Top Asian News 4:54 a.m. GMT
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong police raided the office of an online news outlet on Wednesday after arresting six people for conspiracy to publish a seditious publication. More than 200 officers were taking part in the search, police said. They had a warrant to seize relevant journalistic materials under a national security law enacted last year. The six were arrested early Wednesday under a colonial-era crimes ordinance for conspiracy to publish a seditious publication, and searches of their residences were underway, police said. According to the local South China Morning Post newspaper, police arrested one current and one former editor at Stand News, as well as four former board members including singer and activist Denise Ho and former lawmaker Margaret Ng.
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian authorities said Wednesday they will push a boat containing 120 Rohingya Muslims back to international waters despite calls from the United Nations refugee agency to allow the passengers to disembark after being adrift for days off the country’s northernmost province of Aceh. The boat is reportedly leaking and has a damaged engine, is floating in the open sea in harsh weather, and may be at risk of capsizing, the UNHCR said Tuesday. “UNHCR is deeply concerned for the safety and lives of those onboard,” it said in a statement. “To prevent needless loss of life, we strongly urge the Indonesian government to allow safe disembarkation immediately.” The boat was first sighted by local fishermen on Sunday in waters about 60 miles (96 kilometers) off the coast of Bireuen, a district in Aceh province, said Badruddin Yunus, the leader of the local tribal fishing community.
SYDNEY (AP) — Coronavirus cases surged across Australia on Wednesday as an outbreak of the omicron variant exploded, prompting Prime Minister Scott Morrison to schedule an emergency national cabinet meeting. The surge has already overwhelmed testing stations, prompted new vaccine mandates and caused at least one state to cut back on elective surgeries. New infections in Sydney and surrounding parts of New South Wales state skyrocketed to more than 11,000, up from 6,000 a day earlier. Victoria state also reported a record 3,700 cases, up by more than 1,000 from the previous record set on Tuesday. Morrison said the nation’s leaders would meet ahead of schedule on Thursday.
BEIJING (AP) — China is calling on the United States to protect a Chinese space station and its three-member crew after Beijing complained that satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX nearly struck the station. A foreign ministry spokesman accused Washington on Tuesday of ignoring its treaty obligations to protect the safety of the Tiangong station’s three-member crew following the July 1 and Oct. 21 incidents. The Tiangong performed “evasive maneuvers” to “prevent a potential collision” with Starlink satellites launched by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the government said in a Dec. 6 complaint to the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea opened a key political conference Monday to review past projects and discuss new policies amid the pandemic and a diplomatic deadlock with the United States. The official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday that leader Kim Jong Un presided over a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party. The report did not carry any remarks by Kim. The meeting approved unspecified agenda items and went into the discussions of them, KCNA said. The report said the meeting would review major polices this year and decide on “the strategic and tactical policies and practical tasks for dynamically guiding the struggle of our party and people to usher in a new period of the development of socialist construction to the next stage of victory.” The plenary meeting is one of the highest-level decision-making bodies in North Korea.
ENIWA, Japan (AP) — The dozens of Type 90, or “Kyumaru,” tanks rumbling through recent shooting drills on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido exemplify the challenge its arms makers face both at home and overseas as the country fortifies its defenses against strategic threats. The Self Defense Force needs the more advanced aircraft and weaponry sold by U.S. arms manufacturers as Japan’s strategic focus shifts from Russia in the north to the south, where it faces incursions by Chinese fighter jets and naval vessels and North Korean missile launches. Big Japanese defense manufacturers like Mitsubishi, IHI Corp. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries are struggling to sell 20th century tanks, aircraft and warships.
BEIJING (AP) — To help make China a self-reliant “technology superpower,” the ruling Communist Party is pushing the world’s biggest e-commerce company to take on the tricky, expensive business of designing its own processor chips — a business unlike anything Alibaba Group has done before. Its 3-year-old chip unit, T-Head, unveiled its third processor in October, the Yitian 710 for Alibaba’s cloud computing business. Alibaba says for now, it has no plans to sell the chip to outsiders. Other rookie chip developers including Tencent, a games and social media giant, and smartphone brand Xiaomi are pledging billions of dollars in line with official plans to create computing, clean energy and other technology that can build China’s wealth and global influence.
BEIJING (AP) — Advertisements featuring some Chinese models have sparked feuding in China over whether their appearance and makeup are perpetuating harmful stereotypes of Asians. German automaker Mercedes-Benz and a Chinese food company are the latest to get caught up in the fray. Some Chinese consumers complained after the local snack brand Three Squirrels featured advertisements for noodle products on its Weibo microblogging account showing a Chinese model with eyes they said looked slanted. Critics accused the company of spreading Western stereotypes. Mercedes Benz also was attacked by some Chinese online who accused it of using a model with “slanted eyes” in its advertisements on Weibo.
In Germany, Lutheran pastors are offering COVID-19 shots inside churches. In Israel’s science-skeptical ultra-Orthodox community, trusted rabbis are trying to change minds. And in South Africa, undertakers are taking to the streets to spread the word. The funeral directors’ message: “We’re burying too many people.” A year after the COVID-19 vaccine became available, traditional public health campaigns promoting vaccination are often going unheeded. So an unconventional cadre of people has joined the effort. They are opening sanctuaries and going door to door and village to village, touting the benefits of the vaccines and sometimes offering shots on the spot. As the outbreak drags on into a third year, with the global death toll at 5.4 million, vaccine promoters are up against fear, mistrust, complacency, inconvenience and people who simply have bigger worries than COVID-19.
BANGKOK (AP) — The humanitarian group Save the Children said Tuesday it has confirmed that two of its staff were among at least 35 people, including children, who were killed in eastern Myanmar on Christmas Eve in an attack it blamed on the country’s military. It said the two staff members were caught up in the attack in Kayah state as they were traveling back to their office after conducting humanitarian activities in a nearby community. “Violence against innocent civilians including aid workers is intolerable, and this senseless attack is a breach of International Humanitarian Law,” the group’s chief executive, Inger Ashing, said in a statement.