Should the UK monitor Hong Kong’s governance?

Richard Ottaway, chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, poses for a picture during an interview at his office in central London on 1 December 2014, after China refused to grant visas to members of the committee to visit Hong Kong. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ivy Lee, CSUS

China’s foreign ministry recent barring of a British parliamentary delegation from entering Hong Kong in response to pro-democracy protests has raised significant questions on the UK’s role in Hong Kong. Read more…

Election reveals the sorry state of Japan’s political opposition

Members of Japan's House of Representatives shout ‘ banzai’, a traditional cheering gesture at the National Diet in Tokyo on 21 November 2014, as Prime Minister Abe dissolved the lower house. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Purnendra Jain, University of Adelaide

Last Sunday’s general election in Japan has returned Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its ally, the New Komeito, with a two-thirds majority in the lower house of the Diet. That the LDP would get a majority of seats was expected, as various polls had shown since Abe unexpectedly announced snap elections in November. Read more…

A ‘beautiful’ Japan in the eye of the media beholder

Masataka Watanabe and Shinya Iida hold a press conference after becoming the new president and chairman, respectively, of Japanese daily The Asahi Shimbun, Osaka, Japan, 5 December 2014. They apologised for withdrawn articles on the Fukushima nuclear disaster and 'comfort women' issue. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Chris Perkins, University of Edinburgh

The Japanese media has been set alight by the debate on Japan’s use of ‘comfort women’ — a euphemism referring to the women used for sex by the Japanese Army in World War II. The furore began in August when Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s premier liberal newspaper, admitted that a source used in a number of articles it published on comfort women had fabricated his story. Read more…

Abe takes his electoral ‘chance’

A man walks past posters of Japanese prime minister and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Shinzo Abe displayed at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo on 4 December 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, East Asia Forum

As the official election campaign rolled out last week, the media are still trying to get a handle on what the upcoming Japanese election is all about. This is ‘the election Japan didn’t need to have’ or the election ‘that’s not about anything in particular’, except securing Prime Minister Abe’s and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) survival in the longer term. Read more…

Snap election belies Japan’s weak politics

Japan's Prime Minister and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Shinzo Abe greets supporters after his election campaign speech for the 14 December lower house election. Abe's ruling party is on course for a landslide win in the upcoming general election, opinion polls showed. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ben Ascione, ANU

The incumbent Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) seems to be cruising towards a victory in the snap election to be held on 14 December. But beware of interpreting this as a ringing endorsement of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Instead, the likely result shows just how weak Japanese politics has become. Read more…

Why Asahi bashing reveals the weakness of the Japanese left

Asahi Shimbun President Tadakazu Kimura, bows in apology during a press conference at its head office in Chuo Ward, Tokyo on 11 Sept 2014. The Asahi Shimbun admitted that its May article on the so-called Yoshida file concerning the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was incorrect and retracted the article. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Katsuyuki Hidaka, Ritsumeikan University

One of Japan’s biggest left-leaning newspapers, Asahi Shimbun, has recently come under fire for having published erroneous reports about the wartime ‘comfort women’ and the Fukushima nuclear power plant. In a series of articles about the ‘comfort women’ issue Asahi Shimbun published the testimony of a former Japanese soldier, known as Seiji Yoshida, which was later found to be false. Read more…

Is the Myanmar regime splintering?

Members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) work at a souvenir stall beneath posters of Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the party headquarters in Yangon on 19 November 2014. Suu Kyi's opposition party admitted it 'cannot win' its battle to scrap parts of a junta-era constitution that bars her from Myanmar's presidency. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Adam P MacDonald, Halifax

With one year remaining before Myanmar’s general election there is growing concern, both internationally and domestically, that the reform process is at best beginning to stagnate and at worst rolling back in some critical areas. Read more…

Liberal Japan needs to drown out revisionist voices

Japanese lawmakers visit the Yasukuni Shrine to pay respect to the war dead on the day of the 69th anniversary of the end of the World War II, in Tokyo , Friday, 15 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Benedikt Buechel, Seoul National University

Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s return to power in December 2012, Japan’s diplomatic relations with South Korea have continuously worsened. Abe’s persistent stance on the Yasukuni Shrine, the Dokdo/Takeshima territorial dispute and the ‘comfort women’ issue has elicited fierce opposition from the South Korean government. While no rapprochement on any of these conflicts has been achieved, the Japanese government should be aware that its hawkish and revisionist rhetoric is hurting Japan’s reputation and risks driving the country into international isolation. Read more…

Japan’s unnecessary election

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at his official residence in Tokyo, 18 November 2014. Abe called a snap election for December and put off a sales tax hike planned for next year until 2017. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

Prime Minister Abe is subjecting his ruling coalition — and his nation — to an unnecessary election on 14 December 2014. Abe claims his decision is all about policy, but in reality it is all about politics. His stated rationale for calling the election is the need to secure voters’ endorsement of his administration’s decision to postpone the consumption tax rise to 10 per cent until April 2017. But his real reasons are based on cold calculations of political self-interest. Read more…

Where are Hong Kong’s moderate democrats?

A protester rests after they tried to break into the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, 19 November 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Steven Yet, University of Toronto

After weeks of protests, the protracted stalemate in Hong Kong doesn’t appear to be over. While the Occupy Central movement has brought together civil society groups to protest for democratic change, the movement lacks active participation from the political side. Read more…

Political Islam in Bangladeshi democracy

Activists of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, acknowledge their leader during a rally in Dhaka, 4 February 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Mubashar Hasan, Griffith University

Recently Bangladesh was side-tracked from an electoral democracy. Earlier this year, the ruling party Awami League formed government after a one-sided election. Bangladesh’s major opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), boycotted the election on the grounds Read more…

Najib’s East Malaysia challenge

Malaysian schoolchildren wave national flags during the 57th National Day celebrations at Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur on 31 August 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Arnold Puyok, UNIMAS

Malaysia’s federal government needs to rethink its strategy on regional autonomy in the states of Sabah and Sarawak if it wants to maintain their electoral support. Sabah and Sarawak helped seal the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) victory in the 12th and 13th general elections. But there are growing concerns in the two states about the intrusion of the federal government. Read more…

Myanmar’s militant monks smash stereotypes

Buddhist nationalist monk Wirathu takes part during a demonstration in Mandalay, Myanmar, 30 October 2014. Thousands of people including Buddhist monks and nuns led by the Race and Religion Protection Organisation demonstrated in Mandalay in support of the interfaith marriage law. (Photo: AAP).

Author: David I. Steinberg, Georgetown University

In recent months, Buddhist monks have led riots against Muslim communities in various parts of Myanmar. Undocumented charges of attempted conversions of Buddhist women by Muslim men, and the perceived expansion of the Muslim population, have exacerbated concerns, at times leading to violence. Read more…

Good cop, bad cop: can responsible opposition save Indonesia from itself?

The de facto leader of the Red and White coalition, Prabowo Subianto, arrives at the inauguration of President Joko Widodo, 20 October 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Yohanes Sulaiman, Indonesian National Defense University

There is good news and bad news about the recent string of victories of the ‘Red and White’ coalition in the Indonesian parliament. The good news is that unlike previous Indonesian presidents, President Joko Widodo — popularly known as Jokowi — will have to face a critical and probably hostile parliament. This is also the bad news. Read more…