Wednesday, December 31, 2014

APU Person of the Year -- Hong Kong Protesters

The year 2014 was an eventful year in the Asia Pacific region with events ranging from North Korea's suspected hacking of Sony Pictures to the ending of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. North Korea's leader Kim Jong Eun was in the running for this year's person of the year with his defiant stands against the West.

Umbrella Revolution in Admiralty Night View 20141010.jpg
Hong Kong protests (Wikipedia)

Kim's father won the APU award twice, and the young leader captured headlines near the end of the year after his country angrily protested the release of the Sony movie The Interview.  Experts are still divided on whether North Korea remotely hacked Sony or whether they may have planted someone with the company itself.  The security breach resulted in the loss of Sony executives' private emails including messages deriding the studios top stars.

However, in considering the Person of the Year award this year, we had to consider not the news created by a single person, but the mass action of people that made the headlines collectively.  The protests by students and others in Hong Kong captured the attention of people around the world as the local residents clamored for protection of their democratic rights.

The massive demonstrations and blockades started in late September and technically are still ongoing although in a lull as the protesters reorganize.  The decision of authorities to reform Hong Kong's electoral process sparked the unrest.

Hong Kong's long history as a British colony created different expectations among its populace than what one generally finds on other parts of China.  The residents rightly feared that the moves could become part of a future trend to erode democratic processes in this Special Administrative Region in the southern coastal part of the country.

Initially, the protests started quietly until security forces in the city responded with harsh measures including tear gas that resulted in a number of viral videos circulating around the global Internet. 

Protesters showed grit and good organization with the efforts peaking with blockages of major transportation arteries that involved as many as 100,000 people camping out on public roads, sidewalks and other areas.

The protest reminded many people of Tienanmen Square, and there were fears that the Bejing government might crackdown on the protesters as it did in 1989.  Fortunately, the events ended relatively peacefully with no deaths and more than 470 injuries, most of which were not serious.

Organizers stated that the movement will go on, but it's difficult to know if and when any new events will occur.  However, the protests did gain the attention of the world and showed that the desire for democracy still lives within China.

For this reason, we choose the Hong Kong protesters collectively as's Person o the Year for 2014!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Malala Yousafzai is 2012 APU Person of the Year

Malala Yousafzai, 15, is’s Person of the Year for 2012!  The young lady had gained fame before 2012 for her work in exposing the ban on female education in parts of Pakistan to the rest of the world. 

In October, gunmen shot Yousafzai in the head and neck when she was riding a school bus to her home.   Currently, she is recovering from her injuries in a hospital in the United Kingdom.

Other candidates
Among the other personalities considered for Person of the Year in 2012 were U.S. President Barack Obama, North Korean Premier Kim Jong-un and South Korean YouTube sensation Psy (Park Jae-sang).

President Obama, whose Asia Pacific credentials stem from his upbringing in Hawai’I and Indonesia, rolled to a rather surprisingly easy victory over contender Mitt Romney in the U.S. presidential election.  The race was “easy” only when looking at election results in hindsight.  During the campaign, the president looked as if he was in trouble on a number of occasions and many doubted whether he could win given the economic situation.

In North Korea, Kim Jong-un gained world headlines with tests of the country’s long-range missiles despite the objections of the West.  Indeed, in an unofficial online poll by Time Magazine, which awarded Obama with their online person of the year award, readers voted for Kim by a wide margin.

The other major prospect was South Korean hip hop artist Psy, whose YouTube video Gangnan Style has smashed all previous records for views.  Despite some controversy over some statements made in the past objecting to U.S. involvement in the Iraq War, Psy performed at the White House Christmas celebration.

However, after giving the matter due consideration, it was found that Yousafzai earned the top spot for galvanizing world attention to the plight of women in areas dominated by religious fundamentalism.

Malala Yousafzai  is a native of Mingora,  a town in the Swat District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan .  A member of the once-semi-nomadic Pashtun ethnic group, Malala grew up in an area with significant Taliban influence.

She began speaking out on education for girls and women beginning in September 2008.  A speech that she gave in nearby Peshawar received coverage from media throughout the region.

In early 2009, Yousafzai began blogging for BBC Urdu and she was frank and forthright in attacking the Taliban’s war against female education.  The blog described the fighting going on in Swat District and also the ban on girl’s schools in the region.

Eventually she became chair of the District Child Assembly for swat and she continued her activism by attending the “Open Mind’s” project of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.  In October 2011, Rev. Desmond Tutu announced Malala’s nomination for the International Children's Peace Prize in which she was runner-up. 

In the same year, she won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and she became a national and international star.  The recognition, though, make it easy for her enemies to target her, and last summer the Taliban voted to assassinate her.

Currently, Malala Yousafzai is recovering from her injuries in a British hospital.  She is scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery after a bullet slightly grazed her brain although she reportedly has no permanent brain damage

A sign that she has not lost her fighting spirit came yesterday when Yousafzai blasted the Indian government over the handling of the recent Delhi rape case.  

For her courage and her tireless activity to help girls in Pakistan, and by extension, in many other parts of the world, we proudly name Malala Yousafzai as APU’s Person of the Year for 2012.

Friday, December 31, 2010

APU Person of the Year -- Aung Sun Suu Kyi

SACRAMENTO -- Aung Sun Suu Kyi is's Person of the Year for 2010.  The activist was released from house arrest by the Myanmar government on 13 November 2010.

Suu Kyi was also this site's person of the year in 2003.

The November 2010 release was ordered by the Myanmar courts on August 2009.  She was last arrested on May 30, 2003 and her captivity has been extended three times since then.  Her release shortly after the ruling party scored a landslide in nationwide elections is seen by many analysts as a sign of confidence on the part of the government.

The Nobel Prize winner spoke to a jubilant crowd of supporters after her release.  She has been under arrest for 15 of the least 20 years.

On Dec. 27 she vistied her mother's tomb on the latter's 22nd death anniversary.

In a statement released on Friday, Suu Kyi called on the people of Myanmar to pull together for the sake of the nation.  She said that the time was right for "national reconciliation as well as a truly united spirit."

For more biographical information, see our write-up from 2003:

Aung Sun Suu Kyi is the second person to win this honor twice, and the first to win twice on her own.  Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il share the Person of the Year award in 2001 and Kim Jong-il again won on his own in 2006.