Asia

Hong Kong voters went to the polls on September 9 to support liberty-minded candidates after months of massive protests and even hunger strikes against proposed communist “brainwashing” in government schools, which opponents said was an effort to indoctrinate children into supporting the brutal dictatorship ruling over mainland China. Anti-Beijing sentiment is still at an all-time high and continues to grow. 

The legislative elections, in which voters selected over half of Hong Kong’s lawmakers while mostly pro-Beijing special-interest groups chose the rest, were seen by analysts as a crucial milestone. The vote marked the first time that a majority of lawmakers were chosen by the electorate, and the results will play a key role in determining Hong Kong’s future governance.

In both Iran and Pakistan, important victories have been won in the conflict between Christian faith and Islamic persecution. In Iran, after three years in prison awaiting execution for the “crime” of converting to Christianity, pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been freed. In Pakistan, a young girl wrongly accused of burning pages of the Koran has been released from prison and the Muslim cleric who planted false evidence has been arrested.

Religious and human rights leaders from around the world have stepped forward to defend a Pakistani Christian girl who has been arrested and jailed for the supposed crime of blasphemy. Rimsha Masih, who is believed to be around 11 years old and who reportedly has Down syndrome, was accused in mid-August of burning a booklet containing scripture from the Quran, and for throwing the burned pages into the garbage. According to Mission Network News, the girl, who is from a rural area of Mehrabadi in Islamabad, was taken by a mob that threatened to burn the homes of Christians in the area unless she was arrested by the police.

The communist dictatorship ruling mainland China uses its so-called “news agencies” and “journalists” to spy on dissidents and foreign governments, charged Canadian author and reporter Mark Bourrie, who resigned from the regime’s Xinhua service after realizing what was going on. He recently blew the whistle on the scheme — long suspected by intelligence agencies and well documented by analysts — with an explosive August 23 article in Ottawa Magazine.

According to Bourrie, a respected journalist with insider access to Canadian politics, his Chinese editors regularly requested articles on critics of the regime and their activities in Canada. Those stories, unsurprisingly, were never published, sparking suspicions by Bourrie that he was being used to collect intelligence.

Former Syrian “Prime Minister” Riad Hijab has reportedly defected to the opposition, dealing what analysts said was a symbolic blow to the regime of dictator Bashar al-Assad in its ongoing battle against Western-backed rebels and Islamist forces. The dictatorship disputed those allegations, however, claiming that the ex-premier had actually been fired.

Initial media reports of Hijab’s defection were citing unnamed “opposition activists” who also, apparently inaccurately, claimed that three other government ministers had already fled the country as well. Later, a man claiming to be a spokesman for the former prime minister, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, appeared on Al Jazeera to read a statement supposedly on Hijab’s behalf.

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