The top 10 events that shook the world in 2009

By Leslie Yeh
Northwest Asian Weekly

Hyderabad, India

1. The formation of Telangana in India plunges the state into chaos

After a week of violent protests in early December, India agreed to split the southern state of Andhra Pradesh into two separate states, forming the new state of Telangana. The decision was made following an 11-day hunger strike by Telangana Rashtra Samiti party leader K. Chandrasekara Rao and a week of turbulent protests, which shut down businesses across Hyderabad — India’s IT hub. The decision immediately fueled political chaos, agitating various Indian ethnic groups and causing many members of the legislative assembly to resign in protest.

Gary Locke

2. Gary Locke is appointed as Obama’s new Commerce Secretary

Seattleites took pride in celebrating the appointment of their former governor Gary Locke to the Obama administration in 2009. During his two terms as governor (1996-2004), Locke made significant achievements in increasing trade with China and furthering growth opportunities for Washington businesses. He remains the first ever Chinese American to head a state. Locke was officially sworn into national office on Mar. 26.

Wen Jiabao (left) and Barack Obama

3. China peaks controversy at global climate meeting

In 2009, awareness toward global warming and climate protection increasingly dominated the international landscape. From Dec. 7 to Dec. 18, negotiations between President Barack Obama and China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao regarding China’s reduction of greenhouse gas emissions were at the forefront of the United Nations Climate Change Conference — the largest summit ever to be held on climate control. After lengthy negotiations, China agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas output, but persuaded the United States to drop text from the declaration aiming for a 50 percent global emissions reduction by 2050.

Euna Lee (left) and Laura Ling

4. Bill Clinton helps rescue two Asian American journalists

Former President Bill Clinton flew to North Korea on Aug. 4 to negotiate the release of two Asian American journalists — Euna Lee and Laura Ling — who were detained by North Korean border guards on Mar. 17 for entering the country without a proper visa. The two journalists reportedly crossed into North Korean territory while filming a documentary on the trafficking of women and were subsequently sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. After Clinton conveyed a sincere apology on their behalf to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Lee and Ling were issued a full pardon and returned to the United States on Aug. 5.

Singapore indoor stadium

5. Singapore hosts the first Asian Youth Games

For two weeks in July, young athletes gathered at the first ever Asian Youth Games in Singapore to compete in more than 90 sporting events. The games kicked off on June 29 with a torch race and opening ceremony at Singapore Indoor Stadium. More than 1,400 athletes from 20 different schools were given the chance to test their athletic abilities against other youth teams from Asian nations. The games cost $15 million in total and were part of Singapore’s bid for the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics.

Edward Chen (left), Dolly Gee (middle), and Jacqueline Nguyen

6. Obama nominates three Asian Americans to the federal bench

President Barack Obama continued his aim toward long-term diversification of the federal judiciary by nominating three Pacific Asian Americans — Edward Chen, Dolly Gee, and Jacqueline Nguyen — to the federal court district in California. Nguyen, a Vietnamese American with a successful track record as a judge and federal prosecutor, was officially confirmed as a U.S. district court judge on Dec. 4. She is the first Vietnamese American Article III judge in California history. If confirmed, Chen and Gee would also make history as the first Pacific Asian Americans to serve as federal judges in their respective districts.

Typhoon Morakot

7. Typhoon Morakot causes catastrophic damage in Taiwan

The deadliest typhoon in Taiwan’s history left more than 600 casualties in its wake, wrecking irreparable damage on the small island from Aug. 8 to Aug. 9. The tropical storm brought 109 inches of rainfall, far surpassing the previous record of 68 inches set by Typhoon Herb in 1996. Villages across southern and eastern Taiwan were destroyed by the high winds, mudslides, and severe flooding which cascaded across the island. The majority of casualties were inhabitants of Shiao Lin — a small village completely submerged under rampant mudslides.

8. Philippine mayor charged in Ampatuan massacre

Map of Maguindanao

Map of Maguindanao

Andal Ampatuan Jr., the mayor of Datu Unsay in the Philippines, was charged with seven counts of murder related to the massacre of 57 people on Nov. 23 — the worst episode of election-related violence in the nation’s history. In support of the Ampatuan clan, 100 gunmen attacked backers of rival candidate Ismael “Toto” Mangudadatu, who was planning to run for the post of governor in next year’s election. Among the dead were Mangudadatu’s wife and sisters.

A Chinese man gets a special haircut for China’s 60th anniversary (Photo provided by AP)

9. The People’s Republic of China celebrates its 60th anniversary

On Oct. 1, an elaborate two and a half hour ceremony spread out through the streets of Beijing in honor of China’s 60th anniversary of Communist Party rule. The lively parade featured hundreds of tanks, soldiers, and missile launchers, as well as celebrity parade floats and an open top Red Flag limousine carrying President Hu Jintao. The festivities lasted late into the night with a concert gala and patriotic fireworks display at Tiananmen Square.

10. Japan’s election results in the first democratic leader in half a century

Yukio Hatoyama

In a historic election on Aug. 30, Yukio Hatoyama — President of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) — was elected Japan’s 93rd Prime Minister, succeeding Taro Aso of the Liberal Democratic Party. The change in leadership marks the first time in half a century that a democratic party has ruled Japan. The DPJ’s policy platforms include a restructuring of civil service, free tuition for public high schools, a raise in minimum wage, and income support for farmers. ♦

Leslie Yeh can be reached at

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