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Top Asian News 4:57 a.m. GMT

December 1, 2022 GMT

Hong Kong publisher’s national security trial postponed

HONG KONG (AP) — The trial of a Hong Kong newspaper publisher who was arrested in a crackdown on a pro-democracy movement was postponed Thursday after the territory’s leader asked China to effectively block him from hiring a British defense lawyer. Jimmy Lai, 74, faces a possible life sentence if convicted under a national security law imposed by the ruling Communist Party on the former British colony. The government objected after judges on Monday approved Lai’s plan to hire Timothy Owen, a veteran human rights lawyer. Chief Executive John Lee asked China’s Communist Party-controlled ceremonial legislature to decide whether foreign lawyers who didn’t normally practice in Hong Kong could be rejected for national security cases.

Jiang Zemin, who guided China’s economic rise, dies

BEIJING (AP) — Jiang Zemin, who led China out of isolation after the army crushed the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989 and supported economic reforms that led to a decade of explosive growth, died Wednesday. He was 96. Jiang, who was president for a decade until 2003 and led the ruling Communist Party for 13 years until 2002, died of leukemia and multiple organ failure in Shanghai, state media reported. His death comes after the party faced its most widespread public show of opposition in decades when crowds called for leader Xi Jinping to resign during weekend protests of anti-virus controls that are confining millions of people to their homes.

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China vows crackdown on ‘hostile forces’ as public tests Xi

BEIJING (AP) — China’s ruling Communist Party has vowed to “resolutely crack down on infiltration and sabotage activities by hostile forces,” following the largest street demonstrations in decades by citizens fed up with strict anti-virus restrictions. A massive show of force by the security services Wednesday sought to deter further protests. The statement from the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission released late Tuesday followed protests that broke out over the weekend in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and several other cities. While it did not directly address the protests, the statement was a reminder of the party’s determination to enforce its rule.

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North Korea’s Kim calls for meeting to review state affairs

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for a major political conference before year’s end where he’s expected to address his increasingly tense relations with Washington and Seoul over the expansion of his nuclear and missile programs. North Korea’s state media said Thursday that Kim presided over a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Politburo in which members reviewed the implementation of state policies in 2022 and decided to hold a larger plenary meeting of the party’s Central Committee at an unspecified time in late December. Kim in recent years has used political conferences in late December or early January to review state affairs and reveal his most important goals in economic and foreign policy and arms development.

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Chinese vaccine plans spark hope for end of ‘zero COVID’

BEIJING (AP) — A campaign to vaccinate the elderly has sparked hopes China might roll back severe anti-virus controls that prompted protesters to demand President Xi Jinping resign, but the country faces daunting hurdles and up to a year of hard work before “zero COVID” can end. Stock markets rose after the National Health Commission on Tuesday announced the long-awaited campaign. A low vaccination rate is one of the biggest obstacles to ending curbs that have confined millions of people to their homes, depressed the economy and kept most visitors out of China. Health officials gave no indication how long it might take.

Taliban: 10 killed in bombing of Afghan religious school

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A bomb blast hit a religious school in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing at least 10 students, a Taliban official said. The explosion went off at around the time of afternoon prayers at the Al Jihad Madrassa in Aybak, capital of Samangan province, a resident of the city who heard the explosion told The Associated Press. Most of the students at the school are young boys, said the resident, speaking on condition of anonymity for his own safety. Video distributed by the Taliban to the media showed the blast site, a hall littered with debris, mats and shoes, with dead bodies and bloodstains on the floor.

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Hong Kong publisher Lai faces Security Law in delayed trial

HONG KONG (AP) — Jimmy Lai broke into Hong Kong’s rambunctious media world 30 years ago armed with the belief that delivering information equates with protecting freedom. Lai’s own freedom is at stake as he fights charges of endangering national security as former publisher of his now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily. Already serving a 20-month term for other offenses, the 74-year-old Lai could face up to life in prison if he is convicted under a sweeping National Security Law that Beijing has imposed on the former British colony, silencing or jailing many pro-democracy activists. The high-profile trial was to begin Thursday but was postponed due to a request from Hong Kong’s Department of Justice based on its objection over whether Lai’s British lawyer will be allowed to defend him.

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Russian, Chinese bombers fly joint patrols over Pacific

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian and Chinese strategic bombers on Wednesday flew a joint patrol over the western Pacific in a show of increasingly close defense ties between the two countries. The Russian Defense Ministry said that the Tu-95 bombers of the Russian air force and the Chinese H-6K bombers flew over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea during an eight-hour mission. As part of the drills, the Russian bombers for the first time landed in China and the Chinese bombers flew to an air base in Russia, the ministry said in a statement. It noted that the joint patrols weren’t directed against any other country.

Hong Kong official warns lockdown protests hurt security

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s security minister on Wednesday warned that the city’s protests against China’s anti-virus restrictions were a “rudiment of another color revolution” and urged residents not to participate in activities that might hurt national security. Chris Tang said some events on university campuses and the city’s streets had attempted to incite others to target China’s central government in the name of commemorating a deadly fire in the country’s far west last week. “This is not a coincidence but highly organized,” he told reporters at the legislature. Protests erupted in major mainland cities over the weekend after the blaze that killed at least 10 in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, prompted angry questions about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by COVID restrictions.

Tokyo court: Lack of law for same-sex union unconstitutional

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s lack of law to protect the rights of same-sex couples to marry and become families violates the constitution, the Tokyo District Court ruled Wednesday in a closely watched case in a country still largely bound by traditional gender roles and family values. The court, however, said the government’s lack of legislative action is not illegal and threw out plaintiffs’ compensation demands of 1 million yen ($7,215) each. Still, the ruling was a partial victory for LGBTQ couples. There is no rationality to justify the absence of legal protection for same-sex couples and “it is in a state of violation” of the Article 24 of the Japanese Constitution, the court said.