One of Cambodia's nature reserve forests disappeared at the shocking rate of one football pitch every hour of 2019, and the illegal logging that drives deforestation has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Forest conservation activists say Cambodia's loss of 26 percent of its tree cover since 2000 is the result of authoritarianism and corruption in the de facto one-party state where the business tycoons and military officials who cull and sell off the country's tropical hardwood enjoy impunity thanks to their close ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party.
The United States on July 13 declared that China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea are illegal and accused Beijing of treating the disputed waters as a “maritime empire,” bullying Southeast Asian nations and denying them their rights to the energy and marine resources in their waters. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who with the declaration formally aligned the U.S. position with the legal outcome of a key 2016 international court ruling on the sea, said: “America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law.”
Tsinghua University law professor Xu Zhangrun, a sharp critic of Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party, was taken away by police in Beijing July 6 after police in far away Sichuan province accused him of seeking prostitutes. Friends dismissed the vice allegations as a timeworn trick used by ruling party to sully the reputation of critics like Xu, who had just published a collection of his trenchant essays outside China.
The standing committee of China's National People's Congress rubber-stamped draconian new security legislation for Hong Kong that bans activities deemed subversive or secessionist. The imposition of the law prompted political groups to disband and set the stage for protests in the city, as well as friction with Western countries over what is seen as a breach of China's international obligations under the 1984 arrangement governing the 1997 handover to Beijing of the former British colony, which was promised a high degree of autonomy for 50 years.
Forced sterilizations and abortions targeting Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of northwestern China have dramatically increased in recent years, slowing Uyghur population growth rates, according to a new report by researcher Adrian Zenz, who says Beijing's policies “might be characterized as a demographic campaign of genocide.”
Nuclear-armed Asian powers China and India have become embroiled in a tense diplomatic and military standoff over disputed points along their mostly undemarcated, 3,500km (2,200-mile) Himalayan border. The first deadly border clash in more than 40 years between the world's two most populous nations on June 15 left 20 Indian soldiers dead after fierce hand-to-hand combat.
Exiled activists with Cambodia’s banned opposition party are trying to help hundreds of thousands of people left jobless and unable to pay debts to microfinance lenders after the shutdown of the economy to fight the coronavirus outbreak. The campaign to urge rural borrowers to stop their loan payments for at least six months was denounced by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who threatened to arrest those who try to “sabotage” his government.
President and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping passed his 67th birthday as China deals with fallout from the coronavirus epidemic, trade and security tensions with the United States while other Western countries are rethinking ties with China, a pushback from Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea, civil unrest in Hong Kong, deepening estrangement with Taiwan, and global condemnation of its treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong has led a campaign to pressure South Korea to stop the flow of anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent across the border in balloons by defectors. North Korea cited the leaflets, which criticize Kim Jong Un's nuclear threats and human rights record, when it cut off communications with the South on June 9.
Laos has ambitious plans to become the "Battery of Southeast Asia" by building seven hydro-power dams on the Mekong River, and damming its tributaries, to generate and export electricity to its neighbors. But the mega-projects have displaced thousands of Lao citizens without bringing cheaper power. And dams are adding to the problems of farmers downstream in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos itself, who are suffering drought, a reduction in fish stocks, and from other environmental damage to the vital ecosystem.
Chinese state media and officials have tried to score easy propaganda points from U.S. racial tensions and social unrest in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, but the tactic can backfire spectacularly, as Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying found out recently. When she tweeted "I can't breathe" — using some of Floyd's last words with a policeman's knee on his neck — readers were quick to shoot back: "I can't tweet," reminding everyone that twitter is blocked by China.
Under Xi Jinping, China's diplomats have abandoned charm for an aggressive approach called "Wolf Warrior" diplomacy, with envoys taking to Twitter to insult their host countries or threaten trade war against governments that criticize China. Named after a 2017 action blockbuster featuring a Chinese Rambo shooting up foreign bad guys in Africa, the pugnacious diplomacy has been directed at countries as distinct as Sweden, Venezuela and India -- and appears to be getting the same reviews as the movie. Wolf Warrior won awards inside China, but foreign critics cringed at what they described as "heavy-handed flag-waving," "jingoistic jubilance," and "unintentionally amusing" dialog.
The European Commission on May 7 put Cambodia on a blacklist of 12 "high-risk" countries with deficient anti-money laundering programs that "pose significant threats to the EU's financial system." Money laundering in Cambodia often takes the form of elites, including relatives of strongman Hun Sen, hiding money of unknown provenance in overseas banks or real estate, an RFA investigation has shown.
China said on May 21 it would "perfect the legal system" of Hong Kong with national security legislation targeting dissent, while media reports said the Chinese Communist Party might simply insert the unpopular law directly onto Hong Kong's statute book without ratification by the city's legislature -- moves that threaten the "high degree of autonomy" and a separate legal jurisdiction the former British colony was promised for 50 years after 1997.
While state propaganda portrays China as a heroic helper in the fight against the global coronavirus pandemic, a number of governments around the world are exploring legal options for holding Beijing accountable for covering up the outbreak in critical early days.
Eyes on Earth Inc., a U.S. research firm specializing in water, published a study April 13 showing that China’s 11 Mekong River dams held back water and exacerbated a damaging drought in downstream countries Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Critics of China's controversial early handling of the coronavirus outbreak that started in Wuhan say the World Health Organization (WHO) has been co-opted by Beijing and is addressing the global pandemic with political deference to Beijing.
Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom Video Technologies, acknowledged in a live-streamed broadcast on April 8 that the company had made “missteps” in the face of surge of users working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, including routing traffic through China, raising security and privacy concerns.
The United Nations on April 1 announced a global partnership in which Chinese tech firm Tencent will host and provide technical support for large-scale online global dialogue -- including on the coronavirus -- through Tencent's VooV Meeting, WeChat Work, and Tencent Artificial Intelligence Simultaneous Interpretation. The firm has a history of collaborating with Chinese state monitoring and censorship.
The coronavirus has prompted the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and Euro Cup football tournment, as well as the cancellation or postponement of major professional sports.
China is struggling to change the story of how the COVID-19 pandemic came about and spread around the world.
China’s propaganda drive to rewrite the narrative surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak took a bizarre turn this week when a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, tweeted that “it might be the US army” that brought the coronavirus to China.
China's state media, initially on the defensive for a perceived slow response to the coronavirus epidemic, now tells the world to thank China for curbing its spread.
The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) this month revised its criteria in measuring emerging economies, removing China from its list of "developing countries" eligible for preferential treatment in trade matters.
A livestreamed video of a man loading protective masks into black government vehicle next to a Red Cross warehouse in Wuhan sparked outrage online in China, where the coronavirus outbreak has tested public faith in their government.
China's response to the coronavirus epidemic has rare drawn criticism of Xi Jinping's top-down leadership style.
President Tsai Ing-wen swept to a landslide victory in Taiwan's presidential elections over a candidate favored by Beijing, in a campaign marked by threats, infiltration and saber-rattling by China.