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Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

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Showing posts for "Human Rights"

China’s Xinjiang Problem

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A child looks out from a door as a Uighur woman walks by in a residential area in Turpan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on October 31, 2013 (Michael Martina/Courtesy Reuters). A child looks out from a door as a Uighur woman walks by in a residential area in Turpan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on October 31, 2013 (Michael Martina/Courtesy Reuters).

This post first appeared on CNN’s GPS blog and can be found here.

In the aftermath of an apparent suicide attack in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on October 27 that injured dozens of people and killed five (including three involved in the attack), Chinese authorities moved quickly to label the incident terrorism and to arrest a handful of suspects who reportedly helped plot the attack. In the process, word leaked out that those involved were from Xinjiang, a Muslim-dominated region in the far northwest of China. For decades, Xinjiang, itself, has been the site of often-violent ethnic strife between the Muslim Uyghur majority and the Han Chinese minority. Uyghur discontent, however, has rarely spilled over into other parts of China. Now, Chinese authorities are claiming that Uyghur extremists have, for the first time, taken their cause to Beijing. Read more »

Dominic Bocci: Gay Rights and the Internet in Asia, One More Part of the Pivot

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A desktop picture shows Rungtiwa Tangkanopast and Phanlavee Chongtansattam holding hands, as Rungtiwa works at her office in Bangkok August 16, 2013 (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters). A desktop picture shows Rungtiwa Tangkanopast and Phanlavee Chongtansattam holding hands, as Rungtiwa works at her office in Bangkok August 16, 2013 (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters).

This is a guest post by Dominic Bocci, assistant director at the Council on Foreign Relations’ David Rockefeller Studies Program.

Most of the attention paid to the U.S. pivot to Asia has focused on economics and security, primarily through the lens of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the U.S. military’s presence throughout the region. However, policymakers are turning their focus to issues of governance in Asia, understanding that strong support for democracy and human rights is central to U.S. interests abroad. Read more »

Najib Goes Back to the Internal Security Act (ISA)

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak celebrates with his other party leaders after winning the elections at his party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on May 6, 2013. (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters) Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak celebrates with his other party leaders after winning the elections at his party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on May 6, 2013. (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters)

In the four months that have elapsed since Malaysia’s national elections in May, Prime Minister Najib tun Razak frequently has offered two conflicting public messages. To the party faithful in United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which now utterly dominates the ruling coalition, Najib—a relative moderate by temperament—has offered hunks of red meat, proposing new legislation that would further entrench economic and political preferences for ethnic Malays. Some allies of the government now have proposed classifying all Muslim indigenous people in the country as ethnic Malays, according to a report in Asia Sentinel; doing so would make even more people in Malaysia eligible for Malays’ economic preferences, though it likely would also further undermine economic growth and drive Chinese and Indian businesspeople out of the country. In the short term, the red meat approach has been relatively successful for Najib, whose coalition won more parliamentary seats in the May elections than the opposition but actually lost the popular vote, and without gerrymandering and alleged fraud likely would have won less seats than the opposition too; the increasingly pro-Malay agenda has prevented hard-line politicians from challenging Najib and his allies at recent internal UMNO elections. Read more »

United States Makes Right Decision to go Slow on Military Cooperation with Myanmar

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A Muslim girl watches from the doorway of her home as soldiers walk by in Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe in the Rakhine state, on October 2, 2013. Security forces raced to contain deadly violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state on Tuesday, police said, after mobs torched Muslim homes and Buddhist villagers were attacked in a region plagued by intractable sectarian tensions. (Thandwe/Courtesy Reuters) A Muslim girl watches from the doorway of her home as soldiers walk by in Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe in the Rakhine state, on October 2, 2013. Security forces raced to contain deadly violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state on Tuesday, police said, after mobs torched Muslim homes and Buddhist villagers were attacked in a region plagued by intractable sectarian tensions. (Thandwe/Courtesy Reuters)

Last week, the Obama administration announced that, despite the rapid warming of ties between the United States and Myanmar, the former military dictatorship would not get any American military assistance in the fiscal year 2014. (Of course, as it stands now, there will be no U.S. budget in the fiscal year 2014!) As the Irrawaddy reports, the administration has taken this step because the Myanmar military allegedly still uses child soldiers, which makes it ineligible for U.S. military aid.

There are many advocates within the Obama administration for moving faster on military-military ties with Myanmar, and indeed several other democracies, like former colonial power Britain, are moving faster than the United States on military-military ties. Yet the use of child soldiers is hardly the only reason why this decision to hold off on military aid is warranted. As an excellent recent Associated Press report notes, one of the major arguments for closer military- military ties does not hold up to scrutiny. Advocates of quickly boosting military-military ties argue that the interaction will help inculcate in the Myanmar military a culture of respect for rights and for the rule of law. This can be accomplished, so the theory goes, by sponsoring leading Myanmar officers to attend training through the U.S. International Military Education and Training (IMET) program. Yet the AP report notes:

Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 30, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
The JP Morgan sign is pictured at its Beijing office, in this picture taken December 13, 2010. A federal bribery investigation into whether JPMorgan Chase & Co. hired the children of key Chinese officials to help it win business is just the latest in a series of legal and regulatory headaches. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters) The JP Morgan sign is pictured at its Beijing office, in this picture taken December 13, 2010. A federal bribery investigation into whether JPMorgan Chase & Co. hired the children of key Chinese officials to help it win business is just the latest in a series of legal and regulatory headaches. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. The SEC probes JPMorgan amid allegations that it hired Chinese princelings. The U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has begun an investigation into whether JPMorgan Chase hired the children of senior Chinese officials to help secure business in a now-defunct program called “Sons and Daughters.” The scrutiny began in Hong Kong and now has spread through the bank’s Asia offices; the bank has flagged more than 200 hires for review. JPMorgan has not yet been accused of any illegal acts, but they might have violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids granting personal favors to government officials in exchange for business. One example included the son of Tang Shuangning, chairman of a state-run financial conglomerate, who was hired and retained even after other employees questioned his financial expertise. Read more »

Western Myanmar Conflict About to Heat up Again

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Rohingya men who were shot by the police during a riot on Friday rest in Dapaing district clinic, outside of Sittwe, on August 11, 2013. Attempts to bring stability to Myanmar's strategic northwest Rakhine State could be unravelling after police opened fire on Rohingya Muslims for the third time in two months, reviving tensions in a region beset by religious violence last year. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) Rohingya men who were shot by the police during a riot on Friday rest in Dapaing district clinic, outside of Sittwe, on August 11, 2013. Attempts to bring stability to Myanmar's strategic northwest Rakhine State could be unravelling after police opened fire on Rohingya Muslims for the third time in two months, reviving tensions in a region beset by religious violence last year. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past week, several violent incidents have erupted again in Rakhine (or Arakan) State in western Myanmar, including riots last Friday in which police shot at crowds of Rohingya men and women, killing at least one person, although the death toll remains unclear. This is the at least the third time in the past two months that police have used live fire on crowds of Rohingya in Rakhine State. Read more »

Dagny Dukach: Beijing Begins to Debate the Tibet Issue

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Young Tibetan monks chat during a prayer meeting for tourists at a temple in Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai province on July 19, 2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Young Tibetan monks chat during a prayer meeting for tourists at a temple in Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai province on July 19, 2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Dagny Dukach is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In early June 2013, Dr. Jin Wei, a senior Chinese government advisor and director of ethnic and religious studies at Beijing’s Central Party School, made headlines when she published an article in the Hong Kong journal Asia Weekly suggesting that there were serious problems with China’s coercive policies in Tibet. In the paper, she pushed for a more open, less oppressive policy towards the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people; strikingly, she referred to the Tibetan leader as the “Dalai Lama,” as opposed to the pejorative terms “Dalai” or “Dalai Clique” used by Chinese officials and media outlets. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of July 12, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (L) delivers remarks with China's Vice Premier Wang Yang at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the Treasury Department in Washington on July 10, 2013. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (L) delivers remarks with China's Vice Premier Wang Yang at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the Treasury Department in Washington on July 10, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Cybersecurity the main focus of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Treasury Security Jack Lew, Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi, and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang met in Washington for the fifth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue this week. The dialogue focused on a number of issues, including how to deal with North Korea, Asian maritime disputes, and economic issues; the two sides made headway on investment and climate change agreements, though (unsurprisingly) there were no breakthroughs on cybersecurity, a main focus of the talks. Read more »

Despite Democracy, Myanmar’s Muslim Minority Still Suffering

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A 969 shirt is seen among National League for Democracy party shirts and Aung San Suu Kyi shirts at a shop on a street side in Yangon on April 27, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) A 969 shirt is seen among National League for Democracy party shirts and Aung San Suu Kyi shirts at a shop on a street side in Yangon on April 27, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

As Myanmar opens up, at least 100,000 Muslims have been made homeless in the past two years by violent attacks, and hundreds if not thousands have been killed, along with a much smaller number of Buddhists. Left unchecked, rising ethnic hatred and increasing attacks could push the country into a terrible period of ethnic cleansing, similar to what happened in the Balkans in the early 1990s. Read more »

Myanmar Government Continues to Blame Muslims for Unrest

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An ethnic Rakhine man holds homemade weapons as he walks in front of houses that were burnt during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe on June 10, 2012. (Courtesy Reuters) An ethnic Rakhine man holds homemade weapons as he walks in front of houses that were burnt during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe on June 10, 2012. (Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past six months, the Buddhist-Muslim violence in Myanmar, which last year seemed confined to the western Rakhine (or Arakan) State, has exploded all over the country. The violence has spread to places in central Myanmar, like Okkan and Mktila, to the outskirts of Yangon, and even to towns in the northeast, like Lashio, with little history of inter-religious tension. The nationalist, xenophobic, fascistesque 969 Movement of the monk Ashin Wirathu appears to be gaining followers. The New York Times  recently reported that Wirathu’s sermons now are attracting thousands of followers, and that it is planning to set up school for Buddhist children across the country. Read more »