Top Asian News 3:54 a.m. GMT
HONG KONG (AP) — The first person to stand trial under Hong Kong’s national security law pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the allegation he was inciting session by driving a motorcycle into police officers while carrying a protest flag. Tong Ying-kit was arrested on July 1, 2020, a day after the national security law took effect, for allegedly driving into the crowd of officers while bearing a flag with the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times.” Several officers were knocked over and three sustained injuries. Tong pleaded not guilty to three charges — terrorism, incitement of secession and dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm.
TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo’s governor will take time off to recover from severe fatigue, the metropolitan government said Wednesday, one month before the Olympics begin. As the host city’s leader, Gov. Yuriko Koike has been deeply involved with preparations for the Olympics and Paralympics as well as leading the capital’s coronavirus response. She often worked weekends and late at night on coronavirus measures and holding meetings with senior officials, and would speak briefly to reporters who waited to speak to her at the entrance of the metropolitan government building. At an online meeting related to COVID-19 on Tuesday, she apologized for her hoarse voice.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — After enjoying nearly four months without any community transmission of the coronavirus, New Zealanders were on edge Wednesday after health authorities said an infectious traveler from Australia had visited over the weekend. New Zealand has taken a zero-tolerance approach to the pandemic and continues to pursue an elimination strategy. The country’s response has been among the most effective in the world and the nation of 5 million people has recorded just 26 COVID-19 deaths. But its vaccination campaign has been far slower than in most developed countries, with just 13% of the population having gotten their first dose.
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke with three astronauts who are making the country’s space station their home for the next three months, and called their mission an important milestone in China’s space industry. The crew consisting of former air force pilots Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo arrived at the Tianhe space station last week. Throughout their stay, they will carry out science experiments and maintenance, space walks and prepare the station for receiving two additional modules next year. Xi asked Wednesday morning after their health and living situation aboard the station. The astronauts, standing ramrod straight in a row, answered in the affirmative.
BANGKOK (AP) — The U.K. launched negotiations Tuesday to join a trans-Pacific trade bloc as it looks to explore new opportunities following its departure from the European Union and strengthen its strategic interests in Asia. The start of talks to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, made up of 11 counties with a combined half billion people, came as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab met with his counterpart and other Vietnamese officials during his fifth visit to Southeast Asia in his current job. Britain is also looking to attain “dialogue partnership” status with the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, as it pursues a “tilt” toward the Indo-Pacific region in response to China’s growing influence on the world stage that was recommended by a recent British government review of defense and foreign policy.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Nearly a hundred carcasses of turtles with throat and shell damage, as well as a dozen dead dolphins and a blue whale, have washed ashore in Sri Lanka since a container ship burned and sank, raising fears of a severe marine disaster. Ecologists believe the deaths were directly caused by the fire and release of hazardous chemicals while the Singapore-flagged X-Press Pearl burned for 12 days and sank last week off Sri Lanka’s main port in the capital Colombo. Government officials, however, said these causes were “provisionally” confirmed and the investigation was continuing. The fire started on the ship on May 20 and dead marine species started washing ashore days later.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia said Tuesday it will fight against plans to downgrade the Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage status due to climate change, while environmentalists have applauded the U.N. World Heritage Committee’s proposal. The committee said in a draft report on Monday that “there is no possible doubt” that the network of colorful corals off Australia’s northeast coast was “facing ascertained danger.” The report recommends that the world’s most extensive coral reef ecosystem be added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger, which includes 53 sites, when the World Heritage Committee considers the question in China in July.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine president has threatened to order the arrest of Filipinos who refuse COVID-19 vaccination and told them to leave the country if they would not cooperate with efforts to end a public health emergency. President Rodrigo Duterte, who is known for his public outbursts and brash rhetoric, said in televised remarks Monday night that he has become exasperated with people who refuse to get immunized amid a health crisis then help spread the coronavirus. “Don’t get me wrong. There is a crisis being faced in this country. There is a national emergency. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested and I’ll inject the vaccine in your butt,” Duterte said.
BANGKOK (AP) — A deadly shootout between security forces and militants opposed to army rule erupted Tuesday in Myanmar’s second biggest city when a raid was carried out on a building that the government described as a hideout of “terrorists.” At least eight people were killed in the gun battle in Mandalay, the military-run Myawaddy Television’s news service reported. The word “terrorists” is generally used by the government and state media to refer to members of the armed resistance that has arisen against the February military takeover that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. A video that circulated widely on social media showed a soldier just outside the besieged property firing a rocket-propelled grenade at the building, a boarding house.