The Latest: Spyware Revelation, Seoul v. Tokyo, Spike Lee Stumbles
Welcome to Monday, where an international probe reveals spyware has been used to target thousands of journalists and activists around the world, South Korea's president is protesting the Olympics after a diplomatic spat and a Slovenian cyclist wins the Tour de France for the second time in a row. The Initium also looks at how "fatalistic suicides' in Hong Kong are perceived as terrorist acts by the Chinese regime.
• Pegasus spyware used to target journalists, activists: Pegasus technology, a spyware used to "infect" mobile devices and gain access to users' private information, has been connected to more than 50,000 phone numbers, many belonging to prominent journalists, politicians, and activists, according to a new international investigative journalism project. The Israeli surveillance company behind Pegasus denies allegations that its technology has been used by authoritarian governments.
• South Korean president to skip Tokyo Olympics in protest: South Korean President Moon Jae-in's office announced that he has dropped plans to attend the upcoming Tokyo Olympics after evidence surfaced that a senior Japanese official used sexual innuendo to describe Moon's efforts to improve relations between the two nations. There had been hope that the international event might be an opportunity for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and President Moon to address the countries' complicated history.
• More than 30 killed after torrential rain in Mumbai: At least 31 people in India's financial capital, Mumbai, have died as a result of heavy rain, flooding and landslides over the weekend. Meanwhile, the death toll after last week's flooding in Western Europe has risen to at least 190 people, with dozens still missing.
• Tokyo court sentences two Americans in Ghosn trial: In Japan, U.S. Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son Peter were sentenced to two years and 20 months, respectively, for helping Carlos Ghosn, former Nissan chief, flee the country. The pair posed as musicians, managing to smuggle Ghosn out of Japan in a luggage box on a private jet to avoid prosecution on financial impropriety charges.
• Australia deports UK columnist who breached quarantine: British right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins is set to be deported from Australia after boasting online about breaking the country's quarantine rules. Hopkins shared a video saying that she has been answering her hotel door naked and maskless, which goes against Australia's hotel quarantine regulations.
• Danish Mohammed cartoonist dies: Kurt Westergaard, the Danish artist known for having drawn controversial caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, has died at the age of 86. One of his illustrations was featured with the headline "The Face of Mohammed" in 2005, which sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world, as depictions of the prophet are strictly forbidden.
• Spike Lee slip-up: U.S. filmmaker Spike Lee shocked the Cannes audience by accidentally announcing the winner of the Palme d'Or at the beginning of the closing ceremony. French director Julia Ducournau took home the prize for her thriller film Titane, becoming only the second woman in history to win the top honor.
Slovenian daily Delo celebrates the victory of Slovenian cyclist Tadej Pogačar, who won the Tour de France for the second time in a row. The 22-year-old had become the youngest winner of the race in 116 years at the time
For Chinese regime, suicide in Hong Kong is an act of terrorism
Leung Kin-fai, 50, stabbed a police officer from behind with a knife and later killed himself in Hong Kong, leaving a suicide note in which he expressed his belief that "freedom has been lost" after the implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law in 2020. According to the theory of French sociologist David Émile Durkheim, such acts are classified as fatalistic suicides. Has Hong Kong reached this point of desperation? asks Chinese-language digital media The Initium.
This April, pollster Gallup released its Global Happiness Index, which ranked Hong Kong 113th in terms of freedom of choice in life, lower than mainland China or Taiwan; it's worth mentioning that Hong Kong ranked 66th in this index in 2019. In other words, Hong Kongers are becoming more depressed and pessimistic. If someone is unhappy, they could try changing their environment or leaving the source of pain; but if a city is unhappy, is forbidden to speak out and cannot complain, its residents would only die or explode in silence.
This theory might also explain other suicidal attacks in China, with citizens retaliating against government officials for unfair treatment and injustices. The Chinese government is, of course, sensitive to those issues, but hardly counts those incidents as terrorism attacks. In the Chinese understanding of national security, attacks that target government agencies, police and military are defined as terrorist activities. On the other hand, Chinese state media often combines violent terrorism, ethnic separatism and religious extremism (referred to as the Three Forces) in narratives, so the fight against terrorism is in fact the same as eliminating those three forces.
Back in Hong Kong, the authorities have already been treating attacks on the government as "local terrorism" and defined its meaning as secession. As a result, all those who support Leung Kin-fai are being recognized as supporters for secession and have become government targets. Officials are now on high-alert for similar attacks on police, with all mourning activities for Leung regarded as support for terrorist activities. Even wearing black clothes is considered a political statement.
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The Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo Bay, which will host the canoeing and rowing events at the Olympics, has been plagued by a massive number of oysters, costing $1.28 million in emergency repairs less than a week before the start of the Games. The oysters attached themselves to floats that were installed to stop the waves from disrupting athletes. In total, 14 tons of the unwanted shellfish were removed.
The German language has no words, I think, for the devastation.
— During a visit to some of the affected areas of last week's flooding, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her shock at the scale of the destruction. The floods, which have killed at least 188 people in Germany and Belgium, have been captured in photographs and videos, while newspapers have searched for the word or phrase to describe it, including todesflut, meaning "flood of death" or "deathtide."