Top Asian News 3:49 a.m. GMT
HONG KONG (AP) — In 2003, public opposition to a proposed national security law for Hong Kong swelled an annual protest held on July 1 to hundreds of thousands of marchers. A few months later, the Hong Kong government dropped the legislation, and the idea remained largely dormant for more than 15 years. Then last year, the central government in Beijing unveiled a surprise: a national security law it had drafted and quickly imposed on the semi-autonomous city. It took effect on the eve of July 1. Since then, Hong Kong authorities have used the law and COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings to stifle major protests.
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged Monday to strengthen health controls at airports after a Ugandan Olympic team member tested positive for COVID-19 at the town hosting their training camp, triggering concerns that the upcoming games will spread infections. A Ugandan team member, reportedly a coach, tested positive on Saturday at Tokyo’s Narita airport and was quarantined there. But the rest of the nine-person team was allowed to travel more than 500 kilometers (300 miles) on a chartered bus to their pre-Olympics camp in the western prefecture of Osaka. Three days later, a second Ugandan also tested positive for the virus, forcing seven town officials and drivers who had close contact with the team to self-isolate.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s leader announced a 150 billion ringgit ($36.2 billion) financial package on Monday to help needy households and businesses and bolster vaccination efforts after a national coronavirus lockdown was extended indefinitely. The country has been under a near-total lockdown since June 1 that was due to expire Monday, but Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said over the weekend that it will not be eased until new infections fall below 4,000 a day and at least 10% of the population has been vaccinated. New daily coronavirus cases have come down from a peak of over 9,000 a month ago, but still remain high.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia was battling to contain several COVID-19 clusters around the country on Monday in what some experts have described as the nation’s most dangerous stage of the pandemic since the earliest days. Sydney in the east and Darwin in the north were locked down on Monday. Perth in the west made masks compulsory for three days and warned a lockdown could follow after a resident tested positive after visiting Sydney more than a week ago. Brisbane and Canberra have or will soon make wearing masks compulsory. South Australia state announced new statewide restrictions from Tuesday. Australia has been relatively successful in containing clusters throughout the pandemic, registering fewer than 31,000 cases since the pandemic began.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Heartbroken North Koreans have been worrying tearfully about leader Kim Jong Un’s “emaciated looks,” state media quoted a local resident as saying, in a rare acknowledgement of foreign speculation about his weight loss. The comments were seen as an effort to boost domestic support for Kim’s efforts as he grapples with deepening economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, mismanagement, U.N. economic sanctions and natural disasters, some experts said. “Our people’s hearts ached most when we saw (Kim’s) emaciated looks,” North Korean state TV cited the unidentified male resident wearing a straw hat as saying on Friday.
BEIJING (AP) — China is marking the centenary of its ruling Communist Party this week by heralding what it says is its growing influence abroad, along with success in battling corruption at home. Party officials on Monday heaped praise on President Xi Jinping, who has established himself as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, and has eliminated any limits on his term in office. China has seen huge improvements in living standards over the past four decades, accompanied by rising international economic and political heft. Yet, while many countries have benefited from that relationship, China is also seen eroding democracy and human rights in nations over which it holds economic sway.
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong says it will ban all passenger flights from the U.K. starting Thursday as it seeks to curb the spread of new variants of the coronavirus. It said in a statement Monday that the U.K. has been classified as “extremely high risk“ because of the “recent rebound of the epidemic situation in the U.K. and the widespread delta variant virus strain there.” More than 95% of COVID-19 cases in the U.K. are of the delta variant, which was first identified in India. Cases have spiked in recent weeks as British authorities have relaxed coronavirus restrictions, allowing indoor gatherings and businesses including restaurants, cinemas and gyms to reopen.
MOSCOW (AP) — The leaders of Russia and China on Monday hailed increasingly close ties between their countries and announced the extension of a 20-year-old friendship treaty, a show of unity amid their tensions with the West. Speaking in a video call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the treaty signed in July 2001 in Moscow helped take relations between Moscow and Beijing to an “unprecedented height” and would be extended for another five years. The Russian leader noted that the coordination of foreign policy efforts by Russia and China has played a “stabilizing role in global affairs.” Xi in his opening remarks emphasized the importance of a “strategic cooperation” between Moscow and Beijing in defending their common interests on the global stage.
BEIJING (AP) — The first two generating units of the world’s second-biggest hydroelectric dam were officially turned on Monday in southwestern China, the government announced. The Baihetan Dam on the Jinsha River, a tributary of the Yangtze, is part of Chinese efforts to curb surging fossil fuel demand by building more hydropower capacity at a time when dams have fallen out of favor in other countries due to environmental complaints. The announcement comes ahead of the ruling Communist Party’s celebration this week of the official 100th anniversary of its 1921 founding. Plans call for the 289-meter-tall (954-foot-tall) Baihetan Dam to have 16 generating units with a capacity of 1 million kilowatts each.
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — India’s military said it thwarted a major threat when it intercepted two drones flying over an army base in Indian-controlled Kashmir early Monday, a day after suspected explosives-laden drones were used to attack an air base in the disputed region. The military said troops around midnight spotted two drones separately flying over Kaluchak military base on the outskirts of Jammu city. “Immediately, high alert was sounded and Quick Reaction Teams engaged them with firing,” the military said in a statement. “Both the drones flew away.” Troops launched search operations in the area, the statement said, adding that troops remained on high alert.