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Top Asian News 2:38 a.m. GMT

July 23, 2021 GMT

EXPLAINER: Why Japan ‘rising sun’ flag provokes Olympic ire

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Japan considers the “rising sun” flag part of its history. But some in the Koreas, China and other Asian countries say the flag is a reminder of Japan’s wartime atrocities, and is comparable to the Nazi swastika. That’s why the flag has created anger at the Olympics, with some of the host nation’s neighbors calling for it to be banned during the Tokyo Games, which start Friday. There’s little prospect that ties between Seoul and Tokyo will improve any time soon. But the flag dispute may ease. Some experts say the COVID-19 restrictions that have banned spectators at most Olympic venues stadiums may prevent the disagreement from growing.

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Tokyo new virus cases near 2,000 a day before Olympics open

TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo hit another six-month high in new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, one day before the Olympics begin, as worries grow of a worsening of infections during the Games. Thursday’s 1,979 new cases are the highest since 2,044 were recorded on Jan. 15. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is determined to hold the Olympics, placed Tokyo under a state of emergency on July 12, but daily cases have sharply increased since then. The emergency measures, which largely involve a ban on alcohol sales and shorter hours for restaurants and bars, are to last until Aug. 22, after the Olympics end on Aug.

EXPLAINER: What’s the history of the Olympics protest rule?

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TOKYO (AP) — The simple act of taking a knee felt like something more monumental when it happened on Olympic soccer pitches in Japan on the opening night of action. Players from the United States, Sweden, Chile, Britain and New Zealand women’s teams went to a knee before their games Wednesday night, anti-racism gestures the likes of which had not been seen before on the Olympic stage. They figured to be the first of many of these sort of demonstrations over the three-week stay in Tokyo. The Olympic rule banning such demonstrations at the Games has been hotly debated and contested for decades, and those issues reached a flashpoint over the past two years.

Olympic opening ceremony director fired for Holocaust joke

TOKYO (AP) — The Tokyo Olympic organizing committee fired the director of the opening ceremony on Thursday because of a Holocaust joke he made during a comedy show in 1998. Organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said a day ahead of the opening ceremony that director Kentaro Kobayashi has been dismissed. He was accused of using a joke about the Holocaust in his comedy act, including the phrase “Let’s play Holocaust.” “We found out that Mr. Kobayashi, in his own performance, has used a phrase ridiculing a historical tragedy,” Hashimoto said. “We deeply apologize for causing such a development the day before the opening ceremony and for causing troubles and concerns to many involved parties as well as the people in Tokyo and the rest of the country.” Tokyo has been plagued with scandals since being awarded the Games in 2013.

Room for 10,000: Inside China’s largest detention center

DABANCHENG, China (AP) — The Uyghur inmates sat in uniform rows with their legs crossed in lotus position and their backs ramrod straight, numbered and tagged, gazing at a television playing grainy black-and-white images of Chinese Communist Party history. This is one of an estimated 240 cells in just one section of Urumqi No. 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng, seen by Associated Press journalists granted extraordinary access during a state-led tour to China’s far west Xinjiang region. The detention center is the largest in the country and possibly the world, with a complex that sprawls over 220 acres — making it twice as large as Vatican City.

Death rates soar in Southeast Asia as virus wave spreads

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Indonesia has converted nearly its entire oxygen production to medical use just to meet the demand from COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe. Overflowing hospitals in Malaysia had to resort to treating patients on the floor. And in Myanmar’s largest city, graveyard workers have been laboring day and night to keep up with the grim demand for new cremations and burials. Images of bodies burning in open-air pyres during the peak of the pandemic in India horrified the world in May, but in the last two weeks the three Southeast Asian nations have now all surpassed India’s peak per capita death rate as a new coronavirus wave, fueled by the virulent delta variant, tightens its grip on the region.

China rebuffs WHO’s terms for further COVID-19 origins study

BEIJING (AP) — China cannot accept the World Health Organization’s plan for the second phase of a study into the origins of COVID-19, a senior Chinese health official said Thursday. Zeng Yixin, the vice minister of the National Health Commission, said he was “rather taken aback” that the plan includes further investigation of the theory that the virus might have leaked from a Chinese lab. He dismissed the lab leak idea as a rumor that runs counter to common sense and science. “It is impossible for us to accept such an origin-tracing plan,” he said at a news conference called to address the COVID-19 origins issue.

Hong Kong police arrest 5 trade union members for sedition

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong police on Thursday arrested five trade union members over children’s books they described as seditious, and a court denied bail for four editors and journalists held on charges of endangering national security, as part of a widening crackdown on dissent in the city. The five who were arrested are members of the General Association of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, according to local media reports. The association published three children’s books that Li Kwai-wah, a senior superintendent of the national security department, said have seditious intent. The books feature stories that revolve around a village of sheep that has to deal with wolves from a different village.

Crafty cockatoos master dumpster diving and teach each other

WASHINGTON (AP) — A few years ago, a Sydney scientist noticed a sulfur-crested cockatoo opening his trash bin. Not every resident would be thrilled, but ornithologist Richard Major was impressed by the ingenuity. It’s quite a feat for a bird to grasp a bin lid with its beak, pry it open, then shuffle far enough along the bin’s edge that the lid falls backward — revealing edible trash treasures inside. Intrigued, Major teamed up with researchers in Germany to study how many cockatoos learned this trick. In early 2018, they found from a survey of residents that birds in three Sydney suburbs had mastered the novel foraging technique.

Police: Man defrauded Chinese pop singer in sex scandal

BEIJING (AP) — A man has confessed to defrauding a Chinese-Canadian pop singer, Kris Wu, over a teenager’s accusation he had sex with her when she was drunk, Beijing police said Thursday. The announcement added a bizarre twist to a scandal that cost Wu endorsement contracts with brands including Porsche and Bulgari. The former member of Korean boy band EXO has denied the accusation, which prompted an outpouring of support for the woman online and criticism of Wu. A man who saw rumors about the incident online contacted the woman in June and obtained information that allowed him to pretend to be her lawyer, police said in a statement.