ASIA NEWS BITES: Aussie Jailed in Cambodia for 'Womb for Rent'; Chinese Chatbots Criticize CPP; Hong Kong Eyes Civil Service Academy; Tougher NK Sanctions Sought

ASIA NEWS BITES: Aussie Jailed in Cambodia for 'Womb for Rent'; Chinese Chatbots Criticize CPP; Hong Kong Eyes Civil Service Academy; Tougher NK Sanctions Sought
Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

What you need to know

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


Messenger app Tencent QQ introduced chatbots Baby Q and Little Bing, a penguin and a little girl, in March. But they have now been removed after social media users shared controversial comments that they said were made by the bots. - BBC

Finger-pointing over North Korea's flourishing weapons programme has pushed the world's two biggest economies towards a high-stakes impasse, but observers warn that Trump-style outbursts are no way to get China to bend to the United States' will. - Channel NewsAsia

Chinese censors tested on Thursday a new way of shutting down websites and cutting off the country’s internet users from the rest of the world. The censorship drill targeted tools that many in China use to thwart the country’s vast online censorship system, though internet companies said it also hit some sites at random. - The New York Times

Son of mainland human rights lawyer Chen Jiangang barred from school after request by authorities. - Hong Kong Free Press

A Chinese court handed a four-year prison term to an activist known for documenting social unrest in China, in a case that has underscored Beijing’s harsh approach to managing labor tensions. - The Wall Street Journal

Southeast Asian ministers meeting this week are set to avoid tackling the subject of Beijing's arming and building of manmade South China Sea islands, preparing to endorse a framework for a code of conduct that is neither binding nor enforceable. - Channel NewsAsia


Amid signs of the thinning of its troops on the Doklam plateau and India's willingness to reciprocate, China on Friday escalated its rhetoric over the standoff, warning India of "serious consequences" if it did not pull back its troops. - The Times of India

China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday said India has been building up troops and repairing roads along its side of the border amid an increasingly tense stand-off in a remote frontier region beside the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.- CNBC

Hong Kong:

Hong Kong intends to take a leaf out of Singapore’s public sector playbook by setting up a civil service academy similar to the one here, its Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Thursday (Aug 3). - Channel NewsAsia

Pro-democracy lawmakers, professionals, academics, civic organisations and student bodies have set up a concern group in response to the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.- Hong Kong Free Press


A Cambodian court has sentenced an Australian woman to 18 months in prison for providing commercial surrogacy services in the impoverished country. - Al Jazeera

Cambodia has arrested more than 200 Chinese men and women suspected of running an online scam that persuaded victims to send nude photographs and then extorted them for cash, police said Thursday. - Hong Kong Free Press via AFP

Authorities in Cambodia on Thursday detained former government advisor and opposition Khmer National United Party (KNUP) President Nhek Bun Chhay in connection with five-year-old allegations of drug production, according to the Ministry of the Interior. - Radio Free Asia

North Korea:

With national pride flying as high as one of its recent intercontinental ballistic missile tests, North Korea threatened the United States -- again -- on Thursday, warning with typical hyperbolic abandon that the rogue regime would soon send "unexpected 'gift packages," claiming America is "on the knife's edge of life and death" and slamming the Trump administration. - Fox News

The United States called Thursday on its partners in the Asia-Pacific to downgrade diplomatic ties with North Korea, ahead of an upcoming regional security meeting in Manila and a day after the Philippines criticized Pyongyang for its recent missile tests. - Radio Free Asia via AFP

Air France said on Thursday (Aug 3) it was extending its non-flyover zone around North Korea after a missile from the reclusive state fell into the sea 100 kilometres from one its plane's trajectories. - Channel NewsAsia

France, Britain and Japan are hoping for a speedy vote on a U.N. resolution that would impose new sanctions against North Korea following its tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile — but Russia says the text still needs to be discussed and there’s no agreement yet. - The Japan Times

South Korea:

Foreign workers who hold the E-9 non-professional employment visa will no longer be able to have unlimited extensions under new Korean government rules. - The Korea Times

A South Korean general and his wife treated soldiers like “slaves,” forcing them to retrieve golf balls and pick up toenail clippings, a rights group alleged, prompting officials to launch a probe Wednesday. - The Star

A New York federal judge refused to let a South Korean bank back out of a settlement with Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., finding that emails sent by lawyers for the banks were enough to enforce the deal. - The Wall Street Journal


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan appointed a new cabinet on Thursday, hoping to breathe new life into his conservative government, whose support among voters has plunged after a series of scandals and missteps. - The New York Times

Dozens of Tokyo firefighters were battling a blaze on Thursday (Aug 3) at the world's largest fish market and one of the capital's most popular tourist sites, as grey smoke billowed over the city. - Channel NewsAsia

Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor are expected to announce Friday plans to build a $1.6 billion assembly plant in the U.S. that would create 4,000 jobs and be up and running by 2021, according to a person briefed on the plans. - The Wall Street Journal


Taiwan has found a suitable place in the Nigerian city of Lagos to be used as its trade office, after being told by the West African country to relocate the office away from Nigeria's capital of Abuja. - Central News Agency

Taiwan-based manufacturing giant Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. is looking at investing at a second site in Wisconsin -- this time in the U.S. state's Dane County, according to a USA Today report published Wednesday. - Central News Agency

Taiwan's representative office in Saudi Arabia will dispatch officials to help Taiwanese Muslims during the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, despite the "temporary closure" of its representative office in Jeddah a week ago, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said on Thursday. - Central News Agency

The Cabinet yesterday said it would respect the rights of Chinese athletes if they decide not to attend the opening ceremony of the Taipei Universiade. - The Taipei Times

The number of Taiwanese fraud suspects deported to China from Indonesia has been confirmed as 18 not 22 as initially reported, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday night. - Central News Agency

To mark the 30th anniversary of the lifting of martial law, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday launched a three-day summer camp for international students to familiarize them with the nation’s democratization. - The Taipei Times


Aung San Suu Kyi came to power last year with a laser focus on ending the insurgencies that have dogged Myanmar for decades. The consuming nature of that goal has led to a new problem for the Nobel laureate: falling investor confidence in her ability to manage a fast-opening $67 billion economy. - The Wall Street Journal

Attackers in the northern part of Myanmar’s Rakhine state have shot dead six farmers, while two others have gone missing in the latest violent incident to plague volatile Maungdaw township, a local official and the office of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi said on Thursday. - Radio Free Asia

Nationalist monks and their supporters on Thursday refused to dismantle a camp they set up to protest against the National League for Democracy government in the central Myanmar city of Mandalay, disregarding an official notice from local religious authorities to move it.- Radio Free Asia


Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang region are turning mosques used by mostly-Muslim ethnic Uyghurs for religious and community purposes into centers disseminating political propaganda, according to local sources. - Radio Free Asia


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak faced renewed questions Thursday (Aug 3) over a 2002 sale of submarines to his country after a close associate was charged in France over alleged kickbacks. - Channel NewsAsia


Indonesian paramilitary police have shot and killed one person and wounded a number of others at a protest in a West Papuan village, according to human rights groups and local witnesses. - The Guardian

Hundreds of unionized workers at the Jakarta International Container Terminal, or JICT, in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, went on strike on Thursday (03/08), disrupting shipping operations at Jakarta's main seaport that handles most of the country's international shipping. - The Jakarta Globe


President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the bill granting free tuition to students studying in state universities and colleges, the Palace announced on Friday, a move that went against the advice of the chief executive’s economic managers who wanted him to veto the measure because of its tag price. - The Philippine Star

A handful of Wikipedia editors in the Philippines are battling in “edit wars” to rid the site of persistent Marcos myths, spending hours to purge untruths and historical revisionism, UK-based news agency The Guardian reported. - The Philippine Star

A witness in the House of Representatives’ inquiry into drug smuggling has admitted giving unnamed Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials up to P17 million in bribes in just three months.- The Philippine Star


Ride-hailing company Uber bought and leased Honda Vezel cars to its drivers even though the model had been recalled due to a fire risk, a report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Thursday (Aug 3) claims. - Channel NewsAsia


23 dead after Thailand floods wreak havoc, cause an estimated $300M in damage. - Aol via Reuters