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Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of July 25, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
July 25, 2014

A customer walks past a KFC store in Shanghai on July 22, 2014. The latest food scandal in China is spreading fast, dragging in Starbucks, Burger King, and others, as well as McDonald's products as far away as Japan (Aly Song/Courtesy: Reuters).


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

1. Meat scandal erupts in China. Shanghai Husi Food Co., a Chinese food supplier owned by the Illinois-based global food processor OSI Group Inc., has been shown to have repackaged old meat and changed expiration dates before shipping it to retailers. Some of the world’s best-known chain restaurants, including McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Starbucks, were sold the rotten meat and have been forced to alter their supply chains or cancel the sale of some products entirely. The Shanghai police have detained five employees of Shanghai Husi, and the head of the OSI Group has accepted “responsibility for these missteps.”

2. Jokowi declared winner of Indonesian election, but rival rejects results. In the weeks after the July 9 Indonesian presidential election, conflicting “quick counts” led to dueling declarations of victory by candidates Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, and his opponent Prabowo Subianto. Although most quick counts projected Jokowi as the winner, Prabowo remained insistent that he was leading, citing four pollsters favorable to him. After the tabulation of around 136 million votes by the General Elections Commission, on Tuesday night, Jokowi was officially announced as the winner of the election, taking 53 percent of the vote. Prabowo, claiming the election was illegitimate, will appeal the results to the Constitutional Court, but it is doubtful that the court will rule in his favor as the election is generally regarded as free and fair.

3. Taiwanese plane crashes during emergency landing. More than forty people were killed when a TransAsia Airways passenger plane tried to land in the Taiwanese Penghu Islands amid rain and lightning. Twelve injured passengers were rushed to the emergency room but the rest are feared to be dead. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, but inclement weather and technical failures are likely contributing factors. The Taiwan-based airline has been involved in a number of incidents since 2002, when a cargo plane crashed into the sea. This incident is one of three aviation tragedies that have shocked the world in the last week.

4. Japan to join U.S.-India military exercises. Naval vessels from the United States, India, and Japan began the annual Malabar Exercise in the northern Pacific on Thursday. This marks the third time that New Delhi has invited Tokyo to participate in what is normally an annual bilateral exercise between India and the United States. The exercises have brought the ire of China, whose own naval presence has become increasingly assertive in the region, but all Malabar participants maintain that the exercises are not aimed at containing or countering Beijing. Both India and Japan are also currently participating in the U.S.-hosted Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, naval exercise off the coast of Hawaii, where, for the first time, China is also participating.

5. Thai junta adopts interim constitution. Thailand’s junta won approval from King Bhumibol Adulyadej for a provisional constitution that will pave the way for a new legislature and interim government. Under the constitution, the junta has the authority to handpick 220 legislative members, who will then appoint a prime minster and thirty-five cabinet members. In addition to exonerating the junta for its actions since the May 22 coup, the constitution calls for the formation of a reform committee tasked with approving a permanent constitution before elections can be held. While the document is a first step toward restoring electoral democracy in Thailand, the junta will continue to hold substantial power even after the cabinet and legislature take office in September.

Bonus: Inflatable animals in China gone wild. A giant inflatable toad unveiled in Beijing has been purged from the Chinese internet after Chinese bloggers photoshopped eyeglasses on the toad, comparing the creature to former Chinese president Jiang Zemin. Elsewhere in China, a hunt has begun for the toad’s counterpart—Dutch artist Florentijin Hofman’s giant rubber duck—after floodwaters sent the duck floating away on the Nanming river in Guizhou.

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