Hong Kong

  • Fuel shortages and power outages are putting pressure on the Islamist insurgents who seized control of Mosul last week.
  • Their military offensive has been matched by a digital offensive of equal prowess.
  • Moderate Islamists are being eclipsed by their extremist counterparts, while jihadists are on the march, roving unchecked across broad sections of North Africa and the Middle East.
  • Hong Kong is undergoing deepening tensions over its political future as a self-governed territory under Chinese sovereignty.

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David Pilling

Demonstrators march in support of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih in Hong Kong (Getty)

Behind the shiny skyscrapers and business friendly reputation of Hong Kong lies a darker side. One of the attractions of the city for expatriate bankers and middle-class Chinese residents alike is the plentiful supply of domestic help at a very “reasonable” cost. A live-in maid, working six days a week, often for very long hours, is paid a minimum monthly wage of around $515.

The arrest this week of a woman accused of torturing her Indonesian maid over a six-month period highlights the extreme vulnerability of overseas domestic workers to exploitation. Many are virtually locked away in the ranks of tower blocks that crowd in on Hong Kong Harbour and beyond, away from scrutiny. Maids tend to leave the house only when they run errands or walk the dog – or on Sundays, the statutory day off, when the concrete walkways and tiny parks of Hong Kong are taken over by encampments of domestic workers with nowhere else to go. Read more

♦ Spain may be emerging from the recession with a more competitive economy, but critics claim that confidence in the rebound is premature and potentially dangerous.
♦ A leaked video shows Egyptian Army officers debating how to influence the media before the military takeover.
♦ Patrick Cockburn writes about how media coverage of conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria doesn’t always reflect the whole reality of each war.
♦ Justice officials in Hong Kong admitted to knowing that one of Berlusconi’s allies tried to interfere with evidence in a money laundering case, where Berlusconi’s son is one of the defendents, according to the South China Morning Post.
♦ The stance of some Republican House members on the US government shutdown is generating anger among senior Republican officials, who think the small bloc of conservatives is undermining the party and helping President Obama. Read more

♦ The price of Egypt’s revolutionary passion is exceedingly high, says Roula Khalaf. “What lies ahead, at least in the short term, is another huge leap into the unknown.”
♦ The Middle East descends into chaos as the US reverts its focus back to Israel.
♦ Khaled Fahmy, a professor at the American University in Cairo and an anti-Morsi activist, lays out the seven deadly sins of the Muslim Brotherhood, highlighting the vast divide between them and the opposition.
♦ Anyone who thought the military had been swept aside in Egypt was wrong, argues H.A. Hellyer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “The Egyptian military is not, and never has been, an ideological institution. Its main concerns have been to maintain its independence vis-à-vis the rest of the state, and to ensure the stability of Egypt – without which it would be forced to involve itself in the mess of governing tens of millions of Egyptians.”
Europe’s spying businesses are thriving, despite the uproar over privacy.
♦ China’s slowdown is dragging Hong Kong down, argues William Pesek at Bloomberg.
♦ The Guardian interview twenty-somethings in Europe, who are highly educated and yet missing out on homes, pensions, independence and steady employment.

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♦ The BBC visits two Goodyear-owned tyre factories in Amiens, north France, to look at how the country is getting to grips with labour reform.
♦ The nuclear stand-off with Iran can be resolved now that Hassan Rohani has been elected, writes Ayatollah Seyed Salman Safavi.
♦ Thousands of mainland Chinese have permanent residency in The Gambia – as the fastest and cheapest way for a Chinese citizen to gain right of residency in Hong Kong is to first gain permanent residency in mainland Africa’s smallest country.
♦ For the first time in human history, overweight people outnumber the underfed, and obesity is widespread in wealthy and poor nations alike.
♦ The US scrambles to save Taliban talks after an Afghan backlash. Also, take a look at the Taliban’s new Doha office.
♦ With protests continuing in Brazil, it’s a good time to take a read through our São Paulo correspondent’s feature on BBQ activists. Read more

By Aranya Jain

♦Hassan Rohani, the only moderate candidate left in Iran’s upcoming elections, promised reform and unveiled his past in a documentary aired on state TV.
Japan attempts to increase entrepreneurship by making taking out loans easier and encouraging innovation, but changing the system will not be easy.
♦ We are entering a new age of big data, and have yet to understand what this will mean. Our lack of privacy does not end with the NSA, as many big data companies are also able to collect our data trails, and infer things about us from them.
♦ Post-Arab Spring North Africa remains fragile, and is reminiscent of post-Communist eastern and central Europe, but what Africa needs is a role model for democracy.
♦ Snowden claims that the NSA has been hacking China and Hong Kong for years will test Sino-US ties.
♦ This website, via interactive graphics and charts, allows you to explore information about land deals, from a web of which regions are investing in each other to charts that delineate what the land is being used for.
♦ What Mandela’s legacy can leave behind – Roy Isacowitz argues that Israel should emulate Mandela to pursue peace but that it will not do so. Read more

Edward Snowden (Getty)

The NSA whistleblower has revealed himself – Edward Snowden is a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA who was employed by the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton prior to leaking documents to the Guardian. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

The Guardian reveals that, despite not having a high school diploma, his talents in computer programming helped him rise within the CIA. Read more

Sampling wine at a Shanghai wine fair (AFP)

As the China-EU solar dispute deepens, oddly enough, wine has been brought into the fray.

Here are seven interesting factoids you may (not) know about China and wine.

1. Chinese investors have bought up 30 French chateaux vineyards over the past four years and they aren’t stopping at that. There’s another 20 deals in the pipeline. Will they be affected by any probe?

2. Chinese wine importers were prominent bidders in the recent Elysee wine sale.

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Gideon Rachman

The Chinese currency, Renminbi, being counted out by an employee at a branch of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited (ICBC). (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

(ChinaFotoPress/Getty)

Today brought yet another headline about the apparently relentless rise of the Chinese economy. The OECD predicts that China will be the world’s largest economy (in PPP terms) by 2016. Not long, now.

Yet there are still many China bears – both inside the country and outside it. Those who suggest that there is something rotten in the state of China point to many things, from the environment to corruption. One of the most popular bearish arguments is the extent of capital flight from the country. If everything is so good in China – say the bears – how come so many rich Chinese are eager to get their money out of the country? Perhaps they know something we don’t? Read more

Algeria, Pakistan, pollution, and Vogue magazine – the world desk’s recommended reads  Read more