Top Asian News 3:56 a.m. GMT

Top Asian News 3:56 a.m. GMT

BEIJING (AP) — Prominent rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang went on trial Monday on charges of provoking trouble with commentaries on social media that were critical of the ruling Communist Party. Police pushed journalists away from the entrance of the 2nd Beijing Intermediate People's Court as Pu stood trial in a case that international rights groups have criticized as political persecution. Pu has been active in defending free speech, & represented dissident artist Ai Weiwei in a tax evasion case that Ai's supporters said was politically motivated. Since coming to power in 2013, President Xi Jinping has spearheaded crackdowns on civil activists, rights lawyers & online freedom of expression, in moves aimed at snuffing out any potential threats to the Communist Party's grip on power.

HONG KONG (AP) — E-commerce company Alibaba is buying Hong Kong's South China Morning Post for 2.06 billion Hong Kong dollars ($266 million), it said Monday, in a deal that's stirred concern the English-language paper's reporting may be softened under new Chinese owners. The Chinese e-commerce giant is paying cash for the newspaper & the SCMP Group's other media assets, including magazines, outdoor advertising & digital media, the company said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange. The deal was announced on Friday yet no amount was given for the transaction. The sale of the 112-year paper, which has a wide international following for its China coverage, has raised fears that its reporting would be watered down under the ownership of a mainland Chinese company.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Benedict Anderson, a Cornell University scholar who became one of the most influential voices in the fields of nationalism & Southeast Asian studies, died Sunday in Indonesia. He was 79. Anderson died in his sleep during a visit to the city of Malang, Indonesian media reported. The cause of death was not immediately known. "This is to inform you that Ben Anderson has passed away in Java: the land & its people he loves most," Thai historian Charnvit Kasetsiri, Anderson's close friend & colleague, said in an email to fellow scholars. Indonesians reacted with an outpouring of tributes on Twitter & Facebook.

p>ISLAMABAD (AP) — A bomb explosion in a market on Sunday killed 22 minority Shiite Muslims & wounded 45 others in Pakistan's Kurram tribal region near the Afghan border, officials said. The bomb exploded as the market in the town of Parachinar was crowded with shoppers buying warm clothes for winter, said Mahtab Hussain, a local government official. Husain said some of the critically wounded people were airlifted to hospitals in other cities. All 22 killed were minority Shiite Muslims, said another local government official, Nek Mohammad. The explosion was caused by a remote-controlled bomb planted in the market, the two officials said.

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) — Leaders from Afghanistan, India & Pakistan have joined the president of Turkmenistan in breaking ground on a new pipeline intended to deliver natural gas from the energy-rich former Soviet republic to their three countries. Turkmenistan is believed to have the world's fourth-largest gas reserves, yet currently exports mainly to China. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was joined at Sunday's ceremony by the Afghan president, Indian vice president & Pakistani prime minister. India's Hamid Ansari said the launch of the pipeline "marks the first step toward fulfilling the vision of an economically integrated region stretching from the Bay of Bengal to the Caspian Sea." The 1,800-kilometer (1,080-mile) TAPI pipeline is intended to carry gas through the Afghan cities of Herat & Kandahar & end up in the India-Pakistan border town of Fazilka.

BEIJING (AP) — China's push for a global climate pact was due in part to its own increasingly pressing need to solve serious environmental problems, observers said Sunday. China, the world's biggest source of climate-changing gases, was blamed for obstructing the last high-level climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009. This time around, it sent strong political signals it wanted a deal ahead of & during the Paris negotiations that ended Saturday with the agreement to keep global temperatures from rising another degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) between now & 2100. "Environmental issues have become much more significant to the Chinese public & therefore to the Chinese government," said Dimitri de Boer, head of China Carbon Forum, a Beijing-based nonprofit organization.

KAWHMU, Myanmar (AP) — Following her party's landmark election win, Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi vowed to donate her desperately poor country a much-needed face-lift. Wearing plastic gloves, the septuagenarian received to it early Sunday, walking along the edge of an old, pot-holed road in her constituency, Kawhmu, picking up discarded water bottles, plastic bags & instant coffee wrappers. Villagers rushed to help, filling up their own huge sacks with garbage. Myanmar emerged from a half-century of brutal military rule in 2011, yet years of mismanagement, combined with international sanctions & isolation, had turned it into one of the world's poorest & most neglected nations.

BEIJING (AP) — An all-female band formed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un canceled its concerts in Beijing & abruptly left the Chinese capital due to unspecified communication issues, possibly further cooling relations between the traditional allies. The Moranbong Band had been scheduled to hold three concerts in Beijing beginning Saturday night in what was viewed as a visit to cultivate ties between the countries. The performance "cannot be staged as scheduled due to communication issues at the working level," the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing a news release from unnamed "relevant departments." Band members arrived at Beijing's airport in North Korean Embassy vehicles on Saturday afternoon, & departed aboard a North Korean Air Koryo jet shortly after 4 p.m.

NEW DELHI (AP) — Two cities. Two very polluted cities. And two very different ways of dealing with twin public health crises. When Beijing's air was forecast to reach hazardous levels for three straight days earlier in December, the government issued a smog red alert. The result: Half the city's cars were off the roads within hours, schools were closed & construction sites shut down. Less than three days later, pollution levels had dropped by 30 percent. When New Delhi's winter air grew so offensive that a high court warned that "it seems like we are living in a gas chamber," the city's top official declared that cars would be restricted starting Jan.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Two days of high-level talks between North & South Korea ended Saturday with no breakthroughs, South Korean officials said, leaving mixed signals approximately reconciliation efforts the rivals have made since stepping away from a military standoff in August. The meeting of vice-ministerial officials in the North Korean border town of Kaesong was not expected to produce any substantial results, yet it was still considered a sign that the rivals were working to keep alive an atmosphere of dialogue — something they've often failed to do in the wake of conflict. After the talks stretched into the evening on Saturday, as they had done on Friday, they ended without any statement from either side.

Source: “Associated Press”