Top Asian News 4:50 a.m. GMT
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — An Australian judge who will decide whether top-ranked tennis star Novak Djokovic plays in the Australian Open questioned on Monday what more the Serbian could have done to meet Australia’s coronavirus entry requirements. The 34-year-old is fighting deportation and the cancellation of his visa in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. The Australian government canceled his visa shortly after he arrived in Melbourne late Wednesday because officials decided he didn’t meet the criteria for an exemption to an entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Djokovic, who court documents say is unvaccinated, argued he did not need proof of vaccination because he had evidence that he had been infected with the coronavirus last month.
SYDNEY (AP) — Novak Djokovic spent a fourth day on Sunday among the unwilling occupants of Melbourne’s Park Hotel. The tennis superstar awaited court proceedings on Monday that will determine whether he can defend his Australian Open title or whether he will be deported — and the world has shown keen interest in his temporary accommodation. His fellow residents in the immigration detention hotel include refugees and asylum-seekers who are challenging their own proceedings that have all lasted much longer than Djokovic’s. So long in some cases they feel forgotten. Djokovic’s mere presence at the hotel, a squat and unattractive building on the leafy fringe of the city’s downtown, has drawn the world’s eyes to those other residents and their ongoing struggles with the Australian immigration system.
BEIJING (AP) — The numbers are small, but the major port of Tianjin may be facing China’s first local outbreak of omicron of any size, less than a month before the Winter Olympics open in nearby Beijing. State broadcaster CCTV said the government has divided Tianjin and its 14 million residents into three levels of restrictions, starting with lockdown areas where people are not allowed to leave their homes at all. In control areas, each household is allowed to have one family member leave to buy groceries every other day, while in prevention areas, people must remain inside their immediate neighborhoods.
MOSCOW (AP) — Kazakhstan authorities said Sunday that 164 people, including a 4-year-old girl, were killed in a week of protests that marked the worst unrest since the former Soviet republic gained independence 30 years ago. The office of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said order has been restored in the Central Asian country and that the government has regained control of all buildings that were taken over by the protesters. Some of the buildings were set on fire. Sporadic gunfire was heard Sunday in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, according to the Russian TV station Mir-24, but it was unclear whether those were warning shots by law enforcement.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The president of debt-ridden Sri Lanka on Sunday asked China for the restructuring of its loans and access to preferential credit for imports of essential goods, as the island nation struggles in the throes of its worst economic crisis, partly due to Beijing-financed projects that don’t generate revenue. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa told visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that it would be “a great relief to the country if attention could be paid on restructuring the debt repayments as a solution to the economic crisis that has arisen in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a statement from his office.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Roads at a popular Pakistani resort were cleared Sunday after the deaths of 22 people who were stuck in their cars during a heavy snowstorm as temperatures plummeted, officials said. More than 4 feet (1 meter) of snow fell in the area of the Murree Hills resort in the town of Murree near the capital Islamabad on Friday night and early Saturday. The heavy snow caused hundreds of vehicles to become buried or otherwise stuck. Most of the victims suffered hypothermia as temperatures fell to minus 8 degrees Celsius (17.6 Fahrenheit). A rescue physician said some died of carbon monoxide poisoning from running their car heaters while their mufflers were choked by snow.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban have arrested a popular university professor and outspoken critic of successive Afghan governments, including the new rulers in Kabul, the group’s spokesman said Sunday. Zabihullah Mujahid said in a tweet that professor Faizuallah Jalal was being held by the Taliban’s intelligence arm. The group accused the professor of “nonsense remarks on social media, which were provoking people against the government and playing with people’s dignity.” In the capital of Kabul a small group of women protested Jalal’s detention. They chanted: “Talking is not a crime, professor Jalal is not a criminal, we want professor Jalal’s release, professor Jalal’s voice is the people’s voice, Talking is not a crime.” Afghanistan faces a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions, with the United Nations warning that 90% of the country’s 38 million people are in dire need.
TOKYO (AP) — The U.S. and Japan on Sunday agreed to keep American troops within their bases as worries grew about a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in the country. The restrictions starting Monday will last 14 days, confining U.S. military personnel to base facilities except for “essential activities,” a statement from the U.S. Forces in Japan said. The Japanese Foreign Ministry released the same statement. The allies will share information and cooperate on coronavirus measures, “given the extraordinary virulence of the omicron variant spreading throughout Japan,” the statement said. U.S. military members will wear masks, both on and off base, when outside their homes, and will continue to carry out strict testing before leaving for and after arrival in Japan, it said.
SYDNEY (AP) — Australia’s New South Wales state reported 16 deaths on Sunday in its deadliest day of the pandemic, even as it relaxed rules to allow some essential workers in isolation to return to work if they are asymptomatic. Just over 30,000 new cases were reported in Australia’s most populous state, forcing those people to join more than 200,000 others in isolation. No statistics are kept to determine how many of those are essential workers in the food and manufacturing sectors. But some employers say up to half of their workers have been furloughed after coming into contact with a positive case.
QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani counterterrorism police killed six militants from the Islamic State group in an overnight raid at a hideout in the southwestern city of Quetta. A police statement issued Sunday said the raid was carried out in the provincial capital’s Manzoor Shaheed precinct area. It said the raid was based on strong intelligence the militants were preparing to stage an attack in the city. The militants opened fire when the police arrived and lobbed grenades. The ensuing exchange of fire continued for well over an hour and six militants were killed, the statement said. Some managed to escape in the dark and they were being sought, it said.