from Asia Unbound

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 1, 2013

November 01, 2013

Police cars are parked in front of a giant portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at the main entrance of the Forbidden City in Beijing on November 1, 2013 (Kim Kyung-Hoon).
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Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Five die in suspected terrorist attack in Tiananmen Square, Chinese authorities blame Uighur separatists. An SUV drove through Tiananmen Square on Monday, killing three people in the car and two bystanders, and wounding forty-two. Meng Jianzhu, China’s domestic security chief, said that the Uighur East Turkestan Islamic Movement was behind the attack. Beijing police have arrested eight suspects, seven of whom had Uighur names, according to witnesses of the arrest. Security has intensified in Beijing and the Muslim province of Xinjiang, where the suspects are believed to be from. Xinjiang has been struck with sporadic violent incidents, with many Uighurs claiming that their culture and religion are being suppressed, and some calling for independence from China.

2. Australia said to be a partner in NSA’s spying efforts. According to a new document leaked by former NSA contract Edward Snowden, Australia has used its embassies in Asia to collect intelligence as part of NSA surveillance efforts. The embassies included Jakarta, Hanoi, Beijing, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur. Australian ambassador to Indonesia Greg Moriarty was summoned to the Indonesian foreign ministry on Friday to discuss the spying. The Chinese Foreign Ministry reacted angrily and demanded that “foreign entities and personnel in China strictly abide by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.” Australia, along with the United States, Britain, Canada and New Zealand, is one of the Five Eyes countries that share highly classified intelligence.

3. China schedules key economic reform meeting. China’s leadership will meet from November 9 to November 12 for the third plenum meeting of the Eighteenth Communist Party Central Committee, at which Beijing will look to set its economic agenda for the next ten years. State media has already reported that Yu Zhengsheng, the fourth-ranked member of the Politburo Standing Committee, has promised “unprecedented,” “deep,” and “comprehensive” reforms. China’s rate of economic growth has slowed over the past few years, and many inside and outside the world’s second-largest economy are calling for a new growth strategy less dependent on exports and investment and more reliant on consumption. Analysts are predicting a range of possible reforms, including reigning in local government spending, bolstering the private sector, and rural land rights reform.

4. North Korea returns six South Korea detainees. The six men, all held on charges of illegal entry, were handed over to South Korea authorities in a goodwill gesture that some think could help ease tensions of the Korean Peninsula. The move can as something of a surprise; last month, Pyongyang cancelled reunions of families separated by the Korean War. The North could possibly be seeking an agreement with the South to restart talks on a tourist visits by South Koreans, as well as signaling to the United States that they are willing to take a similar step to release long-imprisoned American Kenneth Bae.

5. Easy to do business in Singapore, not so much in Myanmar. The World Bank released its annual report on the ease of doing business this week, with Singapore topping the global list for the eighth straight year. Burma, despite significant economic and political reforms, came in 182nd, the lowest ranking for any Asian country. Malaysia made it into the top ten for the first time, ranking sixth. The rest of the region pulled a decidedly mixed bag. China climbed three spots to ninety-sixth, but was leapfrogged by Russia, which now stands as the leading BRIC nation on the list.

Bonus: Malaysian authorities pull Ke$ha show, threaten jail. Malaysian authorities pulled a performance by American singer Ke$ha this week, and the singer claimed that she was threatened with imprisonment if she did play, according to her Twitter account.