December 26, 2018

Wang Quanzhang: China human rights lawyer trial begins

Wang Quanzhang: China human rights lawyer trial begins Image copyright Reuters Image caption Some of Mr Wang's supporters gathered outside the court before being bundled into police cars China has placed a prominent human rights lawyer on trial for subversion. Wang Quanzhang went missing in a government crackdown on hundreds of lawyers in 2015, and is one of the last to be tried or released. He defended political campaigners and followers of the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong, and worked with a Swedish human rights activist. There is a tight security outside the court, with several supporters being bundled away by police. Mr Wang's wife Li Wenzu, who has not seen him since he disappeared in 2015, says police have surrounded her home in Beijing, preventing her from attending the trial. Wife marches for 'vanished' husband The lawyer who simply vanished Journalists and foreign diplomats have also been barred from entering the courthouse in the northern city of T..
December 25, 2018

Japan whale hunting: Commercial whaling to restart in July

Japan whale hunting: Commercial whaling to restart in July Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption Japan will be free to hunt whales like the minke for commercial purposes from July onwards Japan says it is to restart commercial whaling in July in a move that is likely to draw international criticism. It said it would withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the body tasked with whale conservation. Commercial whaling was banned by the IWC in 1986 after some species were driven almost to extinction. Officials in Japan, an IWC member since 1951, say eating whales is part of the country's culture. For many years Japan has hunted whales for what it calls "scientific research" and to sell the meat, a programme widely criticised by conservationists. Wednesday's announcement had been expected, but conservation groups warn the move will have serious consequences. It means Japan will be able to freely hunt species currently protected by the IWC, like minke wha..
December 25, 2018

Finding God in the anguish of violence

Finding God in the anguish of violence Image copyright Azan Shah As violence has intensified in Indian-administered Kashmir, people have been flocking to the region's fabled Sufi shrines in search of solace. Sameer Yasir speaks to photographer Azan Shah, who has been documenting the anguish of the devotees. Bakhti Begam is a regular at Khanqah-e-Moula, a Muslim Sufi shrine located on the banks of river Jhelum, which careens through the heart of Srinagar city. She arrives quietly, holding a framed photograph of her missing son in a torn plastic bag. She places it on the stairs leading to the sanctum sanctorum and prays to be united with him. "Please listen to me, my peer [saint]. I am broken, my peer," the 75-year-old cries with folded hands. Her son, Manzoor Ahmad Wani, who was 25 at the time, disappeared on 22 December, 2001, a few days after he got married. Image copyright Azan Shah Bakhti Begam regularly makes the 80km (50-mile) trip to the shrine from her home. But her pra..
December 25, 2018

The Thai cave rescue: What happened next?

The Thai cave rescue: What happened next? Throughout this week, we will be looking back at some of the BBC website's most-read stories of the year and asking: what happened after the news moved on? Today, the BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head returns to Mae Sai in northern Thailand, where members of the Wild Boars football team were rescued from a cave in July. Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionHow the Thai cave boys were rescued For three weeks in June and July, the fate of 12 young footballers and their coach, and their sensational rescue, made Tham Luang caves the most reported place on Earth. Five months later, it is now one of the most visited spots in northern Thailand. Back in July, a massive pumping operation to lower the water levels inside the caves was sucking out millions of litres an hour, water which cascaded down the hill, flooding the surrounding fruit and vegetable fields. One of them was used by Archawin Mopoaku, an ..
December 25, 2018

Thailand approves medicinal cannabis

Thailand approves medicinal cannabis Image copyright Reuters Image caption Campaigners had held protests demanding medicinal cannabis be allowed Thailand's parliament has voted to approve cannabis for medical use, with a key lawmaker calling it a "New Year's gift" to the Thai people. Recreational use will remain illegal. Marijuana was used in Thailand as a traditional medicine, until it was banned in the 1930s. South East Asia has some of the world's toughest penalties for drug usage or possession, and Thailand is the first in the region to allow medicinal marijuana. Why are so many countries now saying cannabis is OK? ‘It’s either cannabis or die’ Thailand's junta-appointed parliament voted to amend the Narcotic Act of 1979 on Tuesday. It happened after an extra parliamentary session was arranged to push bills through before the New Year's holidays, according to Reuters news agency. The amendment will become law when it is published in the government gaze..
December 25, 2018

Indonesia tsunami: New warning system ‘to be built next year’

Indonesia tsunami: New warning system 'to be built next year' Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionYuni was forced to run from the water Indonesia says it will build a new warning system capable of detecting tsunamis caused by undersea landslides, days after giant waves triggered by a volcano killed at least 429 people. Installation of the new structure of buoys would start next year, a government agency told the BBC. It is thought that activity by the Anak Krakatau volcano set off undersea landslides, causing Saturday's tsunami. Officials say some 150 people are still missing and 16,000 have been displaced. A volcanologist explains eruption images The rock band swept away by deadly waves Rescue workers, helped by heavy lifting equipment, are going from village to village, sifting through the debris looking for survivors in badly hit areas on the islands of Sumatra and Java. How will the new system work?The new mechanism would work by detecting the..
December 25, 2018

Japan’s Nikkei index slides amid US uncertainty

Japan's Nikkei index slides amid US uncertainty Image copyright EPA Japan's main stock market index has plunged, reflecting traders' worries following a slide on Wall Street. The Nikkei closed down 5% on Tuesday, its worst finish since April 2017. Indexes in Shanghai, Bangkok and Taiwan also fell. Investors have been concerned about President Trump's dispute with the US central bank chief and another government shutdown. US stocks had their worst Christmas Eve on record. The Dow Jones index of 30 leading companies fell more than 650 points on Monday, and is on track for its worst December since 1931, during the Great Depression. Many financial markets in Asia, Europe and North America are closed on Tuesday for Christmas. In China, the Shanghai composite index fell more than 2% on Tuesday morning. What triggered the falls? The Asian markets are believed to be largely reacting to movement in the US and an ensuing shares sell-off by concerned investors. US-China..
December 24, 2018

Bringing ‘Asia’s zebras’ back to the steppe

Bringing 'Asia's zebras' back to the steppe Image copyright Petra Kaczensky/NINA "Do you see them?" the radio crackled in the old Russian 4x4. The driver tried to steer away from pits and ravines that he could barely see in the dark. The lights of another car flashed in the distance. After a prolonged silence came the answer. "No." The two drivers navigating around a national park in the dead of the night are Kazakh rangers trying to capture Asiatic wild ass, known locally as kulans. It is a part of the operation to reintroduce these animals to the steppes of central Kazakhstan, where they disappeared a century ago. Kulans are the zebras of Asia. They used to roam on a massive territory stretching from Syria to Mongolia but today their populations are fragmented and vulnerable. Kulans in Central Asia are in particular danger. Although they are a protected species, they are hunted for their meat and their skins in some areas. Due to hunting and habitat conversion, they ..
December 24, 2018

China birth rate: Mothers, your country needs you!

China birth rate: Mothers, your country needs you! Image copyright Victor Fraile Rodriguez Image caption China is now trying hard to encourage women to have more children When China ended its one-child policy three years ago, there was hope couples would have a second child to help slow the pace of an ageing society. But the move isn't working, reports London-based China analyst Yuwen Wu. The declining birth rate is now one of the most talked-about topics across China - and there's a real sense of crisis. After decades spent trying to curb the population, state propaganda slogans now exhort couples to "Have children for the country", prompting criticism on social media that government policy is intrusive and insensitive. Measures now being discussed range from extending maternity leave to encouraging people to have a second child with straight cash incentives or tax breaks. Some are even calling for limits on the number of children to be abandoned altogether. Aimed at curbin..
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