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Top Asian News 4:58 a.m. GMT

December 23, 2021 GMT

Hong Kong university removes Tiananmen massacre statue

HONG KONG (AP) — A monument at a Hong Kong university that commemorates the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre was removed by workers early Thursday over the objections of its creator from Denmark. The 8-meter (26-foot) tall Pillar of Shame, which depicts 50 torn and twisted bodies piled on top of each other, was made by Danish sculptor Jens Galschiøt to symbolize the lives lost during the bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Workers barricaded the monument at the University of Hong Kong late Wednesday night. Drilling sounds and loud clanging could be heard coming from the boarded-up site, which was patrolled by guards.


China orders lockdown of up to 13 million people in Xi’an

BEIJING (AP) — China ordered the lockdown of as many as 13 million people in neighborhoods and workplaces in the northern city of Xi’an following a spike in coronavirus cases, setting off panic buying just weeks before the country hosts the Winter Olympic Games. State media reported that city officials ordered all residents to stay home unless they had a pressing reason to go out and suspended all transport to and from the city apart from special cases. One person from each household will be permitted out every two days to buy household necessities, the order said. It took effect at midnight Wednesday, with no word on when it might be lifted.

China’s Xi endorses Hong Kong’s ‘patriots only’ election


BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Wednesday endorsed Hong Kong’s first legislative elections held under new laws ensuring that only “patriots” who have shown loyalty to Beijing could run as candidates. Sunday’s elections for the 90-seat Legislative Council were swept by politicians backed by China’s ruling Communist Party. Just 20 seats were directly elected, and the turnout of 30.2% was the lowest since the British handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. All candidates were vetted by a largely pro-Beijing committee before they could be nominated. Xi told Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie in Beijing on Wednesday that after the elections, he is certain Hong Kongers will join in “realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” “The execution of the new election system adheres to the “one country, two systems” principle,” Xi said, referring to the increasingly threadbare framework under which Hong Kong was to retain its own political, social and financial institutions for 50 years after being transferred from British rule.

S. Korea marks deadliest day of pandemic as omicron looms

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea set a new record for COVID-19 deaths on Thursday as officials warned that the highly transmissible omicron variant could soon become the dominant strain. In recent weeks, South Korea has been grappling with soaring infections and deaths after it significantly relaxed restrictions in early November as part of efforts to return to pre-pandemic normalcy. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said a record 109 people died in the last 24-hour period, raising the country’s total number of pandemic fatalities to 5,015. It said the number of patients in serious or critical conditions also hit a fresh high of 1,083.

Australian state reimposes masks after major spike in cases

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia on Thursday reported a major spike in coronavirus infections, prompting the worst-hit state of New South Wales to reimpose mask wearing indoors, a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected lockdowns or mask mandates for the entire country to slow the spread of the omicron variant. New South Wales recorded 5,715 new cases, up from 3,763 and almost as many as were recorded across all of Australia on Wednesday. New South Wales also reported one death. There were 347 people in New South Wales hospitals, up from 302 the previous day, and 45 in intensive care units, up from 40.

Myanmar fighting forces 4,200 people to flee into Thailand

BANGKOK (AP) — Fighting between Myanmar government forces and ethnic guerrillas has sent about 4,200 villagers fleeing across the border into Thailand over the past week, a Thai army officer said Wednesday. That number includes more than 2,500 who fled into Thailand on Friday from territory held by the ethic Karen minority. A similar wave took place in April, when several thousand villagers from Myanmar’s eastern state of Karen fled following airstrikes by the Myanmar government. Usually when such incidents occur, the villagers are allowed to stay in Thailand for a few days and then are returned to Myanmar. The Karen are one of several ethnic minorities that have been battling for decades for greater autonomy from Myanmar’s central government.

Landslide in Myanmar mining area leaves dozens missing

BANGKOK (AP) — A landslide at a remote jade mine in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state killed one person and left at least 70 missing Wednesday and a search and rescue operation was underway, rescue officials said. Reports were scant from the area in Hpakant, which is the center of the world’s biggest and most lucrative jade mining industry. It’s a region where sporadic fighting has broken out between the Myanmar army and ethnic guerrilla forces. Gayunar Rescue Team official Nyo Chaw, who was coordinating the effort, said more than 70 miners who were digging for jade were swept into a lake a couple of hours before dawn when the landslide hit.

China defends science exchange program following US arrest

BEIJING (AP) — China on Wednesday defended its international scientific exchange programs in the wake of the conviction of a Harvard University professor charged with hiding his ties to a Chinese-run recruitment program. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China manages such exchanges along the same lines as the U.S. and other countries. U.S. agencies and officials should not “stigmatize” such programs and “instead do something conducive to China-U.S. scientific and people-to-people exchanges and cooperation,” Zhao said. Charles Lieber, 62, the former chair of Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, pleaded not guilty to filing false tax returns, making false statements, and failing to file reports for a foreign bank account in China.

Court upholds US cockfighting ban, rejects challenge in Guam

HONOLULU (AP) — A U.S. appeals court ruling Wednesday affirmed a ban against cockfighting in U.S. territories. A panel of 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges ruled against a Guam businessman whose 2019 lawsuit argued the ban was unconstitutional. Sedfrey Linsangan said in his lawsuit that “gamefowl raising and competition” is part of his “culture, custom and tradition.” In 2018, former President Donald Trump signed a law banning all animal fighting in U.S. territories. The law took effect in 2019. Prior to the law, cockfighting had been illegal in the 50 states but not U.S. territories. Linsangan appealed after a U.S.

Development and conservation clash at Komodo National Park

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — On a dirt path, forked yellow tongue darting from its mouth, a member of the world’s largest lizard species lazes on an island in eastern Indonesia’s Komodo National Park as tourists snap photos. And about 18 miles (30 kilometers) away on another park island that harbors Komodo dragons, trees have been removed and concrete poured for new tourist facilities that have aroused the ire of residents and environmental activists. The construction is part of an ambitious Indonesian initiative that has generated tensions between a government that wants to develop natural attractions for luxury tourism and conservationists who fear habitat for the endangered Komodo dragon will be irreparably harmed.