cambodian authorities said they’re launching a nationwide campaign to identify victims. But rescue attempts have been difficult since Cambodia does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country and the two governments don’t have diplomatic ties.
Salman Rushdie, author of ‘The Satanic Verses and ‘Midnight’s Children’’, is fighting life-changing injuries to his heart, liver, and eyes after being repeatedly stabbed on-stage while giving a lecture. While the suspect, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, was just indicted by a grand jury on Thursday August 18, he told the New York Post that his motivation came from Rushdie’sattacks on Islam and its beliefs. Rushdie’s controversial 1988 novel left Muslims feeling outraged and that the book’s author was claiming verses of the Qur’an were “the work of the Devil”. ‘Satanic Verses’ is a phrase unknown to Muslims, and coined by Orientalist Western academics who were specializing in the study of cultures considered Eastern. Rushdie’s title immediately sparked protest because it refers to a legend about Prophet Muhammad that both Sunni and Shiite Muslims believe are fabricated by idolators. Rushdie’s book was also considered offensive because it portrayed weakness in the Prophet Muhammad, and Muslims felt that Rushdie was questioning Muhammad’s credibility as the messenger of God. The book was banned in many parts of the world, including Iran, India and Pakistan, and former Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini even issued a fatwa - or decree - calling for his death. Though the Iranian government has since separated itself from the fatwa, the price on Rushdie’s head recently increased to over $3M. For nearly a decade, the award-winning author went into hiding and lived under police protection, though in recent years became more lax about this, even venturing outside without bodyguard protection at times. Now, the outspoken defender of writers’ freedom of expression is living openly in New York, and once again at the center of free speech debate in literature.
Devastating floods in South Korea have left 2,000 people displaced and at least 14 people dead. Tragically included are a family of three with a 13-year-old girl, who drowned after being trapped in a ‘banjiha’ or semi-underground apartment, the kind of unit prone to flooding, as highlighted in films like Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. Last week, the Seoul government announced that banjiha units for residential uses will be banned in the future. Critics say it’s too little too late, and ignores the larger issues of inequality and the housing crisis that disproportionately affects low-income families. The torrential rain in Seoul was the heaviest in 115 years. At least 6 people are missing, and thousands are struggling to find shelter. Even more heavy rain is expected this week, with flood and landslide warnings across South Korea.
Issey Miyake, Hiroshima-born fashion designer, dies in Tokyo. Lover of art, design, and technology, Steve Jobs wore Miyake’s black turtleneck almost exclusively since the 80s. His signature pleated designs were famous for never losing shape and being comfortably stylish. Miyake’s work is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art. Anything else we can add about his legacy in terms of paving the way for other Asian designers to follow in his steps? The Japanese legend had been fighting liver cancer before passing away at 84 years old.
The Chinese government has announced extending military exercises around Taiwan, seeing U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island as a direct assault on China's claims of Taiwan as part of its territory. The Taiwanese government says it will be firm in defending itself as a self-governing democracy. Brands have started distancing themselves from Taiwan, including Apple who has reportedly asked its Taiwan-based suppliers to label their products “Made in China”, anticipating stricter Chinese custom inspections. On social media, you will find both voices for peace and aggression. China’s fresh military drills in the seas and airspace around Taiwan include ballistic missile tests, over 60 aircraft, and 14 warships. How will these exercises impact global trade? Substantial concern is being raised at the potential for conflict in this region, which would disrupt both shipping and air traffic.
This Asian indie film is production company A24’s first to hit $100M at the box office. How did ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ surpassing award winning movies like ‘Uncut Gems’ and ‘Ladybird’? The Asian community has called the film relatable and representative. It incorporates familial expectations, speaks to multiple communities including immigrants and LGBTQIA++, and centers an Asian, female lead. A big draw to this sci-fi, comedy, drama is that it brings us into a world that is new to all and unknown to many: the multiverse. ‘Everything Everywhere’ has become A24’s highest grossing film of all time, already doubling what ‘Uncut Gems’ made. After this success, the director duo Daniels have announced this week that they are signing with Universal.
A giant screen fell onto a dancer at a live performance for HK Boyband Mirror last Thursday, paralyzing him from the neck down. Another dancer was also injured. This comes only two days after 13,000 fans signed a petition urging organizers for the band to prioritize safety due to a previous incident, during which MIRROR’s member Frankie Chan Ruihui fell off the elevated platform. Authorities reported initial findings on Friday saying a metal suspension cord had snapped. The design and construction team responsible for the stage at Red Pavilion is facing blame for neglecting safety inspections. MIRROR has now canceled the rest of their tour.
Myanmar’s military junta announced on Monday that it has executed 4 prisoners for conspiracy to commit acts of terror. They are the first executions carried out by the regime since 1998. The 4 men executed at the Insein prison were: Kyaw Min Yu, or Ko Jimmy, a prominent pro-democracy leader, Phyo Zeya Thaw, a rapper and former lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, and Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw who were convicted of allegedly killing a military informant. The regime did not disclose exactly when the executions took place, and refused to return their bodies to their families. The military government seized power in a coup in February 2021. Since then, a massive pro-democracy movement has gained momentum, as well as a fierce crackdown. According to the advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) Burma, which monitors arrests and killings, the junta has killed more than 2,100 people and detained over 11,800 since the coup. The executions have sparked pro-democracy protests in Yangon, as well as outside Myanmar’s embassies in Bangkok and Tokyo.
Droupadi Murmu took office as India’s first president from a tribal community – which makes up about 8% of India’s 1.4 billion people. Born in the Santhal tribe, Murmu was the first woman in her village to go to college. She was a teacher before getting involved in politics, and as governor of her home state of Odisha, she has been vocal about issues among marginalized tribes. The Adivasi, or indigenous people in India have long been at the bottom of the country’s socioeconomic ladder, facing physical, sexual and economic exploitation. Murmu follows outgoing president Ram Nath Kovind, who was the 2nd ever president from the Dalit caste - the lowest caste often referred to as untouchables. She is the 2nd woman ever to be president in India, and both the youngest and first president born after India’s independence. Murmu is by the BJP – the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She claims she won the election by almost double the number of votes against the opposition candidate, Yashwant Sinha, an outspoken critic of the Prime Minister. Meanwhile,others say she only won by a small margin, andis being used by the BJP tosecure the indigenous vote in 2024. Indian Presidents do not have the executive powers of the Prime Minister, but are expected to play a key role in political crises, such as when a general election is inconclusive.
Hong Kong: World’s oldest living male giant panda, An An, has passed away at the age of 35 - he would be 105 in human years. Hong Kong Zoo’s Ocean Park shared that his health has been deteriorating, and decided to alleviate the panda’s discomfort. "An An has brought us fond memories with numerous heart-warming moments. His cleverness and playfulness will be dearly missed," said Paolo Pong, Chairman of Ocean Park Corporation. Since 1972 when China first sent two pandas to the U.S. as a gesture of good will, the so-called “panda diplomacy” has been used as a symbol of China’s soft power. An An first came to Hong Kong in 1999 with his mate Jia Jia, as gifts from the Chinese government to commemorate Hong Kong’s transition from British rule. Rest in Paradise An An. We hope you eat endless bamboo in panda heaven.
Climate change is here and Kyrgyzstan's century-old glaciers are melting. This was the second glacier collapse of the week. On July 3rd, Eleven hikers died from an avalanche caused by falling glacier chunks as large as an apartment building in Italy’s Dolomites region. The country has more than 8,000 glaciers that are receding at an alarming rate. If this continues to happen by 2050, the volume of water could be down by 12%, and by 2100 by 44%. This is devastating for millions in Central Asia who get 70% of their water from glaciers and natural water reserves. The world was struck with extreme heat with temperatures well over 40 degrees celsius in China and the UK issued a red heat warning for the first time ever. Researchers say these events underline the dangers of a rapidly warming world and are expected to increase unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed.
Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned on Thursday via email a day after he fled the country in the midst of chaos and protests. Last weekend, thousands of protestors stormed his home demanding his resignation. At least 55 have been injured from the clash, although the military denies firing at the crowds. The Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe - now the acting president - has also offered to resign after protestors started occupying his home as well. Sri Lanka is scheduled to vote on a new president next Wednesday. Mass protests have occurred since March due to the country’s devastating economic crisis which left people without food, electricity or medicine. The government has defaulted on its mismanaged foreign debt worth $51 billion, asking the IMF for a bailout. Watch our explainer on how Sri Lanka’s economic crisis began here.
Japan’s longest-serving former prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was assassinated after he was shot twice while giving a speech in Nara prefecture during a campaign event. The suspected assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami, was apprehended by the police, but he was successful in killing Abe with a homemade sawed-off shotgun. The shooter jaywalked across a two-way street, towards the former prime minister, shooting twice towards his back. According to TBS NEWS DIG, Yamagami assassinated his target in a matter of five seconds while the Nara police and the security had their backs against him. The Japanese news media is raising questions as to why there wasn’t more protection around the former prime minister. Yamagami had a grudge against former prime minister Abe. He believed Abe had promoted a religious group to which his mother made a "huge donation” that led her to go bankrupt. On Monday, the president of the Japanese branch of the Unification Church confirmed that the suspect’s mother was a member – but said neither Abe nor the shooter himself had been members. The Unification Church - whose members are often called the “Moonies” - is a South Korean church notorious for its cult-like behaviors and rituals like mass wedding ceremonies.
The day before his term ends, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's government ordered the closure of investigative website, Rappler. The site was founded by Filipino journalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa, a critical player in exposing former-president Rodrigo Duterte’s human rights abuses during the drug war. Rappler’s reporting has been on government members and Duterte’s inner circle’s radar - the company has been banned from attending presidential events since 2018. “When you give up your rights, you never get it back” says Marina Ressa when the Philippine gov’t ordered the investigative website Rappler to shut down. Rappler’s staff are on high alert, as the country moves from a Duarte to a Marcos presidency. Rappler’s impact goes beyond its own interests, independent news sites will take cues from Rappler as to how to safeguard freedom of expression in the Philippines.
A 6.1 magnitude earthquake killed over 1,000 people in Afghanistan last Wednesday morning, with 1,500+ are likely to be injured. Rescue teams are still searching for others buried under the ground. Now, there’s even a threat of a cholera outbreak as people remain without shelter, food and clean water, according to the United Nations. Thousands of people were already facing a humanitarian crisis after the Taliban takeover - now, the Taliban is asking for international help. Pre-quake context: President Biden’s executive order to divert half of Afghanistan’s ($7B) aid to 9/11 victim’s families has been met with criticism: a statement by 14 U.N. independent rights experts also blamed the U.S. government for making life worse for Afghan women through blocking billions of dollars that could be used to provide desperately-needed humanitarian relief to tens of millions in the country. The Washington Post reports that the US and the Taliban are scheduled to hold talks in Qatar this week, to discuss allowing the Afghan central bank to use its frozen funds in order to deal with the crisis.
Goodbye Jumbo Floating Restaurant. After floating in Aberdeen Harbor in Hong Kong for 46 years, the iconic Jumbo Floating Restaurant was towed away, and it unexpectedly capsized at the South China Sea. Millions of guests, including celebrities like Chow Yun Fat and Queen Elizabeth, visited to dine at the establishment. Celebrated by many, it was featured in Hollywood films like the 1974 James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun” and the 1996 classic Cantonese comedy “the God of Cookery.” Although the restaurant is an iconic Hong Kong landmark, it took a massive financial hit during the pandemic. Jumbo temporarily closed by March 2020, and the Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises permanently closed its door when they couldn’t find a buyer. With no prospective buyer, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises got the restaurant towed to be stored for the time being on June 14th, 2022. The floating restaurant started to capsize almost a week after towing - near Paracel Islands. No crew members were injured. Hong Kong lawmakers are now calling on the government to launch a more thorough investigation.
Your summer just got less spicy. Sriracha maker, Huy Fong Foods Inc, said that we may be in short supply of Sriracha for the next few months. They’ve had to suspend its production because bad weather conditions during the Spring harvest resulted in poor quality chili peppers. The Great Sriracha Shortage is the worst food news of 2022. Are you ready for a Sriracha-less summer?
The 23d annual Seoul Queer Parade is in jeopardy. The city government has called for a committee to decide whether it can take place at Seoul Plaza, even though it’s been held there every year since 2015. In 2021, the city government also denied an application from Seoul Queer Culture Festival to form an NGO, saying that it would cause “social conflict.” What this means, no one knows exactly. South Korea offers no legal protection for sexual and gender minorities, including same-sex marriage. Former President Moon Jae-In has said that he had no intention of legalizing same-sex unions, because society “has yet to reach a consens,” according to the Washington Post. Now, LGBTQ+ rights groups are calling on the newly-elected President Yoon Seok-Yeol to take action against rampant homophobia in Korea and denounce his aide who has said that homosexuality is a mental illness. Do you think the government will allow the parade?
Asians make up 16% of Australia’s population, but the parliament does not reflect that. In the previous term, only three were occupied by MPs of Asian background: Gladys Liu in Melbourne’s Chisholm, Ian Goodenough in Perth’s Moore and Dave Sharma in Sydney’s Wentworth. Last week, six Asian candidates have claimed victory: independent Dai Le in Sydney’s Fowler; and Labor candidates Sam Lim in Perth’s Tangney, Michelle Ananda-Rajah in Melbourne’s Higgins, Zaneta Mascarenhas in Perth’s Swan, Sally Sitou in Sydney’s Reid and Cassandra Fernando in Melbourne’s Holt. While the parliament doubled their Asian parliament members, 96% of federal lawmakers are still white. Could this be a turning point?
TW: Sexual Violence In April, the Indonesian government banned “Virginity Testing” in the military employment processes. For decades, those identifying as women have been telling employers that “Virginity Testing” is ‘discriminatory, invasive, abusive, and has no bearing on their professional performances.’ It’s also totally unscientific. The test involves someone placing their fingers into a cadet's vagina to supposedly assess whether they have had sex. It’s a form of gender-based sexual violence and the @WHO World Health Organization states that “there is no place for virginity (or ‘two-finger’) testing; it has no scientific validity.” Human Rights Watch exposed the use of these tests by Indonesian forces in 2014. In 2015, the armed forces Information Chief Major Gen Fuad Basya, told the BBC that it's a matter of national security,"If it is not restricted this way, then someone with a bad habit will become military personnel. Soldiers are a nation's defenders. They defend a nation's sovereignty, a country's territory and security." In 2018 the WHO reported that the practice is recorded in many places besides Indonesia, including Afghanistan, Brazil, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Sri Lanka, and Turkey.
Massive Cannabis Giveaway. Thailand’s new law allows households to grow weed for personal medicinal use. To celebrate, Thailand is giving away one million cannabis plants to its residents. Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia to decriminalize weed for medical use in 2019. Now the country hopes to promote cannabis as a cash crop for medicinal and commercial use – since about a third of its labor force works in agriculture.
The Indian Meteorological Department has issued a warning of a fresh heatwave spell. India may see temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit. In Pakistan it is even hotter - temperatures hit 50 degrees Celsius or 122 degrees Fahrenheit. In India, 25 people have died since late March in India - the highest toll in the past five years. A historic bridge in Pakistan collapsed due to a flash flood caused by the heat melting a glacial lake. The scorching heatwave in India could devastate this year’s wheat crop. India is the world’s 2nd largest wheat producer - global food shortage may get worse. These uncomfortable conditions could cause hours of power outages and near Delhi, a massive landfill fire went on for days filling the air with toxic fumes. What is happening to South Asia should be a warning sign to other countries. The window to fix and maintain a sustainable life in South Asian countries is closing if we continue to ignore climate change.
On Monday, May 9th, Filipino voters are heading to the polls for an anticipated 2022 Presidential election. Over 67M people are eligible voters, and election results could be announced within a few hours the polls close. The frontrunner is Bongbong Marcos, the son of a former ousted dictator. Former President Marcos Sr. declared martial law that lasted for seven years in his 20-year presidential term. According to Amnesty International, Marcos Sr. used the army and the police to arrest, torture, and murder civilians. Marcos Jr.’s running mate is the daughter of the current president. The distant second frontrunner is Leni Robredo, the current Vice President, and a human rights lawyer. She is the strongest critic of the current president among the running candidates, and her current stance is to end political corruption. Marcos will likely leverage his family’s legacy and influence to consolidate political power in his favor. Meanwhile Vice President Robredo will appeal to liberal-leaning voters focusing on education, healthcare poverty, and gender equality.
It's true that Asians live forever. Tanaka Kane-san was born in 1903 and lived through 5 eras: Meiji, Taisho, Showa, Heisei, and Reiwa. According to Guinness World Records, Kane-San became the world's oldest living person on Jan. 30, 2019 at 116 years and 28 days old. She held the title for three years, until her death last week at the age of 119. She ran a family mochi shop, and loved soda and sweets. Rest in peace, Tanaka Kane-San.
China’s Zero-COVID Policy meant lower rates of COVID infection than most other countries, but Western media has circulated violent flaws in China’s lockdown system in Shanghai. Tensions are high, as police in hazmat suits clashed with residents in Shanghai who refused to leave an apartment complex that was cordoned to become a quarantine facility. This comes from the added pressure on citizens' quality of life - people are facing food shortages due to overwhelmed supply chains and delivery services. Since the pandemic Western countries like the United States have seen nearly 1M deaths from COVID. What do you think of China’s Zero Covid Policy? Would this work in your country?
Imran Khan was ousted from the office of Pakistan’s PM after he lost a no-confidence vote in parliament on April 10th. A week before, Khan had tried to dissolve Parliament to block the vote from happening, but the Supreme Court overruled this move as unconstitutional. The National Assembly elected Shehbaz Sharif as their interim 23rd prime minister. Khan claimed that U.S. foreign policy ousted him to overthrow his government, adding that he looks to the public to protest against a “US-backed regime” in Pakistan. Shehbaz has faced corruption allegations and spent time in jail during Imran Khan's tenure, however, he has not been convicted of an offense and maintains the allegations are politically motivated.
April 1st 2022 marks a step towards justice for Dalit garment workers in India: H&M signed an agreement to end sexual violence against majority-women garment workers at its largest Indian suppliers. The move comes after the outrage over Jeyasre Kathiravel an H&M-associated factory worker in Tamil Nadu was murdered by her supervisor a year ago. Jeyasre’s family says she endured sexual harassment at work for months. Making our mainstream clothes shouldn't compromise the safety of garment workers in Asia. With this new agreement, all H&M workers, supervisors and executives are required to take gender-based violence training. The agreement was signed during Dalit History Month, and this is the first time a major clothing brand and a retailer is pledging to do their due diligence to ensure garment workers can thrive in a safe working environment.
On March 21, 2022, a China Eastern passenger plane crashed with 132 passengers on board. The aircraft reached an altitude of nearly 30,000 ft and began to nose dive. The plane hit the ground in less than 2 minutes and all 132 were pronounced dead. The plane was a Boeing 737-800, supposedly one of the safest aircrafts. The unusual nosedive is contrary to the design of the aircraft making experts suggest that a significant mechanical error or pilot action would have had to happen. The crash site recovery team found both of the black boxes containing the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data. These may hold clues that would provide more clarity to the 375 family members of the 132 casualties.
Western sanctions on #Russia don't just affect Russia–they also have implications on neighboring Central Asian economies. Kazakhstan relies on Russian ports to export two-thirds of its oil supplies. Last year alone, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan sent 7.8 million workers to Russia. These countries depend on seasonal migration for work and remittance payments. Most Central Asian countries are profoundly dependent on Russian natural gas and those countries are vulnerable to its supply shortages. Millions of Central Asians from countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan will face unemployment and an increase in food scarcity. Energy and job security in Central Asia will be more important than ever, but reducing this dependency can't happen overnight.
South Korea is choosing a new president right now. Both have controversial backgrounds. From the Democratic Party, Lee Jae-myung, governor of Seoul province, is under fire for a massive real estate corruption scandal that happened under his watch. Yoon Seok-yeol of the conservative People Power Party, previously Korea’s chief prosecutor for high-profile corruption cases, is accused of political meddling while serving as prosecutor-general. The Korean Youths are more aware of inequity and equality than the older generation and they feel strongly that the candidates are overlooking important topics like the increase in housing prices and in unemployment. It’s the tightest race in recent Korean History and the results will be in by March 9th.