Top Asian News 4:43 a.m. GMT
BEIJING (AP) — Missing tennis star Peng Shuai reappeared in public Sunday at a youth tournament in Beijing, according to photos released by the organizer, as the ruling Communist Party tried to quell fears abroad while suppressing information in China about Peng after she accused a senior leader of sexual assault. The post by the China Open on the Weibo social media service made no mention of Peng’s disappearance or her accusation. Peng was shown standing beside a court, waving and signing oversize commemorative tennis balls for children. The appearance followed an announcement by the editor of a party newspaper Saturday on Twitter, which can’t be seen by most internet users in China, that the three-time Olympian would “show up in public” soon.
BEIJING (AP) — China reduced the level of its diplomatic relations with Lithuania to below ambassador level Sunday in retaliation for the Baltic nation allowing Taiwan, the island democracy claimed by Beijing as part of its territory, to open a representative office. China earlier expelled the Lithuanian ambassador, reflecting its intense sensitivity over the status of Taiwan, which Beijing says has no right to conduct foreign affairs. China also withdrew its own ambassador from Lithuania. The foreign ministry said relations would be downgraded to the level of charge d’affaires, an embassy’s No. 2 official. Lithuania’s move reflects growing interest among governments in expanding ties with Taiwan, a major trader and center for high-tech industry, at a time when Beijing has irritated its neighbors and Western governments with an increasingly assertive foreign and military policy.
Some of the world’s most famous tennis players, distraught by the disappearance of colleague Peng Shuai, are challenging China’s Communist Party to get answers. So far it’s a standoff with little visible impact as tennis greats like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal — joined by tennis governing bodies, human rights groups, retired players, and several athletes’ lobbies — try to turn their profiles into power. Peng, a two-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1 in doubles, disappeared after making allegations of sexual assault over two weeks ago against former vice premier Zhang Gaoli, who was a member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee and a lieutenant of General Secretary Xi Jinping.
ZRENJANIN, Serbia (AP) — They are shivering in barracks without heat, going hungry and have no money. They say their passports have been taken by their Chinese employer and that they are now stuck in a grim plainland in Serbia with no help from local authorities. These are the Vietnamese workers who are helping build the first Chinese car tire factory in Europe. The Associated Press visited the construction site in northern Serbia where some 500 of the workers are living in harsh conditions as China’s Shandong Linglong Tire Co. sets up the huge facility. The project, which Serbian and Chinese officials tout as a display of the “strategic partnership” between the two countries, has already faced scrutiny from environmentalists over potentially dangerous pollution from tire production.
HYDERABAD, India (AP) — At least 17 people have died and dozens are reported missing in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh after days of heavy rains, authorities said Saturday. The state has been hit by intense torrents since Thursday, sparking massive floods in at least five districts. The death toll rose to 17 late Friday night after three people were killed when a building collapsed, police said. Ten people trapped under the debris were rescued but two are still missing. Earlier on Friday, at least a dozen people died as heavy floods washed away the bus they were on.
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — More than 200 foreign tourists arrived on Vietnam’s largest Phu Quoc island on Saturday, the first to visit the Southeast Asian country after nearly two years of border closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The fully vaccinated travelers from South Korea will spend their holidays in hotel resorts without a mandatory 14-day quarantine. They were tested on arrival, and once the negative results are returned, they can join activities on the island including sightseeing, shopping and entertainment events that require vaccine certificates. “The program is among the country’s efforts to revive its tourism industry while reopening and developing the economy step by step under a new normal context,” said Nguyen Trung Khanh, chairman of Vietnam’s Administration of Tourism who welcomed the charter flight on the airport tarmac.
MALACCA, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s Malay party won a landslide victory in a state election Saturday, defeating its allies in the ruling coalition as well as the opposition ahead of national polls. The victory in southern Malacca state by Ismail’s United Malays National Organization, or UMNO, was seen as a bellwether that could shape alliances in national elections following a period of political turmoil. The elections are not due until 2023 but are widely expected to be called next year. UMNO had led Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957, but was ousted in 2018 elections by opposition leader Ibrahim Anwar’s reformist alliance following a multibillion-dollar financial scandal that led to the corruption conviction of former Prime Minister Najib Razak.
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) — The head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said Saturday the United States and its allies need to operate with a greater sense of urgency amid rising tensions and China’s increasingly assertive military actions. Adm. John C. Aquilino reaffirmed America’s commitment to achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific region during meetings with allies at the Halifax International Security Forum. “Look at what the Chinese have said. President Xi (Jinping) has tasked his forces to be at a level of military parity with the United States by 2027. Those are his words,” Aquilino said in a meeting with journalists.
NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise announcement Friday that he will withdraw agriculture laws that triggered a year of farmer protests, in what is seen as a major climbdown by his government. The nationwide demonstrations were the biggest challenge faced to date by his government. Experts say elections could be a major reason behind the sudden decision. ___ WHY DID MODI’S GOVERNMENT WITHDRAW THE LAWS? Experts say elections are a major reason. Farmers form the most influential voting bloc in India and politicians have long considered it unwise to alienate them. They are also particularly important to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party but have been up in arms since the laws were passed in September last year.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A prominent doctor was kidnapped and killed in northern Afghanistan, his family said Saturday. Mohamed Nader Alemi was abducted two months ago in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, and his kidnappers demanded a ransom for his release, his son Roheen Alemi said. The family eventually paid them $350,000, after negotiating down their initial demand of more than twice that, he said. Despite the payment, the kidnappers then killed Alemi, leaving his body in the street, his son said. They called the family and told them where to find it on Friday, he said. “My father was badly tortured, there are signs of harm on his body,” Roheen Alemi said.