Top Asian News 3:58 a.m. GMT

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar President Win Myint has granted amnesty to more than 8,500 prisoners, reportedly including at least three dozen political prisoners. The amnesty, announced Monday, coincided with Myanmar's traditional New Year. It was granted to 8,490 Myanmar citizens and 51 foreigners. A statement from presidential spokesman Zaw Thay said those released included the aged, those in ill health, and drug offenders. None was individually named. It also said 36 of those to be freed had been listed as political prisoners by the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The amnesty appeared to cover only prisoners who had already been convicted of crimes, so it was unlikely that two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Yaw Soe Oo, currently facing trial for possessing secret official documents, would be freed.

DILI, East Timor (AP) — Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta has waded back into the young country's politics ahead of parliamentary elections next month, calling the government a total failure in the past decade in crucial areas such as reducing child malnutrition and providing clean water. Ramos-Horta, joint recipient of the 1996 Nobel prize for efforts to bring independence and peace to East Timor, is not a candidate in the elections but has declared support for the Fretilin party, which led a short-lived minority government that collapsed at the start of this year. The May 12 vote, East Timor's second parliamentary election in less than a year, will pit a loose grouping of Fretilin and one minor party against a formal alliance of three parties led by the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction party of independence hero Xanana Gusmao, a giant in East Timor's politics who was its first president, from 2002 to 2007, and prime minister from 2007 to 2015.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A lawyer from Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority who focuses on the trauma, mass rape and trafficking of its girls and women urged the U.N. Security Council on Monday to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court for "horrific crimes" against the Rohingya and other ethnic groups. Razia Sultana, who has been working with Rohingya girls and women in refugee camps since 2014, told the council: "Where I come from, women and girls have been gang raped, tortured and killed by the Myanmar army for no other reason than for being Rohingya." Sultana was the first Rohingya woman to address the U.N.'s most powerful body on the plight of her people, who aren't recognized as an ethnic group in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

ISLAMABAD (AP) — An independent rights group in Pakistan said Monday that the country has failed to make progress on several issues over the past year, ranging from forced disappearances to women's rights and protection of religious minorities. The damning report card issued by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says people continue to disappear, sometimes because they criticize the military or advocate better relations with neighboring India. It said a controversial blasphemy law continues to be misused, especially against dissidents, with cases in which mere accusations that someone committed blasphemy against Islam led to deadly mob violence. While deaths directly linked to acts of terrorism declined in 2017, the report says attacks against minorities were on the rise.

BEIJING (AP) — One of China's top social networking sites announced Monday that it will no longer be censoring content related to gay issues after the plan triggered a loud public outcry. Weibo.com was flooded over the weekend with the hashtags "#I'mGay" and "#I'mGayNotaPervert" after the Twitter-like platform said that cartoons and short videos with pornographic, violent or gay subject matter would be investigated over a three-month period. The microblogging site, which saw its Nasdaq shares fall on Friday, said in its amended post: "This clean-up of games and cartoons will no longer target gay content." A company spokesman refused to clarify how the platform would treat short videos with gay content.

BEIJING (AP) — China's government says it is ready to protect its "legitimate rights" after U.S. authorities penalized a Chinese telecoms equipment maker over a case involving exports to Iran and North Korea. The Commerce Ministry said Tuesday it hoped Washington would treat ZTE Corp. fairly after U.S. authorities concluded it paid bonuses to employees involved in a scheme to ship equipment to North Korea and Iran instead of disciplining them as it promised in 2017. The U.S. Commerce Department on Monday barred ZTE, one of China's most prominent technology companies, for seven years from importing American components. The Commerce Ministry said Beijing will "stand ready to take necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies."

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A lawyer for the most senior Vatican official charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis has told an Australian court that Cardinal George Pell could have been targeted with false accusations to punish him for the crimes of other clerics. Defense and prosecution lawyers were making their final submissions in a Melbourne court on Tuesday in a hearing to determine whether the case against Australia's highest-ranking Catholic is strong enough to warrant a trial by jury. Pell was charged last June with sexually abusing multiple people in Australia. The details of the allegations have yet to be released to the public.

BERLIN (AP) — A German court says a Vietnamese man charged with being involved in kidnapping a former Vietnamese oil executive in Berlin will go on trial next week. The Berlin state court said Monday the trial of the 47-year-old, identified only as Long N.H. because of German privacy rules, will open April 24. He's charged with espionage and as an accessory to deprivation of liberty. German authorities say executive Trinh Xuan Thanh and a woman accompanying him were snatched off the street, bundled into a van and taken to Vietnam in July. Vietnam claims Thanh, who had applied for asylum in Germany, returned voluntarily.

NEW DELHI (AP) — Eight Hindu men accused in the gang rape and killing of an 8-year-old Muslim girl in India's Jammu and Kashmir state pleaded not guilty Monday in their first court appearance. The child's battered body was found in a forest in January, a week after she went missing while grazing her family's ponies. Police say the accused men planned the child's kidnapping for over a month as part of a plan to scare her Muslim nomadic tribe away from the area. Police said the child was sedated and held captive at a Hindu temple where she was repeatedly raped before being strangled and bludgeoned to death.

BEIJING (AP) — Facing a possible U.S. tariff hike, one of China's biggest ball bearing makers, Cixin Group, is weighing plans to rush shipments to American customers before the increase makes its sales unprofitable. The company in the eastern city of Ningbo is among exporters of goods from motorcycle parts to electronics that are scrambling to cope with President Donald Trump's higher duties by shipping early, raising prices or finding new markets. The 25 percent increase would turn Cixin's profits to losses in the U.S. market, which takes 30 percent of its exports, according to Wang Liqiang, a company manager. "We are considering manufacturing as many ball bearings as possible for the U.S.