Top Asian News 3:29 a.m. GMT
HONG KONG (AP) — Across Hong Kong, people lined up early Thursday to buy the last print edition of the last remaining pro-democracy newspaper. By 8:30 a.m., Apply Daily’s final edition of 1 million copies was sold out across most of the city’s newsstands. The newspaper said it would cease operations after police froze $2.3 million in assets, searched its office and arrested five top editors and executives last week, accusing them of foreign collusion to endanger national security — another sign Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city. In recent years, the newspaper has become increasingly outspoken, criticizing Chinese and Hong Kong authorities for limiting the city’s freedoms not found in mainland China and accusing them of reneging on a promise to protect them for 50 years after the 1997 handover from Britain.
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities have closed Beijing’s central Tiananmen Square to the public, eight days ahead of a major celebration being planned to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Communist Party. The square, which normally attracts tourists from around the country, was barricaded Wednesday and will remain closed until July 2. Rows of yellow seats and heavy machinery could be seen on the open plaza that also houses the mausoleum of Mao Zedong, the founding leader of Communist China. The party will showcase the country’s rise from civil war and disastrous political campaigns in the early years of Communist rule to market reforms that have created the world’s second largest economy, with a superpower status rivaled only by the United States.
MOSCOW (AP) — The leader of Myanmar’s military junta on Wednesday attended an international conference in Moscow, an appearance that reflected Russia’s eagerness to develop ties with the junta despite international criticism. The military in Myanmar ousted the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, claiming her party’s landslide victory in an election last November was due to massive voter fraud. It has not produced credible evidence to back its claim. Myanmar’s security forces have brutally suppressed widespread popular protests against the military takeover, killing hundreds of protesters and carrying out waves of arrests. The junta’s leader, Senior Gen.
LHASA, China (AP) — The name Tibet conjures up images of snowy peaks, vermillion temples and prayer flags snapping in the Himalayan wind. Those features remain, but the religious and cultural foundations underpinning them appear to be coming unstuck. Long defined by its Buddhist culture, the region is facing a push for assimilation and political orthodoxy under China’s ruling Communist Party. Tibetans and other minorities are seeing the use of their languages downgraded in schools and old ways of living eroded for the promise of better quality of life through mobile phones, online shopping, higher education and improved health care.
TOKYO (AP) — The Tokyo Olympics, already delayed by the pandemic, are not looking like much fun: Not for athletes. Not for fans. And not for the Japanese public. They are caught between concerns about the coronavirus at a time when few are vaccinated on one side and politicians who hope to save face by holding the games and the International Olympic Committee with billions of dollars on the line on the other. Japan is famous for running on consensus. But the decision to proceed with the Olympics — and this week to permit some fans, if only locals — has shredded it.
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 isolated 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.
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.
SYDNEY (AP) — An Australian judge on Thursday dismissed a woman’s appeal against extradition to Chile, where she is wanted on kidnapping charges dating to Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship in the 1970s. Adriana Rivas had appealed against a Sydney magistrate’s decision in October that she could be extradited on allegations that she kidnapped seven people in 1976 and 1977, including Communist Party leader Victor Diaz. She was an assistant to Manuel Contreras, the head of the DINA secret police during Pinochet’s dictatorship. Rivas, 68, denies ever meeting the alleged victims, who have never been found. Federal Court Justice Wendy Abraham in Sydney ruled that Rivas could be extradited on the seven charges of aggravated kidnap.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s foreign minister on Wednesday said his country is not even considering a resumption of stalled nuclear talks with the United States, dismissing hopes expressed by U.S. and South Korean officials for a quick resumption of negotiations. The statement by Ri Son Gwon came a day after the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a message saying that U.S. expectations of talks would “plunge them into a greater disappointment.” Hope for a restart of the nuclear talks flared briefly after Kim Jong Un instructed officials at a political conference last week to prepare for both dialogue and confrontation — though more for confrontation — with the Biden administration.
Facebook’s recommendation algorithm amplifies military propaganda and other material that breaches the company’s own policies in Myanmar following a military takeover in February, a new report by the rights group Global Witness says. A month after the military seized power in Myanmar and imprisoned elected leaders, Facebook’s algorithms were still prompting users to view and “like” pro-military pages with posts that incited and threatened violence, pushed misinformation that could lead to physical harm, praised the military and glorified its abuses, Global Witness said in the report, published late Tuesday. That’s even though the social media giant vowed to remove such content following the coup, announcing it would remove Myanmar military and military-controlled pages from its site and from Instagram, which it also owns.