Asian Insider Dec 18: Macau’s anniversary, Shiori Ito, Star Wars’ opening day

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

Hi,

In today's bulletin: Chinese President Xi Jinping heads to Macau bearing gifts in a move some see as a blunt message to Hong Kong; there is some vindication for the victim in a high profile rape saga involving two Japanese journalists; Star Wars fever hits its peak in Asia as the latest in the saga is set to open; and more.

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BEIJING TO MARK MACAU HANDOVER WITH A MESSAGE TO HONG KONG

Chinese President Xi Jinping heads to Macau today as part of a three-day visit that will culminate with a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover of the former Portuguese colony to China. It will be his longest visit to Macau and he is expected to announce a slew of measures to boost Macau's economy - moves that will be seen, especially to those in Hong Kong - as making a point of rewarding the rather more peaceful territory for its stability and loyalty. Like Hong Kong, Macau returned to Chinese rule under the "one country, two systems" framework. Unlike Hong Kong, Macau has seen very few protests.

Read more top stories on Hong Kong:

Hong Kong cancels New Year's Eve fireworks over protest concerns

Hong Kong's airlines face job cuts and even bankruptcies

Hong Kongers protest with their wallets as city divide hardens

JAPAN'S SECRET SHAME

Prominent Japanese journalist Noriyuki Yamaguchi has been ordered by a court to pay some $3.3 million yen in damages to journalist Shiori Ito - a verdict seen as a key after prosecutors had earlier declined to charge Yamaguchi for rape despite Ito's very public account of what happened. The two had launched civil lawsuits against each other. Ito made waves when going public with her allegations in 2017 and her story was a key part of the BBC documentary Japan's Secret Shame. Her story also drew a lot of attention to Japan's rape laws though critics say the legislation still does not do enough today to protect women.

See also: Japanese women confront grim taboo by saying 'me too'

EMERGENCY LAW IN NEW DELHI

India is moving to get a grip on the ongoing massive protest against its new citizenship law as the unrest stretched into its seventh day. Authorities have imposed emergency law in parts of New Delhi, banning gatherings of more than four people in some Muslim-dominated areas. The Supreme Court has also postponed hearing cases challenging the constitutionality of the law until next month. Supporters say the new law is necessary to protect Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities in India illegally fleeing persecution in neighbouring Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Critics say that by leaving Muslims out, it marginalises the community and undermines India's secular foundations.

See also: Modi govt won't back down on India's contentious citizenship law amid fresh protests

ST EXCLUSIVE: CHINA'S BATTLE OVER XINJIANG

China Bureau Chief Tan Dawn Wei wrote an op-ed this week taking a look at how Beijing dealing with what appears to be growing global criticism about its actions in the restive Xinjiang region. Beijing has sought to wrestle back control of narrative, attempting to shift the world's focus from the human rights abuses to the threat of terrorism and extremist ideology there. But how well is that strategy working?

Read more: China's battle over Xinjiang

STAR WARS FEVER GRIPS ASIA

The latest chapter in the Star Wars saga, The Rise of Skywalker, opens in a few hours across parts of Asia (one of the benefits in being in an early time zone) and so the continent is hitting peak Star Wars fever earlier. It wasn't always this way. This part of the world often had to wait its turn, but it reflects the increasing importance of the Asian movie market that studios don't think twice about opening in the east first. Coca-cola also saved one major tie-up, an OLED powered light-saber special edition bottle, for an Asian market launch.

Read our interview with Star Wars director J.J. Abrams: The Rise Of Skywalker will have 'surprises and some shocks'

IN OTHER NEWS

Australia's hottest day: Australia experienced its hottest day on record and temperatures are expected to soar even higher as heatwave conditions hit most of the country. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said the average temperature across the country of 40.9 deg C on Tuesday beat the record of 40.3 deg C from Jan 7, 2013.

Impeachment vote: On the eve of his expected impeachment in the US House of Representatives, President Donald Trump accused Democrats of pursuing an "illegal, partisan attempted coup" and declaring war on American democracy as they seek to remove him from office for pressing Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden.

India rape verdict: India's Supreme Court on Wednesday (Dec 18) rejected the final appeal of one of the four men sentenced to death for the 2012 fatal gang rape of a woman on a moving bus in New Delhi, paving the way for the four to be hanged. The gruesome case made international headlines and exposed the scope of sexual violence against women in India, prompting lawmakers to stiffen penalties in rape cases.

That's it for today, Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow.

-Jeremy

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