Asian Insider, April 5: Asia’s coronavirus infections flare-up; China’s hard message on Xinjiang

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents and commentators.

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In today's bulletin: Coronavirus infections flare-up across Asia; Philippines, Japan express concerns to China over incursions ; Taiwan rescuers work to bring out last body from wrecked train; China's hard message on Xinjiang cotton ; At least 70 killed after floods, landslides in Indonesia, and more.

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Coronavirus infections flare-up across the region, again

Even as countries were making steady progress in vaccinating people, the number of coronavirus infections continued to flare-up in several locations across Asia.

India added more than 100,000 infections over the last 24 hours, a record increase that has pushed its richest state to order offices to work from home and malls and restaurants to shut for the month of April. Maharashtra was due to halt all non-essential services from tonight. The surge in cases comes as five states in the country hold elections.

Up North, China reported its biggest daily jump in new Covid-19 cases in more than two months, as a city on the border with Myanmar in south-western Yunnan province accounted for all new local cases.

Meanwhile, reports from Japan said, health officials were concerned that the latest surge in the number of coronavirus infections was being driven by Covid-19 variants. There are less than 109 days left for the Tokyo Olympics.

Delve deeper

Vaccinating Asia: Grappling with myriad challenges on path towards Covid-19 immunity

Philippines, Japan express concerns to China over incursions

The Philippines and Japan brought up their concerns over recent incursions by China, in discussions with Beijing.

Aides of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte slammed the recent territorial incursions by hundreds of Chinese vessels while the President's legal counsel said the prolonged presence of the boats was an unwelcome stain on relations that risked "unwanted hostilities that both countries would rather not pursue".

Meanwhile, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi today expressed his strong concerns about Chinese incursions into territorial waters, during a phone conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Mr Motegi also brought up the situation in Hong Kong and the human rights situation of China's Uighur minority.

Also read

Taiwan reports new incursion by Chinese jets into defence zone

Taiwan rescuers work to bring out last body from wrecked train

Taiwanese rescuers were trying hard to retrieve the body of one more passenger from the wreckage of the train crash that left 51 people dead, as questions continued over what caused the crash.

The accident was Taiwan's worst crash in seven decades and occurred at the start of a long weekend for the traditional Tomb-Sweeping Day, when people return home to tend to family graves.

Meanwhile, the main suspect in the crash has been released on a NT$500,000 (S$23,570) bail, although a representative for the prosecutor's office said they would appeal the decision.

Also read

Taiwan train crash suspect released on bond, maintains innocence

Power Play: China's hard message on Xinjiang cotton

Xinjiang - and its Uighur Muslim minority - has long been a thorny issue for Beijing. But the latest criticism from Western nations, including the US, accusing China of perpetrating human rights abuses of Uighur Muslims in internment camps, has riled the eastern giant.

Xinjiang region's spokesman Xu Guixiang has said Beijing was willing to fight "tooth for tooth" on the issue. And this sentiment seemed to be gaining ground.

"Beijing feels these Western politicians and think-tanks' demonisation of China over Xinjiang issues is too much," Professor Zhu Feng, dean of the School of International Relations at Nanjing University, told our China Correspondent Danson Cheong. "It's at the point where it must respond," he said.

With hopes for a reset in US-China ties also dissipating, Beijing wants the rest of the world to know it is dealing with a new China - one not to be trifled with, writes Cheong.

Also read:

China's 'wolf warrior' diplomats back to howl at Xinjiang critics

Invisible Asia Special Report: 'What's worse than the job is the humiliation we face'

Ever wondered about all those people who live in the shadows of their societies, largely unseen, unheard and little talked about? The Straits Times has been turning the spotlight on many of them across Asia these past few weeks. Today we highlight the plight of India's sewer cleaners, who share the woes of their caste-ridden occupation.

Missed the previous specials? Read them all by clicking here.

In other news

At least 70 killed after floods, landslides in Indonesia's East, West Nusa Tenggara: At least 70 people died after torrential rain triggered flash floods and landslides in Indonesia's East and West Nusa Tenggara provinces over the weekend. With dams also overflowing, there are fears that the number of casualties might increase.

World Economic Forum co-hosts technology governance summit with Japan: More than 2000 leaders from government, business and civil society are coming together, virtually, to discuss technology governance issues from April 6 to 8, in the wake of the pandemic that has led to widespread use of digital technologies, and rampant concerns about inadequate regulation.

Political rivalry in Malaysia threatens coast-to-coast rail link: Five years after its launch, Malaysia's East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) is facing delays once again as Selangor disagrees with the proposed alignment of the 665km project aimed at connecting ports on both coasts of the peninsula. This is posing a challenge for Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong, with the government having failed to reach a resolution after at least 37 federal-state meetings in the past 10 months. Malaysia Bureau Chief Shannon Teoh reports.

That's it for today. Thanks for reading The Straits Times and today's Asian Insider newsletter. We'll be back tomorrow.


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