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Top Asian News 3:39 a.m. GMT

July 1, 2021 GMT

Firmly in control, China’s Communist Party marks centenary

BEIJING (AP) — China will not allow itself to be bullied and anyone who tries will face “broken heads and bloodshed in front of the iron Great Wall of the 1.4 billion Chinese people,” President Xi Jinping said at a mass gathering Thursday to mark the centenary of the ruling Communist Party. Wearing a grey buttoned-up suit of the type worn by Mao Zedong, Xi spoke from the balcony of Tiananmen Gate, emphasizing the party’s role in bringing China to global prominence and saying it would never be divided from the people. Xi, also head of the party and leader of the armed forces, also said China had restored order in Hong Kong following anti-government protests in the semi-autonomous city in 2019 and reiterated Beijing’s determination to bring self-governing Taiwan under its control.

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Hong Kong’s No. 2 official says security law allows freedoms

HONG KONG (AP) — Marking the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese control, a top city official defended the national security law imposed by Beijing and said Thursday it would be used further in the coming year to ensure stability. Hong Kong Chief Secretary John Lee said the law stipulates that human rights be respected and allows residents to enjoy freedom of the press and free assembly. The security law was implemented one year ago as authorities cracked down on dissent in Hong Kong after the territory was rocked by mass anti-government protests in 2019. Since then, large-scale demonstrations have been banned and a number of pro-democracy activists and journalists have been arrested, have ceased public activities or have left Hong Kong.

As it turns 100, China’s ruling party grooms new faithful

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JINGGANGSHAN, China (AP) — Backs straight, heads high, three dozen Communist Party members in red neckties who hope for leadership posts belt out a poem by revolutionary leader Mao Zedong at a historic mountainside battle site in central China. “We stay upright even as we’re surrounded by countless enemy forces!” declare the men and women, who are on a two-week course at the China Executive Leadership Academy. “Together, we will defeat the enemy!” As the party celebrates the 100th anniversary of its 1921 founding, training centers such as the one in Jinggangshan play a key role in efforts by President Xi Jinping’s government to extend its control over a changing society.

AP PHOTOS: China’s Communist Party marks centenary

BEIJING (AP) — China’s ruling Communist Party is marking its centenary with fireworks and fanfare. Since seizing power amid civil war in 1949, the party has undergone a tumultuous history, but president and party leader Xi Jinping is emphasizing the country’s rise to economic, military and diplomatic power over the past four decades since reforms were enacted. Commemorations are to continue through Thursday’s anniversary of the party’s founding as an underground political movement in 1921. Going unmentioned are the disasters brought under the founder of the Communist state, Mao Zedong, as well as the bloody military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Activists, journalists included in Myanmar prisoner release

BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar’s government began releasing about 2,300 prisoners on Wednesday, including activists who were detained for protesting against the military’s seizure of power in February and journalists who reported on the protests, officials said. Buses took prisoners out of Yangon’s Insein Prison, where friends and families of detainees had waited since morning for the announced releases. It is standard practice to take freed prisoners to the police stations where they were originally booked to complete the processing for their freedom. Zaw Zaw, head of the Yangon Region’s Prison Department, confirmed that more than 720 people were released from the prison, which for decades has been the main facility for political prisoners.

Thailand bets on ‘Phuket sandbox’ program to save tourism

PHUKET, Thailand (AP) — Somsak Betlao covered the outboard motor on his traditional wooden longtail boat with a tarp, wrapping up another day on Phuket’s Patong beach where not a single tourist needed his services shuttling them to nearby islands. Since Thailand’s pandemic restrictions on travel were imposed in early 2020, tourism has fallen off a cliff, and nowhere has it been felt more than the resort island off the country’s southern coast, where nearly 95% of the economy is related to the industry. So, despite spiking coronavirus numbers elsewhere in the country, the government is forging ahead with a program known as the “Phuket sandbox” to reopen the island to fully vaccinated visitors.

A traveler’s checklist for Thailand’s Phuket sandbox program

PHUKET, Thailand (AP) — Starting Thursday, Thailand will welcome back international visitors — as long as they are vaccinated — to its famous southern resort island of Phuket without having to be cooped up in a hotel room for a 14-day quarantine. Those planning to see the rest of Thailand must stay a minimum of two weeks during which they will be free to roam the island, where preparations include having a major proportion of the local population inoculated for COVID-19. Those passing through en route to other countries can book shorter stays. After a stay of 14 days or more, visitors will be able to travel relatively freely elsewhere in Thailand — subject to the same health restrictions as Thai travelers.

Variant surge at border forces Bangladesh into new lockdown

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — In a state-run hospital near Bangladesh’s border with India, Shahinul Islam prays his father does not become one of the facility’s more than 300 patients who’ve died this month from the coronavirus. Hundreds like his father are struggling to breathe in the COVID-19 treatment unit, while Islam waits in an emergency room packed with people. Relatives rush in and out, desperately trying to find oxygen cylinders for their loved ones. The crowds of COVID-19 patients and worried kin are new scenes for the 1,200-bed Rajshahi Medical College Hospital, which serves border communities being overrun by the more infectious delta variant first detected in neighboring India.

EXPLAINER: How bad is the pandemic in North Korea?

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — After saying for months that it kept the coronavirus at bay, North Korea on Wednesday came closest to admitting that its anti-virus campaign has been less than perfect. Kim Jong Un’s mention of a “great crisis” created by a “crucial” failure in national pandemic measures during a ruling party meeting has triggered outside speculation about how bad the situation in North Korea may be. A look at some of the clues: ___ EXPERTS DIVIDED OVER EPIDEMIC Du Hyeogn Cha, an analyst at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said the North could be dealing with a huge COVID-19 outbreak that has spread beyond border towns and rural areas and is now reaching urban centers, possibly including capital Pyongyang.

Most European troops exit Afghanistan quietly after 20 years

BERLIN (AP) — Most European troops have already pulled out of Afghanistan, quietly withdrawing months before the U.S.-led mission was officially expected to end — part of an anticlimactic close to the “forever war” that risks leaving the country on the brink of civil war. Germany and Italy declared their missions in Afghanistan over on Wednesday and Poland’s last troops returned home, bringing their deployments to a low-key end nearly 20 years after the first Western soldiers were deployed there. Announcements from several countries analyzed by The Associated Press show that a majority of European troops has now left with little ceremony — a stark contrast to the dramatic and public show of force and unity when NATO allies lined up to back the U.S.