Month in Brief

Hong Kong turmoil over independence activists

Hong Kong turmoil over independence activists

Pro-China politicians in Hong Kong walked out to deprive the legislature of a quorum, preventing two newly-elected independence advocates, Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching of the radical Youngspiration party, from being sworn in. Their initial oaths had been declared invalid after they pledged allegiance to the ‘Hong Kong nation’. The Hong Kong government went to court to try to prevent the pair from being allowed to take the oath again, but lost. The judge agreed to a judicial review of the case in November.

 

 

Pakistan passes law against ‘honour’ killings

Pakistan acted against ‘honour’ killings, three months after the murder of a social media star, Qandeel Baloch, by her brother. Hundreds of women considered to have ‘dishonoured’ their families are killed each year by their male relatives, knowing they would escape punishment as long as the rest of the family, who had often colluded in the murder, ‘forgave’ them. The National Assembly unanimously passed a law mandating life imprisonment for the crime, even if the victim’s relatives forgive the murderer.

 

Maldives quits Commonwealth

Maldives quits Commonwealth

The Maldives left the Commonwealth, claiming unfair treatment and an undermining of its sovereignty. Concerned over human rights issues and draconian defamation laws, the Commonwealth had threatened the country with suspension if steps were not taken to strengthen democracy. The Maldives’ foreign ministry accused the Commonwealth of failing to acknowledge the progress it had made, calling the decision to leave ‘difficult but inevitable’. Amnesty International said the Maldives should address rights abuses instead of denouncing legitimate criticism.

 

Zika warning in SE Asia

Zika warning in SE Asia

US health officials advised pregnant women to ‘consider postponing non-essential’ travel to 11 countries in South-East Asia, from Burma to East Timor, where the Zika virus was circulating. This followed a warning to avoid Singapore, where there had been an outbreak.

 

The virus is believed to have been present in the region since the 1960s, and many are thought to be immune to it, but concerns have heightened since an outbreak in Brazil appeared to cause babies to be born with undersized heads and malformed brains.

 

India signs climate treaty

India signs climate treaty

India, the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, formally ratified the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change. Accounting for 4.1 per cent of global carbon emissions, India became the 62nd country to join the accord. This brought the cumulative total to just over half of global emissions, but the treaty will not come into force until countries responsible for 55 per cent of carbon emissions sign up. The agreement aims to limit the increase in global warming to ‘well below’ 2C.

 

Respect our democracy, says Taiwan’s President

Respect our democracy, says Taiwan's President

In her first National Day speech, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen called for talks between Taiwan and the mainland Chinese government, but insisted that Beijing should ‘face up to the reality that [Taiwan] exists, and that the people of Taiwan have an unshakable faith in the democratic system’. While China’s goal is reunification, Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party seeks formal independence for Taiwan. Beijing responded that those who went against the ‘historical tide … will perish’.

 

Trade in pangolins banned

Trade in pangolins banned

Pangolins, the world’s most trafficked mammal, are to be protected against the international trade that has threatened them with extinction in Asia. A total ban on all species of the scaly creatures was declared by the 182 nations of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meeting in Johannesburg. Demand in China and Vietnam for pangolin meat and scales, which have supposed medicinal properties, has almost wiped out the animal in Asia, and poachers are now looking to Africa.

 

Tea seller finds fame

TEA SELLER FINDS FAME

A handsome chai wala (tea seller) in Pakistan became an internet sensation after a photo of him pouring tea at Islamabad’s Sunday Bazaar went viral. Thousands of young women shared the picture of 18-year-old Arshad Khan, sighing over his piercing blue eyes, and within days he was signed up to model menswear. Fitin.pk, an online shopping site based in Islamabad, displayed photographs of Khan in various outfits with the slogan: ‘Chai wala is not more chai wala now he is fashion wala!’

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