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Top Asian News 3:52 a.m. GMT

July 31, 2021 GMT

Hong Kong protester given 9-year term in 1st security case

HONG KONG (AP) — A pro-democracy protester was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison in the closely watched first prosecution under Hong Kong’s national security law as the ruling Communist Party tightens control over the territory. Tong Ying-kit, 24, was convicted of inciting secession and terrorism for driving his motorcycle into a group of police officers at a July 1, 2020, rally. He carried a flag bearing the banned slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.” President Xi Jinping’s government imposed the law on the former British colony last year following protests that erupted in mid-2019. Beijing has rolled back the territory’s Western-style civil liberties and tried to crush a pro-democracy movement by jailing activists.

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Residents: Myanmar leaders use pandemic as political weapon

BANGKOK (AP) — With coronavirus deaths rising in Myanmar, allegations are growing from residents and human rights activists that the military government, which seized control in February, is using the pandemic to consolidate power and crush opposition. In the last week, the per capita death rate in Myanmar surpassed those of Indonesia and Malaysia to become the worst in Southeast Asia. The country’s crippled health care system has rapidly become overwhelmed with new patients sick with COVID-19. Supplies of medical oxygen are running low, and the government has restricted its private sale in many places, saying it is trying to prevent hoarding.

US takes ownership of ship suspected in N. Korea oil scheme

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NEW YORK (AP) — A tanker ship allegedly used in an illegal scheme to smuggle oil to North Korea has a brand-new owner: the U.S. government. A federal judge in New York City issued a judgment of forfeiture Friday authorizing the U.S. to take ownership of the 2,734-ton M/T Courageous, which is currently in Cambodia. “The Courageous is permanently out of service,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement. Prosecutors say the ship delivered petroleum products to North Korea through ship-to-ship transfers and direct shipments to the North Korean port of Nampo. One exchange caught on satellite imagery showed the M/T Courageous transferring more than $1.5 million worth of oil to a North Korea-flagged ship, prosecutors said.

U.S. warns China is building more nuclear missile silos

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The U.S. military is warning about what analysts have described as a major expansion of China’s nuclear missile silo fields at a time of heightened tension between Beijing and Washington. Researchers at the Federation of American Scientists estimate that China has approximately 250 underground missile silos under construction after they used satellite imagery to identify a new field being built in western China. U.S. Strategic Command tweeted a link Wednesday to a story in The New York Times on the federation’s findings, which were published this week. “The public has discovered what we have been saying all along about the growing threat the world faces and the veil of secrecy that surrounds it,” said Strategic Command, which oversees America’s nuclear arsenal.

Hong Kong police arrest man for booing national anthem

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Hong Kong police arrested a man Friday on suspicion of insulting the national anthem, after he was allegedly caught booing the Chinese national anthem while watching an Olympic event at a mall. The 40-year old man was allegedly waving colonial-era Hong Kong flags and booing, while urging others to join him in insulting the national anthem, according to a police statement posted on Facebook. Hong Kong passed a law in June last year that criminalized any actions that insult the national anthem. Violating the law can mean a fine of up to $6,400 (50,000 Hong Kong dollars), and up to nine years in prison.

Si, Oui, Hai: Interpreting joy and heartbreak at Tokyo Games

TOKYO (AP) — Ask him how many languages he speaks, and Alexandre Ponomarev replies: “If you mean to make myself understood, I’ve lost count.” Count ’em. Ponomarev speaks Russian, Ukranian, English, German, Spanish, French and Danish. And gets by in Swedish, Portuguese, Italian and Norwegian. Ahh, but how about your Japanese? “Muzukashi,” replied Ponomarev, which means “difficult” in Japanese, and can be interpreted to mean he doesn’t speak much. OK, nobody’s perfect. Ponomarev is the chief interpreter for the Tokyo Games, overseeing a staff of almost 100 interpreters who render Olympic joy and Olympic heartbreak into a calibrated cacophony of 11 languages: Japanese, English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Italian, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, and Portuguese.

First evacuation flight brings 221 Afghans, many kids, to US

WASHINGTON (AP) — The first flight evacuating Afghans who worked alongside Americans in Afghanistan brought more than 200 people, including scores of children and babies in arms, to new lives in the United States on Friday, and President Joe Biden said he was proud to welcome them home. The launch of the evacuation flights, bringing out former interpreters and others who fear retaliation from Afghanistan’s Taliban for having worked with American troops and civilians, highlights American uncertainty about how Afghanistan’s government and military will fare after the last U.S. combat forces leave that country in the coming weeks. Family members are accompanying the interpreters, translators and others on the flights out.

Brutal killing spotlights violence against women in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Noor Mukadam’s last hours were terror-filled. Beaten repeatedly, the 27-year-old jumped from a window but was dragged back, beaten again and finally beheaded. A childhood friend has been charged with her killing. The gruesome death last week in an upscale neighborhood of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, is the latest in a series of attacks on women in Pakistan, where rights activists say such gender-based assaults are on the rise as the country barrels toward greater religious extremism. Mukadam was the daughter of a diplomat, and her status as a member of the country’s elite has shone a spotlight on the relentless and growing violence against women in Pakistan, said prominent rights activist Tahira Abdullah.

Olympic attention to mental health: Can NBC coverage pivot?

NEW YORK (AP) — If NBC’s Michele Tafoya expected exultation or tears of joy from American swimmer Caeleb Dressel when she asked how it felt to reach his dream of an Olympic gold medal, that’s not what she got. He was happy, but hurting. “It’s a really tough year,” he said. “It’s really hard.” Olympic athletes, most notably gymnast Simon Biles, haven’t been afraid to express the mental and emotional difficulties they’ve faced during these pandemic games, a development that’s thrown NBC a curve. The network that presents the games has been forced to pivot, and the addition of Michael Phelps to its broadcast team turned into a master stroke for unanticipated reasons.

UN office in west Afghanistan comes under fire; guard killed

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A U.N. office in western Afghanistan came under fire Friday and one of its guards was killed as the Taliban and Afghan forces waged fierce battles in the area, the United Nations said. The clashes were taking place in the district of Guzara in Herat province, about 10 kilometers (6 miles), from the Herat provincial capital. It wasn’t immediately clear which side was responsible for the fire that hit the U.N. office. Fighting has intensified across Afghanistan as the last U.S. and NATO troops complete their pullout from the war-torn country. In the past months, the Taliban have overrun dozens of districts and seized several strategic border crossings.