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Top Asian News 3:49 a.m. GMT

July 11, 2021 GMT

Police arrest Bangladesh factory owners after fire kills 52

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Police in Bangladesh arrested eight people Saturday on murder charges in connection with a factory fire that killed at least 52 people, many of whom were trapped inside by an illegally locked door, a senior police official said. The blaze began Thursday night at the five-story Hashem Foods Ltd. factory in Rupganj, just outside the capital Dhaka, sending huge clouds of black smoke billowing into the sky. Police discovered piles of bodies Friday afternoon after the fire was extinguished. “We have arrested them for murder charges,” Jayedul Alam, police superintendent for Narayanganj district, told The Associated Press by phone.

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Osaka returns to spotlight on red carpet at The ESPYS

Naomi Osaka returned to the spotlight for the first time since withdrawing from the French Open in May and skipping Wimbledon, posing on the red carpet at The ESPYS on Saturday night. The world’s highest-paid female athlete faced a slew of photographers in New York, with one being heard urging her, “Nice smile” as cameras clicked furiously. Osaka offered a faint closed-mouth smile in response. Osaka won trophies as the best athlete in women’s sports and best women’s tennis player at the annual show honoring the year’s top athletes and sports moments. It was moved from Los Angeles to New York for an outdoor, socially distanced show this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hong Kong pro-democracy group downsizes amid crackdown

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HONG KONG (AP) — One of Hong Kong’s most established pro-democracy civic organizations said it is letting go its paid staff and halving the size of its steering committee after Beijing stepped up its crackdown on opposition activity in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China is best known for organizing an annual rally and candlelight vigil remembering those killed in the bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The group said in a statement Saturday that seven of its 14 remaining steering committee members had decided to step down in the face of “growing political and legal risks.” Of the seven members remaining, three are currently in jail for protest-related activities — chairman Lee Cheuk-yan as well as vice chairmen Albert Ho Chun-yan and Chow Hang-tung.

Indonesia short on oxygen, seeks help as virus cases soar

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Just two months ago, Indonesia was coming to a gasping India’s aid with thousands of tanks of oxygen. Today, the Southeast Asia country is running out of oxygen as it endures a devastating wave of coronavirus cases and the government is seeking emergency supplies from other countries, including Singapore and China. A shipment of more than 1,000 oxygen cylinders, concentrators, ventilators and other health devices arrived from Singapore on Friday, followed by another 1,000 ventilators from Australia, said Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the government minister in charge of Indonesia’s pandemic response. Beside those donations, Indonesia plans to buy 36,000 tons of oxygen and 10,000 concentrators — devices that generate oxygen — from neighboring Singapore, Pandjaitan said.

Chinese regulator halts Huya-Douyu game-streaming merger

HONG KONG (AP) — China’s market regulator on Saturday blocked the merger of Tencent-backed game streaming platforms Douyu and Huya following an anti-monopoly investigation, as authorities ramp up scrutiny of some of the country’s biggest technology companies. Huya and Douyu — which provide videogame live-streaming services akin to Twitch in the U.S. — are two of the largest companies of their kind in China. Both count gaming firm Tencent among their investors. China’s State Administration for Market Regulation said in a statement that a merger between Huya and Douyu would give Tencent control over the merged entity. “From the perspective of different key indicators like revenue, number of active users, resources for streamers, the total share is very substantial and the elimination and restriction of competition can be foreseen,” the statement said.

AP PHOTOS: Scarf, comb show changes to Hindu cremation rites

GAUHATI, India (AP) — A comb. A toothbrush. A bangle. A cotton scarf — protection from the summer heat now used as a face mask. The personal belongings of cremated COVID-19 victims lie strewn around the grounds of the Ulubari cremation ground in Gauhati, the biggest city in India’s remote northeast. It’s a fundamental change from the rites and traditions that surround death in the Hindu religion. And, perhaps, also reflects the grim fears grieving people — shaken by the deaths of their loved ones — have of the coronavirus in India, where more than 405,000 people have died. Hindus believe cremation of the body frees the soul so it can be reborn, and they often burn belongings that were with the body at the time of the death.

AP Interview: Afghan warlord slams govt, quick US goodbye

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan (AP) — A powerful warlord in northern Afghanistan and a key U.S. ally in the 2001 defeat of the Taliban blames a fractious Afghan government and an “irresponsible” American departure for the insurgents’ recent rapid territorial gains across the north. Ata Mohammad Noor, who is among those behind the latest attempt to halt the Taliban advances by creating more militias, told The Associated Press that the Afghan military is badly demoralized. He said Washington’s quick exit left the Afghan military logistically unprepared for the Taliban onslaught. In an interview at his opulent home in Mazar-e-Sharif, the main city of the north, he said that even he had not expected the Taliban’s rapid wins, particularly in nearby Badakhshan province in the country’s northeast corner.

China orders takedown of 25 apps from ride service Didi

BEIJING (AP) — China’s regulator ordered the removal from app stores of 25 apps owned by Didi Global Inc., the country’s largest ride-hailing service, citing severe violations of rules against collecting personal data. The Cyberspace Administration of China had already taken down the main Didi app last Sunday, pending a cybersecurity review, after it debuted on the U.S. stock market last week. The 25 additional apps include Didi Enterprises, as well as ones designed for Didi drivers. A spokesperson for Didi did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The move comes after Chinese authorities said earlier this week they would step up supervision of companies listed overseas.

The Latest: Largest Navajo Nation casino is set to reopen

‘Overdue’: Biden sets Aug. 31 for US exit from Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden says the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan will end on Aug. 31, delivering an impassioned argument for exiting the nearly 20-year war without sacrificing more American lives even as he bluntly acknowledged there will be no “mission accomplished” moment to celebrate. Biden pushed back against the notion the U.S. mission has failed but also noted that it remains unlikely the government would control all of Afghanistan after the U.S. leaves. He urged the Afghan government and Taliban, which he said remains as formidable as it did before the start of the war, to come to a peace agreement.