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Top Asian News 4:58 a.m. GMT

January 8, 2023 GMT

Travelers rush to take advantage of China reopening

BEIJING (AP) — After two years of separation from his wife in mainland China, Hong Kong resident Cheung Seng-bun made sure to be among the first in line following the reopening of border crossing points Sunday. The ability of residents of the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city to cross over is one of the most visible signs of China’s easing of border restrictions, with travelers arriving from abroad also no longer required to undergo quarantine. “I’m hurrying to get back to her,” Cheung, lugging a heavy suitcase, told The Associated Press as he prepared to cross at Lok Ma Chau station. Travelers crossing between Hong Kong and mainland China, however, are still required to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 48 hours — a measure China has protested when imposed by other countries.

17 dead in China crash as holiday travel rush gets underway

BEIJING (AP) — A traffic accident in southern China killed 17 people and injured 22 others early Sunday as the annual Lunar New Year holiday travel rush got underway, authorities said. The accident occurred outside the city of Nanchang in Jiangxi province, according to the local traffic management brigade. It wasn’t clear how many vehicles or what types were involved and the cause was under investigation, the brigade said. Website Jimu News quoted a local resident as saying the victims were mourners from the village of Taoling who had set up a funeral tent on the side of the road, as is common in rural China, and were hit by a passing truck as they were preparing to travel to the local crematorium in the morning.

Filipino Catholics hold big procession after pandemic eases

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Thousands of Catholic devotees, many donning protective masks and bearing candles, joined a night procession through downtown Manila early Sunday to venerate a centuries-old black statue of Jesus Christ, which was not paraded to discourage an even larger crowd amid lingering fears of COVID-19. The more than 80,000 devotees who church officials said joined the nearly 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) “Walk of Faith” procession were a fraction of the more than a million worshippers who typically converged in pre-pandemic years to pay homage to the life-size Black Nazarene statue in one of Asia’s biggest religious festivals. In chaotic dawn-to-midnight processions in the past, when the Black Nazarene was paraded on a carriage pulled by ropes, mobs of mostly poor, barefoot devotees in maroon shirts would squeeze their way through the crowd around the slow-moving carriage to throw towels at volunteers, who wiped parts of the statue in the belief that the Nazarene’s powers would cure ailments and ensure good health and a better life.

Indian held for unruly behavior with woman on airline flight

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian police have arrested an unruly airline passenger following a complaint by a woman aboard an Air India flight from New York that he urinated on her in business class. Shankar Mishra was picked up by police in the southern city of Bengaluru and brought to the Indian capital on Saturday, New Delhi Police spokesperson Suman Nalva said on Sunday. Nalva declined to say what Mishra told investigators after his arrest. The Times of India newspaper cited Mishra as saying that he was drunk and could not believe what he had done. A New Delhi court sent him to prison for 14 days as police investigate the complaint accusing Mishra of outraging the modesty of a woman during the New York-New Delhi flight.

EXPLAINER: Is China sharing enough COVID-19 information?

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — As COVID-19 rips through China, other countries and the World Health Organization are calling on its government to share more comprehensive data on the outbreak. Some even say many of the numbers it’s reporting are meaningless. Without basic data like the number of deaths, infections and severe cases, governments elsewhere have instituted virus testing requirements for travelers from China. Beijing has said the measures aren’t science-based and threatened countermeasures. Of greatest concern is whether new variants will emerge from the mass infection unfolding in China and spread to other countries. The delta and omicron variants developed in places that also had large outbreaks, which can be a breeding ground for new variants.

Philippine military chief replaced by retiring general

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Saturday cut short the term of the military chief of staff he appointed five months ago and replaced him with a retiring general without explaining the surprise move. Marcos’s office announced the replacement of Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro, who had received the highest military award for combat bravery. A statement late Friday that did not specify any reason for the change in military leadership. Bacarro’s three-year term was supposed to end in August 2025. The appointment of military chiefs is a sensitive issue. The military has a history of restiveness, failed coup attempts, corruption scandals and has faced accusations of human rights violations.

Sinking land forces hundreds to leave Indian temple town

LUCKNOW, India (AP) — Authorities in an Indian Himalayan town have stopped construction activities and started moving hundreds of people to temporary shelters after a temple collapsed and cracks appeared in over 600 houses because of sinking of land, officials said Saturday. Residents of Joshimath town in Uttarakhand state say they started noticing cracks in houses, especially after 2021 floods in the region. No injury was reported in the temple collapse late Friday and those living nearby had vacated the area a day earlier. Himanshu Khurana, a district administrator, said more than 60 families have been moved to government relief camps.

UN envoy meets with Afghan higher-ed chief over ban on women

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A top U.N. envoy met with the Taliban-led Afghan government’s higher education minister Saturday to discuss the ban on women attending universities. Markus Potzel is the first international official to meet with him since the ban was introduced last month. Taliban authorities on Dec. 20 ordered public and private universities to close for women immediately until further notice. It triggered widespread international condemnation, including from Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Higher Education Minister Nida Mohammad Nadim has defended the ban, saying it is necessary to prevent the mixing of genders in universities and because he believes some subjects violate Islamic principles.

China’s Ant Group says founder Jack Ma will give up control

WASHINGTON (AP) — E-commerce billionaire Jack Ma will give up control of Ant Group, the leading Chinese financial technology provider he founded. In a statement posted Friday, Ant Group said that after an ownership restructuring, “no shareholder, alone or with other parties” will have “control over Ant Group.” The company is an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba, which Ma also founded. The move follows other efforts over the years by the Chinese government to rein in Ma and the country’s tech sector more broadly. Two years ago, the once high-profile Ma largely disappeared from view for 2 1/2 months after criticizing China’s regulators.

Pakistani police: Militants kill officer near Afghan border

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Militants opened fire on a security van killing a policeman Saturday in northwestern Pakistan, a region bordering Afghanistan where violence has spiked in recent months, local police said. A search was underway to find the attackers who fled the scene in Dogar Umerzai, a village in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, police spokesperson Fatiullah Khan said. Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. However, such incidents have intensified after the banned outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, ended a cease-fire with the government in Islamabad and ordered its fighters to carry out attacks across the country. The Pakistani Taliban is a separate group but also a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S.