Top Asian News 4:35 a.m. GMT
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Voters headed to the polls across Taiwan in a closely watched local election Saturday that will determine the strength of the island’s major political parties ahead of the 2024 presidential election. Taiwanese citizens will be picking their mayors, city council members and other local leaders in all 13 counties and in nine cities. There’s also a referendum to lower the voting age from 20 to 18. Polls opened at 8 a.m. (0000GMT) Saturday. While international observers and the ruling party have attempted to link the elections to the long-term existential threat that is Taiwan’s neighbor, many local experts do not think China has a large role to play this time around.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Reformist leader Anwar Ibrahim has won a hard-fought battle to become Malaysia’s new prime minister. But working with former foes to form a unity government as a polarized nation watches will immediately test his political mettle. There is no honeymoon period for Anwar, 75, who got straight down to work less than 24 hours after he was sworn in as the nation’s 10th leader. National television showed Anwar clocking in Friday morning at the government administrative capital of Putrajaya. His first test will be the construction of a Cabinet and the distribution of portfolios to appease the diverse members of his unity government.
BEIJING (AP) — Residents of some parts of China’s capital were emptying supermarket shelves and overwhelming delivery apps Friday as the city government ordered faster construction of COVID-19 quarantine centers and field hospitals. Uncertainty and scattered, unconfirmed reports of lockdowns in at least some Beijing districts have fueled demand for food and other supplies, something not seen in the city for months. Unusually large numbers of shoppers in the city’s northern suburbs left shelves bare in markets, but customers were relatively few in the center of the city of 21 million, where supplies remained abundant. Daily cases of COVID-19 across the country are hitting records, with 32,695 reported Friday.
BEIJING (AP) — A fire in an apartment building in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region killed 10 people and injured nine, authorities said Friday, amid stringent lockdowns that have left many residents in the area stuck in their homes for more than three months. The fire broke out Thursday night in the regional capital of Urumqi, where temperatures have dropped below freezing after dark. Flames spread upward from the 15th floor to the 17th floor, with smoke billowing up to the 21st floor, according to multiple state media reports. The blaze took around three hours to extinguish. The deaths and injuries were caused by inhalation of toxic fumes, with those taken to the hospital all expected to survive, the reports said.
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Cuban counterpart pledged mutual support over their fellow communist states’ “core interests” Friday at a meeting further hailing a return to face-to-face diplomacy by Beijing. In comments to Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, Xi said China hoped to “strengthen coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs” with Cuba. The two will “go hand in hand down the road of building socialism with each’s own characteristics,” Xi was quoted as saying in a Chinese government news release. China generally defines core interests as the defense of its economic and political development aims, along with control over territory it claims, especially self-governing Taiwan.
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese prosecutors raided the headquarters of major advertising company Dentsu on Friday, as the investigation into corruption related to the Tokyo Olympics widened. Major local TV broadcasters showed Tokyo District Prosecutors and Japan Fair Trade Commission officials entering Dentsu headquarters. Dentsu dominates event organizing, marketing and public relations in Japan. It helped land the 2020 Games for Tokyo, and then lined up record domestic sponsorships. Haruyuki Takahashi, a former executive at Dentsu, has been arrested four times in recent months on charges of receiving bribes from various companies that became sponsors for the Games. The latest investigation centers around bid-rigging for companies to be picked to work on test events, according to Japanese media reports.
CIANJUR, Indonesia (AP) — The death toll from an earthquake that struck Indonesia’s Java island early this week rose to 310 after rescuers found more bodies under landslides, an official said. At least 24 people remain missing. In devasted towns in western Java, residents gathered near badly damaged mosques for Friday prayers. Others held prayers along with rescuers between the tents at evacuation centers. Bodies were recovered Friday in two areas of mountainous Cianjur district where landslides triggered by Monday’s quake brought tons of mud, rocks and broken trees, said Henri Alfiandi, chief of the National Search and Rescue Agency. More than 1,400 rescuers have been searching through the rubble since the magnitude 5.6 quake, which injured more than 2,000 people.
HONG KONG (AP) — A 90-year-old Roman Catholic cardinal and five others in Hong Kong were fined after being found guilty Friday of failing to register a now-defunct fund that aimed to help people arrested in the widespread protests three years ago. Cardinal Joseph Zen, a retired bishop and a vocal democracy advocate of the city, arrived at court in a black outfit and used a walking stick. He was first arrested in May on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces under a Beijing-imposed National Security Law. His arrest sent shockwaves through the Catholic community, although the Vatican only stated it was monitoring the development of the situation closely.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An inquiry into a former Australian prime minister secretly appointing himself to multiple ministries recommended Friday that all such appointments be made public in the future to preserve trust in government. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he would recommend his Cabinet accept all of the retired judge ’s recommendations at a meeting next week. Albanese ordered the inquiry in August after revelations that his predecessor Prime Minister Scott Morrison had taken the unprecedented steps of appointing himself to five ministerial roles between March 2020 and May 2021, usually without the knowledge of the existing minister. The extraordinary power grab came to light after Morrison’s conservative coalition was voted out of office in May after nine years in power.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Taliban treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan may amount to a crime against humanity and should be investigated and prosecuted under international law, a U.N. team of experts said Friday. The Taliban promptly rejected the allegation. The statement by the U.N.-appointed experts followed a confirmation from the Taliban that three women were among 12 people lashed on Wednesday in front of hundreds of spectators at a provincial sports stadium. It signaled the Taliban’s resumption of a brutal form of punishment that was a hallmark of their rule in the 1990s. And on Nov. 11 in Taloqan in northeastern Takhar province, 10 men and nine women were lashed 39 times each in the presence of elders, scholars and residents at the city’s main mosque after Friday prayers.