VOLUME 28 NO. 2 | JANUARY 3 - JANUARY 9, 2009


The top 8 events that changed in Asia in 2008

Last updated 12-31-08 at 12 p.m.

March 10: China cracks down on protests in Tibet using force — or not?

Some 400 Buddhist monks participated in a protest march in Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, to commemorate the failed uprising of 1959, which resulted in the Dalai Lama fleeing to India.

On March 14, the largest protests in two decades turned violent. Ethnic Tibetans reportedly attacked Chinese citizens and vandalized public and private property. Chinese police used force to suppress the demonstrations. Tibetan leaders said that more than 100 Tibetans were killed, but Chinese officials said there were only 16 fatalities and denied that police had used lethal force.

April 10: Nepal holds a historic election

Millions of voters turned out to elect a 601-seat constituent assembly that would write a new constitution. Maoist rebels, who recently signed a peace agreement with the government that ended the guerrillas’ 10-year insurgency, vied for seats in the assembly. On April 21, it was reported that the Maoists won 120 out of 240 seats.

On May 28, the newly elected constituent assembly voted to dissolve the 239-year-old monarchy and form a republic. King Gyanendra was told to step down in the following 15 days.

May 12: Earthquake kills thousands in China

As many as 68,000 people were killed and thousands injured when an estimated 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit the Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan Provinces in western China. Nearly 900 students were trapped when Juyuan Middle School in the Sichuan Province collapsed, devastating families.

The earthquake was China’s worst natural disaster in three decades.

May 18: North Korea hints at transparency — then takes it away

North Korea gave U.S. officials about 18,000 pages of documents detailing its efforts in 1990, 2003, and 2005 to reprocess plutonium for nuclear weapons. The country raised hopes that it was on the path toward denuclearization.

However, months later, any progress seemed to have ground to a halt as North Korea rescinded the offer to inspectors and said it would restart its plutonium reprocessing plant at Yongbyon. The miasma was further complicated by reports that President Kim Jong-Il had suffered a stroke, leaving many to question who was calling the shots in the secretive country.

July 16: Milk scandal in China makes world headlines

The scandal broke after 16 infants in Gansu Province, who had been fed on milk powder produced by Sanlu Group, were diagnosed with kidney stones. After the initial focus on Sanlu, the market leader in the budget segment, government inspections revealed the problem existed to a lesser degree in products from 21 other companies, including Mengniu, Yili, and Yashili.

The issue has raised concerns about food safety and political corruption in mainland China, and it has damaged the reputation of China’s food exports.

Aug. 8: The Summer Games open, Michael Phelps makes history

The Games opened in Beijing with 14,000 performers and 91,000 spectators in the Bird’s Nest Stadium. Dancing, music, and fireworks entertained 840 million television viewers worldwide.

On Aug. 13, U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps won his 11th career gold medal, becoming the first athlete in Olympic history to do so.

On Aug. 17, Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal, breaking the record set by Mark Spitz in the 1972 Games. Phelps also set the record for the most golds in a single Olympics.

Sept. 1: Thai protests turn violent, government declares state of emergency

One person was killed and dozens were wounded in a fight between supporters of an opposition group and pro-government demonstrators. For more than a week, thousands of protesters, called People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), staged a sit-in outside the government buildings in Bangkok, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. Pro-government groups launched counterdemonstrations.

On Sept. 2, Sundaravej declared a state of emergency.

Nov. 26: Terrorists attack Mumbai

More than 170 people were killed and about 300 were wounded in a series of attacks on several of Mumbai’s landmarks and commercial hubs that were popular with foreign tourists, including two five-star hotels, a hospital, a train station, and a cinema.

Indian officials said ten gunmen carried out the attacks; it took Indian forces three days to end the siege.
Deccan Mujahedeen, a previously unknown group, claimed responsibility for the attacks. Pakistan officials denied any involvement in the attacks, but some Indian officials hinted that they suspect Pakistani complicity.

This report was compiled by Northwest Asian Weekly staff. Infoplease.com contributed to this report.

TOP 8 EVENTS

The top 8 events that changed Asia in 2008:

1. March 10: China cracks down on protests in Tibet using force — or not?

2. April 10: Nepal holds a historic election

3. May 12: Earthquake kills thousands in China

4. May 18: North Korea hints at transparency — then takes it away

5. July 16: Milk scandal in China makes world headlines

6. Aug. 8: The Summer Games open, Michael Phelps makes history

7. Sept. 1: Thai protests turn violent, government declares state of emergency

8. Nov. 26: Terrorists attack Mumbai


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