Asia

Faces of Asia 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, the BBC looks at some of the names and faces who have been in the news in Asia over the year.


Jokowi - Indonesia's new man

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Joko Widodo - known as Jokowi - won Indonesia's presidential election in July, becoming the first leader not from the military or the political elite and bearing a reputation as a clean politician in a country rife with corruption.

One of his first actions has been reducing fuel subsidies in an attempt to save more than $8bn (£5bn) in 2015. The BBC's Pinta Karana in Jakarta said the move was a test of his leadership, and it was praised by analysts as proof he had kept his man of action image. He kept his man of the people image going by flying economy class to his son's graduation in Singapore.


Lee Joon-seok - the face of a national tragedy

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South Korea watched in horror in April as a ferry carrying at least 476 people, most of them children on a school trip, capsized and sank off the island of Jeju. More than 300 people died.

The disaster was blamed on a litany of errors, including an illegal redesign of the Sewol ferry and overloading of cargo, but much of the anger fell on the captain, Lee Joon-seok. He had allowed an inexperienced crew member to steer the ship through hazardous waters, had not ordered an evacuation and most crucially, was among the first to leave the Sewol. In November, he was jailed for 36 years for negligence but he was not, as some had hoped, given the death sentence for homicide.

How Sewol disaster unfolded


Deepika Padukone - taking on the Times

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"YES! I am a Woman. I have breasts AND a cleavage! You got a problem!!??"

This was Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone's furious tweeted response to The Times of India's publication of a picture of her alongside the headline: "OMG: Deepika Padukone's cleavage show."

Padukone accused the paper of using "regressive tactics" to attract readers "at a time when we are striving for women's equality and empowerment", winning her significant support on social media and among the public.

The paper's response that she should consider the report a compliment did little to assuage the anger, although it did say the "headline could have been better".

Why Bollywood stars are speaking out on sexism

MH370 - the officials without answers

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In news conference after news conference in March, Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein and civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman had to stand in front of relatives and reporters and say they still did not know what had happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. They faced fury from desperate relatives, and accusations that they were not in control of the situation.

Despite a massive search operation across vast swathes of ocean and wide investigations, the plane with its 239 passengers and crew has not been found. Neither has anyone established exactly why it veered off course. The search continues, focusing on the Indian Ocean, north-west of the Australian city of Perth.

MH370: What we know


Kim Yo-jong - rising power?

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's disappearance from the public eye in September prompted widespread speculation that he was unwell or losing control, and much discussion about who might be poised to take over.

But in October, Kim emerged again, albeit walking with a stick, apparently still at the centre of power. Weeks later, his younger sister Kim Yo-jong was referred to as a senior party member for the first time in state media. Little is known officially about her but she has often been seen alongside her brother on "field guidance trips". Could she be even more prominent in the coming year?

Kim Jong-un's sister holds senior title


Narendra Modi - the history-maker

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Narendra Modi rode to victory in India's elections in May promising to reboot the economy. Leader of the Hindu-nationalist BJP, he is seen as a dynamic politician but also as divisive - loved and loathed in equal measure. He built a reputation an an economic reformer in Gujarat state, but was accused of failing to stop religious riots in 2002 in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

With growth expected to rebound and inflation on the decline, he continues to win admirers. But India's economy faces deep structural challenges - creaky infrastructure, soaring subsidies, endemic corruption - which he must tackle urgently. And he needs to keep Hindu hawks in check so his economic agenda is not derailed.


Ashraf Ghani

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After a marathon and hotly disputed election process, Ashraf Ghani took one of the world's toughest jobs in September when he became Afghan president, just as most international forces were preparing to pull out.

He has ambitious plans to end poverty and tackle corruption - but to do so he must deliver peace and security. Much hinges on how Afghanistan's own forces fare with reduced Nato support and whether the Taliban and other militants enter peace talks. Mr Ghani must also negotiate a tricky coalition with his defeated election rival Abdullah Abdullah.

Five worries for Afghanistan's new leader


Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi - the Nobel laureates

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Two voices for children shared the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2014 - Pakistani teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai and Indian child rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi. The Nobel committee said it was "an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim... to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism".

Noticeably, not everyone was pleased for Malala, with one prominent Pakistani journalist calling the award "a conspiracy". The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad said many Pakistanis see the shot schoolgirl as "a stooge of the West, as someone the Americans have set up to become a role model and misguide Pakistani Muslims".

The antagonism towards Malala in Pakistan


Jack Ma - the king of Chinese ecommerce

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Jack Ma, the founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, had a good year. By September, his personal fortune had almost doubled in a year to $19.5bn (£12bn) after his company's record-setting share sale.

Alibaba is now valued at around $231.4bn - making it significantly larger than Amazon and Facebook.

The former English teacher is one of the faces of modern China, which now has 242 billionaires, according to Forbes, and though he is no longer chair of the company, Alibaba looks set to spread even wider in 2015.

The man behind Alibaba

Chairman Ma's China


Hong Kong students - the protesters

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While a number of individual leaders came to the fore during Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests, it was the initial bulk of the crowds - and then the dogged determination of the smaller groups who stayed and stayed - which made the movement so extraordinary.

A police attempt to put a stop to the early stages of the protests using tear gas and pepper spray brought more people out, enraged by the sight of unarmed youth being tear gassed and pepper sprayed with only umbrellas to protect themselves.

At their height, the protests paralysed the city's commercial and business districts, and its main arteries. Though they had been entirely removed by mid-December, the BBC's China editor Carrie Gracie said this did not mean President Xi Jinping had won. "He is fighting a multi-level multi-player game. He has merely survived a level."

Has Beijing won in Hong Kong?

Timeline of an occupation

Key players in Hong Kong protests


Phil Hughes - the fallen cricketer

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Australia was left shattered in November when rising cricket star Phillip Hughes died at the age of 25, two days after a fluke accident which saw an unprotected part of his neck hit by a bouncer in a domestic match.

There was a huge outpouring of grief and shock, and thousands turned out for his funeral in his home town of Macksville, New South Wales.

Sports "tragedies and losses aren't real, even if the hype would sometimes make you believe they were," wrote BBC Sports writer Tom Fordyce. "So when the illusion shatters, as it has with the death of Australian batsman Phillip Hughes, it is utterly unexpected and difficult to accept."

Why does a death in sport hit us so hard?


Zhou Yongkang - the jailed 'tiger'

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Chinese President Xi Jinping went into 2014 loudly committed to tackling the country's rampant corruption problem.

In July his campaign claimed its biggest scalp - and shattered any doubts about whether he really was going after "tigers and flies" as promised - when it was announced that one of China's most powerful politicians, former security chief Zhou Yongkang, was under investigation for corruption.

The BBC's Carrie Gracie in Beijing says the fall Mr Zhou, along with a slew of other high-ranking officials, "has been a year-long spectacle only slightly less savage than the tumbrels and guillotines of the French revolution".

Has President Xi Jinping achieved his China Dream?

China's fallen security chief Zhou Yongkang


Indian space scientists - the mission to Mars

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In September, India celebrated becoming only the fourth country or geo-bloc to send a probe to Mars, when Mangalyaan ended its 300-day, 670-million-kilometre (420-million-mile) journey.

This photo of sari-clad female scientists and staff at mission control joyfully celebrating the satellite's successful arrival in orbit became the unofficial image of the day. The BBC's Soutik Biswas in Delhi said people in their thousands tweeted that they loved it, saying the women had "redefined mission control" and calling them "true role models".

Picture that spoke 1,000 words


Koalas - the diplomats

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The world's 20 most powerful leaders gathered in Brisbane in November for the G20 summit. The economy was the focus - not, on Prime Minister Tony Abbott's insistence, the environment - but perhaps inevitably it was the koalas which stole the show.

Despite days of tough talk - though no actual "shirt-fronting" as promised by Mr Abbott - each leader took their turn to cuddle the obliging marsupials, leading to a breakout of smiles and apparent goodwill, and introducing the world to the term "koala diplomacy".

G20, koalas and shirt-fronting