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Lawyer and activist Nguyen Van Dai sentenced to 15 years in prison

Together with five other pro-democracy activists on trial yesterday for "conducting activities aimed at overthrowing the state".  Sentences total 66 years in prison and 17 years of  house arrest. The defendants are members of the Brotherhood for Democracy, a group founded by Dai in 2013 to defend human rights and promote democratic ideals.

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Rally for activists on trial ends in clash and arrests in Hanoi

The defendants, including lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, are linked to the Brotherhood for Democracy. Uniformed and plainclothes police blocked a group of about a dozen of their supporters heading for the courthouse with signs saying "Democracy is not a crime" and "Oppose suppression of the Brotherhood for Democracy".

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Taiwan is again becoming a flashpoint between China and America

IF THE partisanship of American politics unsettles you, take heart from a little piece of legislation that sailed through both houses of Congress with not a single vote opposed to it. And though the Taiwan Travel Act could have passed into law without a presidential signature, last month Donald Trump chose to put his cardiogrammatic scrawl to it. Given the chaos in Washington, the act reveals a remarkable consensus. It urges, though it does not mandate, high-level visits between America and Taiwan of the kind that successive administrations have discouraged, so as not to offend China.

That country’s “one-China principle” decrees that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese motherland. The Chinese government wants all other countries to act as if Taiwan belongs to it. America has never agreed to the formulation since breaking off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979 in order to establish them with China. It has made plain that Taiwan is a friend, to which it has long offered military...

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After two years of civilian rule, Myanmar’s politicians are gloomy

Suu Kyi is really above Win Myint

TIN TIN WIN never imagined she would become a politician. In Taungoo, a midsized city in the Burmese plains, she is mostly known as a family doctor. But three years ago she was asked to run for parliament by the National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the activist whose long campaign for democracy was instrumental in ending military rule in Myanmar. She enthusiastically answered the call, and won.

Today her mood has dampened. She sits through long, boring parliamentary sessions in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s purpose-built capital. Sometimes she wonders what the point of it all is. She once sponsored a motion to introduce sex education in schools (she has seen too many desperate pregnant teenagers at her clinic). But her own party took it off the agenda without much explanation. Only halfway through her term, she has already decided that she will not run again in 2020.

March 30th marked...

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Asian countries launch phoney assaults on fake news

IF THE bill that the lower house of Malaysia’s parliament passed on April 2nd becomes law, those who publish or spread “any news, information, data and reports which is, or are, wholly or partly false” are liable to six years in prison and a fine of 500,000 ringgit ($130,000). Critics scoff that the government is guilty of many such falsehoods, and will have to start by prosecuting itself. But the government contends that the bill is needed to patch gaps in existing legislation, allowing faster action to stop the spread of calumny through social media as well as in print. It will also punish third parties caught financing the dispersion of dodgy material.

The minister of communications, Salleh Said Keruak, says the bill is “clear and specific” and will not hamper free speech. “I think we can take comfort that we have not veered too far off a track that others may take. We just decided to be ahead of the pack,” says one of his staff.

In neighbouring Singapore, discussions about...

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