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Regional News • Asia • India
Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee dies at 84,
Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee dies at 84,
Credit: Ministry of Finance (GODL-India) / Wikimedia Commons (Open Government Licence v3.0)

Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee has died at age 84. He tested positive for the Coronavirus and was in a coma following a brain surgery earlier in August. His death is followed by seven days of state mourning.

His son bhijit Mukherjee took to Twitter to release a statement: "With a Heavy Heart , this is to inform you that my father Shri #PranabMukherjee has just passed away inspite of the best efforts of Doctors of RR Hospital & prayers ,duas & prarthanas from people throughout India ! I thank all of You 🙏."

Regional News • Asia • Japan
Japan: Shinzo Abe announces resignation

Japan's longest-serving prime minister Shinzo Abe has resigned due to his health. He suffers from the bowel disease colitis. He will stay in office until his successor is chosen.

Abe gave a press conferences on Friday. He said: "Even though there is one year to go in my tenure and there are challenges to be met, I have decided to stand down as prime minister."

About his illness, he said: "For almost eight years I controlled my chronic disease, however, this year in June I had a regular check-up and there was a sign of the disease. I made a judgment that I should not continue my job as prime minister. I need to fight the disease and need to be treated."

Regional News • Asia • Japan
Japan: Shinzo Abe said to be stepping down due to declining health
Japan: Shinzo Abe said to be stepping down due to declining health
Credit: 首相官邸ホームページ / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0)

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is said to be stepping down due to his declining health. The news was first announced by Japan's national broadcaster NHK. It was later confirmed by a ruling party member. Abe has been serving as prime minister for almost eight years.

Regional News • Asia
North Korea's ruler Kim Jong-un hands over some responsibilities to sister
North Korea's ruler Kim Jong-un hands over some responsibilities to sister
Credit: KCNA

According to reports from South Korean secret services, the North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un has handed over further powers to his sister Kim Yo-Jong. She is now in charge of "the management of state affairs". What exactly is meant by that remains open, though.

According to South Korean media reports, relations with the USA and South Korea, among other things, are to fall within her area of responsibility. The North Korean side has not officially confirmed the report. However, the country is known for the fact that important personnel decisions are only communicated in the state media weeks or months later.

Regional News • Asia
Zara Alvarez, human rights leader, killed in Philippine
Zara Alvarez, human rights leader, killed in Philippine
Credit: Twitter Reproduction

The human rights leader Zara Alvarez was killed Monday evening after being shot six times as she was heading home after buying food for dinner. Alvarez is the 13th member of the Karapatan organisation to be killed since President Rodrigo Duterte election in 2016.

Zara Alvarez, former education director of the human rights alliance Karapatan, was a well-known human rights defender who received repeated threats and was subjected to harassment as a result of her human rights work.

In a statement, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), strongly condemned the killing of Alvarez. “The death of even one human rights defender is way too many...We demand justice for Zara along with other human rights defenders who have been victims of extrajudicial killings,” APWLD stated.

Regional News • Asia
Over 10,000 people in Thailand protest against government and power of monarchy
Over 10,000 people in Thailand protest against government and power of monarchy
Credit: Prachatai (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

In the biggest anti-government demonstration since the coup in 2014, over 10,000 Thai protestors have moved to the street. Over the past months students had started publically voicing criticism against the powers of the monarchy and the government.

The student activist Patsalawalee Tanakitwiboonpon addressed the crowd with the demand to get "a new election and a new parliament from the people". Opposition parties claim that the elections in 2019 had been under conditions that ensured that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha stayed in power.

Regional News • Asia • India
India announces plans to invest $1,46 trillion into economy
India announces plans to invest $1,46 trillion into economy
Credit: Prime Minister's Office / GODL-India

According to Indias Prime Minister Narendra Modi his government has identified 7,000 infrastructure projects to invest in in order to boost the economy that has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The country currently has reported over 2,5 million confirmed Covid-19 cases with over 49,000 deaths.

Modi also stated that "infrastructure will not be created in silos anymore. All infrastructure has to be comprehensive, integrated and linked to each other. Multi-modal connectivity infrastructure is the way forward".

Regional News • Asia
India raids multiple Chinese entities over suspicion of money laundering

According to an official statement, multiple premises of Chinese entities have been raided by the tax authorities of India.

The Indian authorities are investigating suspected money laundering but did not specify which entities and individuals have been raided. Following the statement over 40 bank accounts in dummy entities have been created and entered into credits of over $134,03 million in the local currency rupees.

One of the checked Chinese companies has allegedly taken over $13,4 million from shell companies to open "retail showrooms" in India.

Regional News • Asia • China
ByteDance accused of censoring anti-China content in Indonesia
ByteDance Logo
ByteDance Logo Credit: ByteDance

Reuters reports that, from 2018 to mid-2020, ByteDance censored content in its BaBe app in Indonesia. According to Reuters sources, local moderators were instructed to remove content perceived as critical of the Chinese government.

Articles with references to 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, or to Mao Zedong, the founder of modern China, were among those taken down.

In a statement, BaBe disagreed with the claims: "A cursory search on the BaBe app shows numerous articles and videos that highlight the type of content these claims say we would remove."

ByteDante has previously faced criticism as TikTok, one of their applications, has been criticizes for its alleged data harvesting on behalf of the Chinese state.

Regional News • Asia
Multiple journalists have been arrested by Hong Kong police including journalist for UK's tv channel ITV
Multiple journalists have been arrested by Hong Kong police including journalist for UK's tv channel ITV
Credit: Wilson Li via LinkedIn

The Hong Kong Police Force has announced via their Twitter account that nine people have been arrested for alleged breaches of the national security law.

One of the arrested people is the freelance journalist Wilson Li who works for the UK-based television channel ITV. A spokesperson from ITV News has stated that: "We can confirm that Wilson Li works for ITV News in a freelance capacity. We are concerned to hear of his arrest and are urgently seeking clarification of the circumstances."

In addition to the arrests, the Hong Kong Police Force has raided and searched the office the media outlet Apple Daily.

Regional News • Asia
Pro-democracy owner of Apple Daily media outlet Jimmy Lai arrested by Hong Kong police

The Hong Kong police have arrested Jimmy Lai on grounds of the new national security law in Hong Kong. According to a close aid of his, he has been arrested at 7am and lawyers have been sent to the police station.

The news agency AFP has stated that a police source has stated that Lai had been arrested for the alleged collusion with foreign forces and fraud. His house has been searched by the police, as well as the house of his son. Multiple other members of his group have reportedly been arrested.

Regional News • Asia • India
India: Fire broke out at Covid-Clinic, least 7 dead

A fire broke out at the hotel Swarna Palace, a temporary Covid-Clinic, on Sunday. The cause seems to be a PPE kit that caught fire. Recent reports say that at least 7 people have died in the fire, all other patients were moved to another hospital. It was the second fire at a Covid clinic in recent days.

Regional News • Asia • China
Chinese court sentences two Canadian citizens to death over manufacturing and transportation of drugs
Canadian Embassy in Beijing
Canadian Embassy in Beijing Credit: Benjamin Vander Steen

Two Chinese courts in the Guangdong province have sentenced two Canadian citizens to death in two days.

The Canadian Xu Weihong had been tried in front of the Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate Court, while the now sentenced Ye Jianhui had been tried in front of the Foshan Municipal Intermediate Court for the manufacturing and transportation of drugs.

The police had previously seized around 218 kilograms of MDMA in the form of white crystals from a room that had been used by Ye Jianhui and Lu Hanchang. The latter one has been sentenced to jail time together with three other people involved in the operation. They received between seven years and a life sentence.

In total, four Canadian citizens have been sentenced to death in the past two years.

Regional News • Asia
Hong Kong issues arrest warrant for Samuel Chu - a United States citizen - under new security law
Hong Kong issues arrest warrant for Samuel Chu - a United States citizen - under new security law
Credit: Samuel Chu via Twitter

Under the new national security law Hong Kong has issued multiple warrants for pro-democracy activists. Included in these warrants is one for managing director of the Hong Kong Democracy Council based in D.C., Samuel Chu.

Chu stated on his Twitter account that he heard about the arrest warrant from the media and that Hong Kong is searching for him for the alleged crimes of "inciting secession" and "colluding with foreign powers". He added that he is and has been for 25 years an American citizen.

Six other pro-democracy activists have gotten outstanding arrest warrants according to Chinese state media including the activist Nathan Law.

Regional News • Asia • China
Report: China pays money for reports on underground churches
Excerpt "Notice on Rewarding Those Who Report Clues on Xie Jiao Illegal and Criminal Activities"
Excerpt "Notice on Rewarding Those Who Report Clues on Xie Jiao Illegal and Criminal Activities" Credit: Bitter Winter

According to the magazine Bitter Winter the Chinese government offers monetary rewards for reports of underground churches. The program awards people with up to around $14,000 if they report religious activities of groups banned by the Chinese Communist Party in private homes to the authorities.

In addition to these measures the Chinese government has started putting banners with anti-religious slogans up such as: "Don’t believe in any religion other than the Communist Party. It’s enough to believe in the Party and the People’s Government of China"

The

Regional News • Asia
Germany suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong
Germany suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong
Credit: U.S. Department of State from United States (Public Domain)

The German foreign minister Heiko Maas has announced that Germany will suspend the extradition treaty between Hong Kong and Germany as a consequence of the postponed Legislative Council General Election in Hong Kong.

Maas has stated that "the Hong Kong government’s decision to disqualify a dozen opposition candidates for the election and postpone the elections to the legislature is another infringement on the rights of the citizens of Hong Kong" adding that China needs to ensure international law and to provide free and fair elections.

Regional News • Asia
Hong Kong legislative election postponed due to Covid-19
Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam Credit: Asia Society (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has announced that she'll invoke the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to postpone the legislative elections.

She stated that "it is a really tough decision to delay the election, but we want to ensure public safety and health, and to make sure the elections are held in an open and impartial manner. The decision is therefore essential".

The elections were originally scheduled to take place in September, and democratic politicians have stated that they oppose the decision to postpone the elections.

Regional News • Asia
Armenia government approves social development help from Japan
Representative image of an ambulance
Representative image of an ambulance Credit: unsplash.com / RAYMOND Wong

The government of Armenia has approved a law to ratify an agreement between Japan and Armenia with the aim to develop the economic cooperation of the countries.

According to the agreement Japan will provide a grant for economic and social development purposes worth around $3,7 million. The Armenia government has committed to use the funds to purchase four-wheel ambulances and vehicles to provide remote regions with improved medical care.

Regional News • Asia
Hong Kong: Twelve pro-democracy politicians have been banned from the September election
Joshua Wong
Joshua Wong Credit: Seader (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

According to a spokesperson of the Hong Kong government, twelve people have been disqualified from participating as candidates in the upcoming legislative election in September, including Joshua Wong.

The person stated that these people did not uphold basic law and that they aren't allowed to promote the independence of Hong Kong, seek intervention from foreign governments and show misdemeanour against the national security law.

In addition, the spokesperson said that "returning Officers are still reviewing the validity of other nominations according to the laws. We do not rule out the possibility that more nominations would be invalidated".

Regional News • Asia
Joshua Wong announces he has been disqualified from LegCo election in Hong Kong
Joshua Wong announces he has been disqualified from LegCo election in Hong Kong
Credit: Wong Twitter

The pro-democracy activist and politician Joshua Wong has announced via his Twitter account that he has been disqualified from running in the upcoming 2020 Legislative Council General Election in Hong Kong. The elections are set to happen on the 6 September.

In a second tweet, Wong states that his criticism of the national security law is the reason why he has been disqualified despite getting over 30,000 votes in the democratic primary.

Regional News • Asia
Armenian Prime Minister states that Covid-19 situation has improved
Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan.
Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan. Credit: Kremlin (Public Domain)

The Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, has stated the country has improved the overall situation over the past days. Still, current measures need to be kept up to prevent returning to a crisis and a severe increase in the numbers.

According to Arsen Torosyan, Minister of Health, the number of heavy and extremely heavy Covid-19 cases has dropped from 650 to about 500. The country has reported 37,937 Covid-19 cases in total.

Regional News • Asia • Japan
Japan reports 1,259 new Covid-19 infections - highest daily number so far
Japan reports 1,259 new Covid-19 infections - highest daily number so far
Credit: unsplash.com / Jérémy Stenuit

The number of newly reported Covid-19 cases has reached 1,259 across the country. With that Japan has crossed 1,000 new infections on a single day for the first time. The total number of confirmed cases in Japan is 34,215 including people in quarantine at airports as well as passengers and crew members on cruise ships.

All 47 prefectures in Japan have now reported Covid-19 cases.

Regional News • Asia
Hong Kong tightens social distancing rules as Covid-19 cases spike
Hong Kong tightens social distancing rules as Covid-19 cases spike
Credit: LN9267 / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

As Hong Kong reports 1,164 new Covid-19 cases in the past two weeks, with only 113 of these imported cases, the government tightens the social distancing rules in order to prevent a further spread. From Wednesday dining-in won't be permitted, bars will remain closed and apart from people living in the same residence group gatherings need to be limited to two people.

The government had already ordered the public to wear masks outdoors with the exemption of people eating, drinking or for those with health conditions.

Regional News • Asia • India
Indian prince calls for end of conversion therapy, stating that he has been subject of one

The openly gay Indian prince Manvendra Singh Gohil has stated that "I was myself a victim of conversion therapy" after he outed himself to his parents. According to him, religious leaders were involved in his parents' attempt to convert his sexuality and they as well well talked to doctors for possible operations.

He is now calling for a ban on the conversion therapy and stated that "Lesbians are treated so badly, I’ve known cases where the family member with rape the child to prove she can have sex with a man" in a call for more acceptance of the LGBTQI+ community.

Regional News • Asia
Vietnam starts evacuating 80,000 people from city after first Covid-19 cases in country since April

Three residents tested positive for Covid-19 in Danang, with the first case in the country since April being confirmed on the last weekend. The Vietnamese government has now ordered the evacuation of 80,000 out of the city. As the outside borders of the country are still closed the tourist hotspot Danang had seen lots of domestic tourism.

Everybody that has recently returned from Danang or will now be evacuated is required to quarantine at home for 14 days in order to prevent a further spread of the virus. According to the government, the evacuation will take four days and will be done with chartered airplanes to eleven different Vietnamese cities.

Vietnam so far has reported only 400 confirmed Covid-19 cases and no deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Regional News • Asia
North Korea declares state of emergency in Kaesong over first suspected Covid-19 case
Kim Jong-un in a meeting of the WPK Central Committee
Kim Jong-un in a meeting of the WPK Central Committee Credit: KCNA (Public Domain)

Kim Jong-un declared a state of emergency and imposed a lockdown on the border city of Kaesong after a person suspected of being infected with the novel coronavirus returned from South Korea after illegally crossing the border.

According to KCNA, a person "who went to the south three years ago, a person who is suspected to have been infected with the vicious virus, returned on July 19 after illegally crossing the demarcation line.".

If confirmed, it would be the first case officially acknowledged by Pyongyang.

Regional News • Asia
Vietnam reports first Covid-19 case in nearly 100 days
Staff members wearing protective suites in a hospital
Staff members wearing protective suites in a hospital Credit: Mstyslav Chernov / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

A 57-year-old retired man from Danang is Vietnam's first confirmed Covid-19 patient since April 16. The country had not reported a single case in 100 days and it's unclear how the man contracted the novel Coronavirus. The Health Ministry has announced "extensive screening and testing in all at-risk areas in Danang."

The man, also referred to as Patient 416, had not left the city and only was in contact with neighbours and his grandchildren. According to Vietnam's ministry, the patient is "currently on ventilator support due to respiratory failure."

Regional News • Asia • China
NGO urges governments to take China to court over repression of Uighurs

Human Rights Watch estimates one million Uighurs were detained without any judicial process, solely based on their ethnic origin and religion. In the "political education" camps, the NGO members discovered and documented practices of torture, denial of access to basic health care, denial of the right to practice their religion, and forced political education.

A possible genocide by the Chinese government against the Uighur community is being discussed today since forced sterilization or contraception is considered a crime under international law.

Sending China to the International Criminal Court is not possible because China has refused to sign the ICC Statute. The International Court of Justice could be the right approach, says the NGO, but as it is a state-to-state process, a government would have to be willing to take China to court.

Regional News • Asia • China
China orders closure of U.S. consulate in Chengdu
The building of U.S. Consulate General Chengdu
The building of U.S. Consulate General Chengdu Credit: U.S. Consulate General Chengdu (Public Domain)

The Chinese Government on Friday ordered the closure of the United States consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu. The announcement was made just hours before Washington's deadline for the Chinese government to end its diplomatic mission in Houston, Texas.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement: "On 21 July, the US launched a unilateral provocation by abruptly demanding that China close its Consulate General in Houston. The US move seriously breached international law, the basic norms of international relations, and the terms of the China-US Consular Convention. It gravely harmed China-US relations. The measure taken by China is a legitimate and necessary response to the unjustified act by the US. It conforms with international law, the basic norms of international relations, and customary diplomatic practices."

Regional News • Asia
Bridal kidnapping into forced marriages to be made illegal, Indonesian officials vow
Multiple men kidnap a woman to force her into marriage
Multiple men kidnap a woman to force her into marriage Credit: Screenshot of viral Twitter video from December 2019

After two cases of bridal kidnapping have been filmed and posted to social media platforms where they went viral, Indonesian officials have vowed to ban the practice. The practice is established in Sumba, a southern island in Indonesia where family members or friends of a man who wants to marry a woman kidnap her and bring her directly to the ceremony.

According to local historian Frans Wora Hebi "There are no laws against it, only sometimes there is social reprimand against those who practice it but there is no legal or cultural deterrent" adding that the practice is not part of any traditions but a way to force women into marriage.

Regional leaders in Sumba have now signed a declaration stating that they reject the practice and Indonesia's women's empowerment minister Bintang Puspayoga stated that there will be a government effort to end the practice.