ASIA NEWS BITES: Beijing Preps for Space Life; Riot Police in Hebei; Fukushima Wildfire; Uber Learning in Burma

ASIA NEWS BITES: Beijing Preps for Space Life; Riot Police in Hebei; Fukushima Wildfire; Uber Learning in Burma
Photo Credit: AP/達志影像

What you need to know

A quick roundup of the most important news from around the region.


China now has a rail link into the heart of Europe. The trains chugging along the ancient Silk Road through this gateway city to the West are growing in numbers and freighted with geopolitical significance. - The Wall Street Journal

Authorities in the northern Chinese province of Hebei sent in more than 1,000 riot police who used pepper spray and batons against demonstrators on Thursday, in a bid to end days of angry protests by local people over a leak at a chemical plant that released toxic gasses into the air. - Radio Free Asia

Chinese students will live in a laboratory simulating a lunar-like environment for up to 200 days as Beijing prepares for its long-term goal of putting humans on the moon. - AFP via Hong Kong Free Press


Asia has enjoyed a substantial demographic dividend in past decades, but rapid aging is now set to create a demographic tax on growth. - International Monetary Fund.

Hong Kong:

The organizers of Hong Kong’s annual July 1 democracy rally have questioned the government’s explanation that the protest’s starting venue – Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park – has already been promised to a pro-Beijing group. - Hong Kong Free Press

South Korea:

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday hinted at possibly scrapping an agreement with Tokyo over Japan's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II, insisting that most South Koreans could not accept the deal reached by the former Seoul government. - The Korea Times

South Korea’s new president, like his predecessors, promised to loosen the hold that powerful, family-run business empires such as Samsung have over the economy, and he has a rare opening to accelerate change. - The Wall Street Journal


A young monk who set himself on fire five years ago in Sichuan in a protest challenging Chinese rule in Tibetan areas was released from prison on Wednesday after serving his full term, according to a Tibetan source in exile. - Radio Free Asia


Dozens of detainees at an immigration center were on a hunger strike Thursday to protest prolonged and multiple detentions, drawing fresh attention to Japan’s policy toward immigration. - The Japan Times

A wildfire near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has finally been extinguished after a 12-day battle waged by firefighters and Self-Defense Force troops in special protective gear left 75 hectares of tainted forest scorched, and local officials scrambling to quash radiation rumors. - The Japan Times


The Taiwan Cabinet yesterday announced strategies to crack down on drug trafficking and rehabilitate drug users, with a four-year, NT$10 billion (US$331 million) budget to combat drug abuse and trafficking. - Taipei Times

A high-ranking Taiwanese military official is being investigated on suspicion of spying for China. - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

North Korea:

CIA establishes independent center focused on North Korea. Korea Mission Center is intended to fight "serious threats" from DPRK. - North Korea News

Moon Jae-in, Xi Jinping agree to use “pressure and sanctions” against N. Korea. In the first phone call, ROK and Chinese Presidents say denuclearization is "common goal." - North Korea News


Prime Minister Hun Sen used a news conference at Thursday’s World Economic Forum on Asean in Phnom Penh to warn that two foreign-owned news outlets, including The Cambodia Daily, were “against” the government and that journalists who did not report “properly” would be seen as “servants of foreigners.”- The Cambodia Daily

Coinciding with Cambodia’s 13th annual Gay Pride Week celebrations, which begin today, a statement signed by 57 communities, organizations and businesses called on the government to legalize same-sex marriage and introduce laws to protect the LGBT community. - The Cambodia Daily


Uber is only hiring government-accredited taxi drivers in Burma, a regional executive said, a move that allows it to avoid the legal hurdles that have dogged it across Asia in one of the region’s last frontier markets. - Reuters via The Irrawaddy


People-smuggling across the border from Burma to Thailand is on the rise despite a crackdown by authorities in both countries that have made it more expensive and dangerous, Thai immigration police say. - Reuters via The Irrawaddy


With the fish death disaster caused by wastewater dumped by a steel plant into the waters off central Vietnam still fresh in the minds of citizens, administrators in a province housing a paper mill are worried about giving history the opportunity to repeat itself. - Tuoi Tre News


Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry wants to extend a moratorium on issuing new licenses to use primary forest and peatland in the Southeast Asian country by two years, an official said. - Reuters via Jakarta Globe


A drug-free environment is needed for the sustained growth of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, President Duterte told the World Economic Forum (WEF) on ASEAN here yesterday. - Philippine Star