Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.
1. Xi Jinping visits Indonesia and Pakistan. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan and Indonesia this week. In Pakistan, he signed agreements worth more than $28 billion as part of the new “Silk Road,” an ambitious land and maritime economic corridor connecting China to Europe and the Middle East. Pakistan will invest part of the money in infrastructure proejcts, including a deepwater port at Gwadar and railroads from Baluchistan into western China. In Indonesia, Xi attended the Asian-African Conference. Xi Jinping and Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo held bilateral talks on the sidelines of the conference to discuss investments in Indonesian development. This pledge came on the heels of Jokowi’s announcement that Indonesia plans to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Bank. At the conference, Xi spoke about the importance of developed countries investing in the developing world “with no political strings attached,” while Jokowi, in his keynote address, called for a new world order not dominated by Western-controlled financial institutions. Xi also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, despite a speech by Abe in which he warned against powerful nations imposing on the weak.
2. Farmer suicide sparks debate and tension in India. During a rally organized by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi to protest a proposed land acquisition bill, farmer Gajendra Singh Rajput hanged himself in plain sight sending shockwaves throughout the capital. The farmer spent his final days unsuccessfully trying to convine government officials to compensate him for his crop losses due to erratic weather. The incident is not an anomaly though; in Gajendra’s home state of Rajasthan, forty-one farmer suicides occurred in the past two months alone. Accusations have been levied at the government for not doing enough to help struggling farmers, the police for not intervening, and at AAP for continuing the rally and allegedly supporting the suicide. Farmers face the whims of the weather, but also harassment, corruption, and crippling debt. The Modi government is keen to pass a bill to make it easier for the government and business to acquire land, but farmers claim that it comes at the expense of their livelihoods.
3. South Korean prime minister offers to resign amid political scandals. On Monday, Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo offered to resign, adding fuel to the domestic political scandal in South Korea. Lee was named, along with seven other politicians, by South Korean tycoon Sung Won-jong (who committed suicide after the scandal broke) as one recipient of bribes. Lee denies accepting bribes, but the veneer of political scandal has stained his legitimacy for the largely symbolic position of prime minister. The resignation is not final until accepted by the President Park Geun-hye, who is expected to return from her state trip to Latin America on April 29. Last year, amid the Sewol ferry incident, then Prime Minister Chung Hong-won resigned; two nominated replacements successively resigned due to allegations of corruption, and Lee finally took the post earlier this year.
4. Hong Kong presents plans for new election law. Hong Kong has entered the latest stage of determining its political future in releasing proposed changes to the electoral system this week. As expected, the draft election law follows closely an outline drawn up in Beijing last summer. The law allows for over five million eligible voters to cast a ballot for the chief executive of Hong Kong in 2017, a measure the pro-Beijing government in Hong Kong argues offers universal suffrage. However, all potential political contenders must first receive approval from a 1,200-member panel closely tied to Beijing. Minor adjustments raised in this week’s law–such as candidates receiving approval from at least 120 members of the panel–are seen as “totally useless” by leaders from last year’s Occupy Central demonstrations. The proposal must receive two-thirds support from Hong Kong’s seventy legislators, a chamber currently occupied by more than one-third pro-democracy legislators.
5. EU threatens Thailand with possible trade ban over illegal fishing. Thailand, the world’s third-largest seafood exporter, will have to implement “a corrective tailor-made action plan” in six months; otherwise the European Union will block seafood imports. About 15 percent of Thailand’s seafood exports end up in the EU, a total worth nearly $700 million. Karmenu Vella, the EU environment and fisheries commissioner, stated that in Thailand, “there are no controls whatsoever and no efforts being made whatsoever and illegal fishing is almost totally allowed.” In response, the Thai agriculture minister asserted that “we are confident that we will be able to implement the various policies of the ministry and can create understanding with our fisheries brothers and sisters.” The EU has levied such sanctions on Belize (which has since been removed from the blacklist), Guinea, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka; the Philippines and South Korea have been issued ‘yellow card’ warnings from the EU, but those were lifted this past week.
Bonus: Chinese construction workers unearth dinosaur eggs. Construction workers in Heyuan city in the southern province of Guangdong unearthed forty-three fossilized dinosaur eggs during road repair work. The city, which calls itself the “home of dinosaurs,” won a Guinness world record for the world’s largest collection of dinosaur eggs in 2004. Road repairs have stopped until all the eggs are safely extracted.