Top Asian News 4:49 a.m. GMT
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Tuesday banned female students from attending universities effective immediately in the latest edict cracking down on women’s rights and freedoms. Despite initially promising a more moderate rule respecting rights for women’s and minorities, the Taliban have widely implemented their strict interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia. They have banned girls from middle school and high school, restricted women from most employment and ordered them to wear head-to-toe clothing in public. Women are also banned from parks and gyms. The Taliban were ousted in 2001 by a U.S.-led coalition for harboring al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and returned to power after America’s chaotic departure last year.
BEIJING (AP) — Australia’s foreign minister is in China for talks seeking to mend a long break in high-level ties that have prompted trade sanctions and political frictions. On arriving in Beijing, Penny Wong thanked China for the invitation, which comes on the anniversary of 50 years of official diplomatic relations between the nations. Wong said she looked forward to meetings “discussing many of the issues that are important to us.” She was due to meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi later Wednesday. Wong’s visit is the first by an Australian foreign minister to China in four years and is raising hopes that Australia will make progress on ending China’s blocks on Australian commodity imports and freeing two Australian citizens detained in China.
TOKYO (AP) — Heavy snow in northwestern Japan since the weekend has left at least three people dead, stranded hundreds of vehicles on highways, disrupted trains and left thousands of homes without electricity, officials said Wednesday. The powerful weather system brought heavy snow to Japan’s northern coastal areas since Saturday, with snow piling up more than 2 meters (6.5 feet) in parts of Niigata, Yamagata and Aomori prefectures. Self-Defense Force troops helped clear Niigata highways, where hundreds of cars and delivery trucks were stuck in lines stretching more than 20 kilometers (12 miles), and to provide other support. Local volunteers also helped to provide food and other necessities to those stranded inside their vehicles for hours.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Sitiveni Rabuka has won a close election in Fiji and is promising change as the South Pacific nation’s first new leader in 16 years. His win came after three political parties announced late Tuesday they would form a coalition. That followed days of negotiations after last week’s election. Rabuka’s victory brings to an end the long reign of Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who seized power in a 2006 military coup and later refashioned himself as a democratic leader by introducing a new constitution and winning elections in 2014 and again in 2018. Rabuka is also a former coup leader.
BEIJING (AP) — Several local governments in China encouraged people with mild cases of COVID-19 to go to work this week, another sign of the difficulty the country faces as its rollback of virus-containment measures sets off a wave of infections — and a growing number of deaths. Health authorities reported Tuesday that five people died in the latest 24-hour period, all in Beijing, fueling concern that the toll could rise sharply after the lifting of most “zero-COVID” restrictions. The official toll likely understates the actual number, and it’s unclear how the unleashing of the virus will play out in China and whether the health care system can handle a surge in cases nationwide.
BENGALURU, India (AP) — For renewable energy companies in India, it’s a good time to be in business. One of India’s largest renewable energy firms, Renew Power, will be among the corporations big and small hoping for a piece of a $2.6 billion government scheme that encourages the domestic manufacturing of components required to produce solar energy. It’s the biggest such incentive in India’s history. Renew Power’s CEO Sumant Sinha said the government funds for clean energy send “a strong signal” that the country wants “to become a manufacturing location for renewable energy equipment and a global alternative to China eventually.” “We are excited to be a part of this journey,” he said.
BANGKOK (AP) — Rescuers found a survivor and recovered five bodies from a Thai warship that sank over the weekend in the Gulf of Thailand, navy officials said Tuesday, as hopes faded for two dozen people still missing. Officials acknowledged there were not enough life jackets for all those aboard. The HTMS Sukhothai, a corvette in service for 35 years, sank Sunday night in rough seas with 105 people aboard. The navy said an earlier tally of 106 people on board was incorrect because one sailor failed to join the journey. Navy commander Adm. Cherngchai Chomcherngpat said initially at a news conference in Bangkok that two people had been rescued on Tuesday, but later said he had received updated information that only one person was alive and that five bodies had been recovered.
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A year ago, 65-year-old Chiang Yi-Shu knew nothing about computers. Now, she is a League of Legends player who has just battled in her first-ever esports tournament. Chiang is one of the players on Hungkuang Evergreen Gaming’s team, established this summer. The team, whose members range from 62 to 69 years old, was founded by Huang Jianji, the director of the department of multimedia game development and application of Hungkuang University. “Frankly speaking, I knew very little about computers. I never thought of learning about it, because I prefer interactions with people,” Chiang said. “But when I started to play, I figured out that it was good for the brain.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Majd Ramlawi was serving coffee in Jerusalem’s Old City when a chilling text message appeared on his phone. “You have been spotted as having participated in acts of violence in the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” it read in Arabic. “We will hold you accountable.” Ramlawi, then 19, was among hundreds of people who civil rights attorneys estimate got the text last year, at the height of one of the most turbulent recent periods in the Holy Land. Many, including Ramlawi, say they only lived or worked in the neighborhood, and had nothing to do with the unrest. What he didn’t know was that the feared internal security agency, the Shin Bet, was using mass surveillance technology mobilized for coronavirus contact tracing, against Israeli residents and citizens for purposes entirely unrelated to COVID-19.
HYDERABAD, India (AP) — After a pair of Islamist bombings rocked the south-central Indian city of Hyderabad in 2013, officials rushed to install 5,000 CCTV cameras to bolster security. Now there are nearly 700,000 in and around the metropolis. The most striking symbol of the city’s rise as a surveillance hotspot is the gleaming new Command and Control Center in the posh Banjara Hills neighborhood. The 20-story tower replaces a campus where swarms of officers already had access to 24-hour, real-time CCTV and cell phone tower data that geolocates reported crimes. The technology triggers any available camera in the area, pops up a mugshot database of criminals and can pair images with facial recognition software to scan CCTV footage for known criminals in the vicinity.