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Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 6, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
June 6, 2014

Tens of thousands of people take part in a candlelight vigil at Hong Kong's Victoria Park on June 4, 2014, to mark the 25th anniversary of the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989 (Bobby Yip/Courtesy: Reuters). Tens of thousands of people take part in a candlelight vigil at Hong Kong's Victoria Park on June 4, 2014, to mark the 25th anniversary of the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989 (Bobby Yip/Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Thousands protest on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Tiananmen Square; mainland China ramps up security. Much of the world commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Police presence shot up in Beijing and other major Chinese cities for the anniversary, and many websites, including LinkedIn, censored all mention of the incident. In Hong Kong, where freedom of speech is more protected, approximately 180,000 people converged in Victoria Park, lighting candles and chanting slogans. The White House officially commemorated the anniversary, leaving China “strongly dissatisfied.”

2. Russia seeks to bolster ties with North Korea. Reacting to the West’s response to Ukraine, Russia has sought a rebalance of its own, a so-called “Putin’s Pivot.” On Thursday in Vladivostok, the two nations discussed granting Russian access to North Korean mines, and North Korea agreed to ease the process for Russians to get business visas. According to Russia’s Far East development minister, Alexander Galushka, the two countries hope to boost trade to US$1 billion by 2020. Delegates also discussed a proposed extension of the Trans-Siberian railway along with a pipeline through North Korea into South Korea. Moscow has also stepped up its high-level political exchanges with Pyongyang. Economic investment by Russia may be very significant for North Korea, which suffered a blow to its economy following withdrawal of Soviet support in the 1990s.

3. Opposition wins narrow victory in Korean local elections. On Wednesday, South Koreans headed to the polls to vote in local elections to fill almost 4,000 positions across the country. Seventeen races in particular were closely watched, as these awarded posts for the governors of Korea’s nine provinces as well as the mayors of eight major cities. The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy captured nine of these seats, while the ruling Saenuri party came in just behind at eight seats. The close results came as a bit of surprise to some analysts, who predicted that public anger over the government’s handling of the April 16 Sewol ferry tragedy would cause the ruling party to lose by a wider margin.

4. Uproar in India over vicious rapes and murders. The brutal double rape and lynching of two cousins in Uttar Pradesh, India, has reignited outrage across the country over the treatment and safety of women. The two young girls had left their home in the night to use the bathroom (an open field) and never returned, leading some to demand the installation of proper toilets as the first step toward women’s safety. The girls were found hanging by their scarves from a mango tree; pictures have gone viral, attracting international attention. The case also highlights the disproportionate incidents of sexual violence committed against women of lower castes. Hundreds gathered outside the office of the state’s chief minister—who accused the media of hyping the story—in protest, kept back by force and water cannons. Three brothers and two police officers have been arrested for the crimes.

5. China launches battle against U.S. tech firms. Chinese state-owned newspapers called on Beijing to “severely punish the pawns” of the U.S. government–Apple, Google, and other U.S. technology firms–for monitoring China and stealing secrets. Op-eds in major Chinese newspapers said that U.S. companies threaten the cybersecurity of China, a message that has been repeated since Edward Snowden released secret information from the NSA. People’s Daily declared, “To resist the naked Internet hegemony, we will draw up international regulations, and strengthen technology safeguards, but we will also severely punish the pawns of the villain.” The declaration comes after the U.S. Department of Justice indicted five Chinese military officials of cyber espionage.

BONUS: Hunger Games salute a form of silent resistance to Thai coup. Life imitates art as the three-finger “District 12” salute from the Hollywood hit, “The Hunger Games,” is being used by protestors against the military coup in Thailand. With anti-coup activists encouraging others to raise three fingers, three times a day, the salute has become a symbol in calling for fundamental political rights. Protestors have given varying interpretations on the symbolism behind the salute, ranging from the French Revolution’s trinity of values to basic democratic rights. Military rulers are closely monitoring this new form of silence, however, promising to arrest those in large groups who ignore warnings to lower their arms.

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