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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

OCTOBER 15, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 41

Newsmakers:
Pressing Ahead

James Soong is riding a post-Quake wave
Pressing His Luck
Pressuring the Press
Passage

    ALSO IN ASIAWEEK
Theater: Speaking in Tongues
Why a Thai version of a Japanese play is a hit - in Tokyo

People: Sale of the Century
Prince Jefri's grand auction

Books: About Face
The tough-to-handle U.S.-China relationship

Newsmakers
Public accusations are soiling Seoul's press

Viewpoint
Dealing with libel on the uncensored Internet

  RELATED STORIES
Newsmakers: Donald Tsang gets lost in Las Vegas
The Financial Secretary's trip inspires fear and loathing in Hong Kong (10/08/99)

Newsmakers: Paper Wars
Accusations fly as Hong Kong's Print media do battle (10/01/99)

Newsmakers: APEC - Why bother?
Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad passes on the regional confab (09/17/99)

When once-beleaguered James Soong Chu-yu threatened to resign from Taiwan's provincial governorship in March 1997, some called it the "first earthquake of the spring." The charismatic mainland-born politician weathered it well - seismic disturbances seem to suit him. The front-runner in next year's presidential race, Soong is poised to gain from the aftermath of September's earthquake. For starters, he lacks a post or a party - the Kuomintang was slated to expel him before the quake interrupted their plans. Pre-quake, that was seen as a drawback since the KMT has so much politcal power. Post-quake, outsider status puts him above the blame-game preoccupying the KMT-dominated central government and opposition-led local powers. On top of that, the public remembers Soong's term as governor and his role as Taiwan's "disaster chief," in charge of handling just the sort of emergency the country now faces. Newspaper polls found about 35% of those interviewed consider Soong the "most capable presidential candidate in an emergency." Meanwhile, KMT candidate VP Lien Chan is plodding through his tour of the shattered region, facing down angry crowds who want more government aid.  

Pressing His Luck
What's a man to do when his strongest potential ally is 10 time zones away? Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif is "watching political power slip through his hands like sand through an iron fist," as our correspondent puts it. In less than three years since his breathtaking electoral victory ousted Benazir Bhutto, the Sharif regime has lost the support of the businessmen who brought him to power, the religious leaders whose favor he tried to curry by "Islamisizing" the country's constitution, and the military, who were alienated by July's humiliating defeat in the Kargil faceoff with India. And as with Bhutto, the U.S. is the place Sharif is looking for help. Shabaz Sharif, the PM's younger brother, made the trek to Washington in late September, seeking President Clinton's support. Expect the U.S. to back whichever civilian government is in power in Islamabad, no matter how troubled or corrupt. The Americans' greatest fear: the return of military rule, or, even worse in Washington's eyes, the ascension of an Islamic-based political power structure. Both seem growing possibilities in the coming months.  

Pressuring the Press
Under South Korean law, newspapers cannot support political candidates. Apparently it's even a worse violation if you back the loser. Ask Hong Suk Hyun, publisher of the JoongAng Ilbo, the country's second-largest daily. He "informally" threw the paper's weight behind Lee Hoi Chang, who lost the 1997 presidential election by 300,000 votes. After two years of bilateral mudslinging, Hong was arrested on Oct. 2, charged with evading taxes to the tune of $1.9 million. The charges do not involve JoongAng, but companies owned by Hong's family. JoongAng immediately published claims that the government pressured it to write positive stories about President Kim Dae Jung's government. Two days later it printed a front-page story giving intimate details of the government efforts to meddle in the management of the newspaper. Nasty? Maybe not as seedy as the charge made by Park Jun Young, President Kim's chief press secretary - and a former JoongAng staffer. He claimed the newspaper offered to "help" the government if it dropped its charges against Hong.  

Passage
 • SENTENCED Yokoyama Masato, 35, a leading member of the Aum Shinrikyo cult; to death; by Tokyo District Court on Sep. 30. It is the first death sentence meted out in connection with Aum's release of a deadly nerve gas in Tokyo's subway network in March 1995. The sarin attack left 12 people dead and thousands injured. Okazaki Kazuaki, 38, a former Aum member, is also on death row, following his conviction last October for the murder of an anti-Aum lawyer and his family. Yokoyama is still a member of the group. The day before his sentencing, Aum said it will tone down its activities and stop recruiting members.

 • RESIGNED Fasih Bokhari, 55, Pakistan's Chief of Naval Staff; on Oct. 2, seven months before his tenure was to end. The Admiral, a former submarine commander gave no reason for his departure, although bitterness at the decision to extend General Pervez Musharraf's chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee was almost certainly a factor. Bokhari's second-in-command, Vice-Admiral Abdul Aziz Mirza, will replace him.

 • CHARGED Phra Dhammachayo, 55, abbot of Dhammakaya Temple; with embezzlement; by Bangkok Criminal Court, on Oct. 4. He and his aide Thavorn Promthavorn allegedly moved $170,000 of temple funds into Thavorn's bank account. Both men denied the charges and were released on bail. The abbot also faces accusations of deviant Buddhist teachings and may be suspended from the clergy until the embezzlement trial is over.

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