From Hong Kong warming up to crypto to Qatar’s World Cup dilemma – Here’s your November 3 news briefing

From Hong Kong warming up to crypto to Qatar’s World Cup dilemma – Here’s your November 3 news briefing

From Hong Kong warming up to crypto to Qatar’s World Cup dilemma – Here’s your November 3 news briefing
FILE PHOTO: Advertisements for crypto exchange show a Bitcoin symbol at Mass Transit Railway (MTR) station, in Hong Kong, China. October 27, 2021. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

To start off, we’re looking into:

Hong Kong is opening the door to retail crypto trading

The Hong Kong government has proposed a plan to allow retail investors to trade cryptocurrencies and related funds legally. Previously, this kind of trading was only allowed by professional investors. Hong Kong has been trying to recover from COVID curbs and political uncertainty since the pandemic began, as more businesses and talent have shifted to locations like Singapore. Interestingly, this move comes soon after Singapore’s central bank proposed stricter regulations on crypto trading.

The city’s first step will be discussing how retail investors “may be given a suitable degree of access” to tokens, according to the financial secretary. The hot news aims to help restore Hong Kong’s position as an international financial hub and increase the city’s competitiveness by attracting Web3 businesses back to Hong Kong. The proposal comes as a surprise, as Hong Kong has been pretty strict toward crypto, and China has completely banned it.

The US wants nuclear talks with China

China nuclear
FILE PHOTO – Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives to meet the media following the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China October 23, 2022. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

Last week, the US released three key defense reports that outline the country’s military strategy. Together, these form the National Defense Strategy (NDS) which basically lays out the biggest threats against the US and how the country plans to deal with them. This year, the NDS says that China is expanding its nuclear forces and expecting its aresenal of nuclear warheads to reach 1,000 by 2030

Now, Washington is calling on Beijing for nuclear talks. China – one of the world’s largest nuclear weapons producers – is growing fast in its military power. The US sees China as its biggest threat, despite the ongoing war in Ukraine. China and Russia will become “major nuclear powers” by the 2030s, and Washington isn’t keen on facing two huge nuclear powers without some guardrails in place. US officials have slammed China for not showing interest in reducing nuclear risk despite the history of the Cuban missile crisis 60 years ago. The US points out that it’s had plenty of strategic talks with Russia, but it hasn’t made any progress with China yet.

North Korea fires the most missiles in a day

Korea missiles
People watch a TV broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing a ballistic missile off its east coast, in Seoul, South Korea, November 2, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

North Korea has test-fired a record number of missiles this year, claiming that the launches are a response to drills on South Korea’s side of the peninsula. Meanwhile, South Korea and its allies are afraid that North Korea is getting ready for its first nuclear weapons test since 2017.

On Wednesday, according to the South Korean military, North Korea launched the highest number of short-range missiles in one day. The country fired at least 23 missiles of different types both east and west of the Korean Peninsula. One of these missiles was a short-range ballistic missile that landed closer to South Korea’s coast than anything has since the Korean War, breaching the Northern Limit Line – the maritime border that North Korea doesn’t recognize.

In response, South Korea launched three missiles from fighter jets on the same day. The air force targeted international waters by North Korea at about the same distance as the North Korean missile had landed by South Korea.

To end, we’ll look into:

What is the human rights sitch in Qatar, host of the World Cup?

Qatar World Cup
Source: AP News/Kamran Jebreili

The 2022 FIFA World Cup will kick off in just a couple of weeks. This year, it’s taking place in Qatar, a small Arab country on the western coast of the Persian Gulf. By taking on this massively popular event, though, Qatar has attracted the eyes of the rest of the world, putting a spotlight on human rights in the country.

When it comes to women’s rights, Qatar still has a ways to go. Unlike nearby Saudi Arabia, women in Qatar have been allowed to drive for decades. They can also be found in many workplaces, including government offices (with a male relative’s permission). But, rights groups say that the Qatari legal system, based on Islamic law or Shariah, holds up women’s advancement. There are gender discrimination issues in the areas of free movement, marriage, child custody and inheritance. And there aren’t any laws preventing gender discrimination in the workplace.

The LGBTQ community, though, has been continuously persecuted in Qatar. Same-sex sexual acts between men are punishable by up to seven years in prison. And there have been reports of physical and sexual violence against LGBTQ people in police custody. Human Rights Watch reported that arrested transgender women were forced to receive “conversion therapy” at government-sponsored centers.

But, a spokesman for the Qatari government says that the country “does not tolerate discrimination against anyone.”

Earlier this year, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said of World Cup visitors: “We welcome everybody, but we also expect and want people to respect our culture.”

Another major human rights concern is the exploitation of migrant workers. The country has a migrant labor force of about 2 million people. In Qatar, a migrant worker’s legal status is tied to their employer. For these employers, passport confiscations, high recruitment fees and fishy recruitment practices go unpunished for the most part. Qatar has also been said to disappear those who speak out, like labor activist Malcolm Bidali.

Now, some places are boycotting fan zones for the World Cup. Paris, along with a few other major French cities, won’t set up screens or fan zones for the event. The mayor of Merseille (which is also boycotting), Benoit Payan, says the World Cup “had progressively turned itself into a human and environmental catastrophe, incompatible with the values which we expect sport – and especially football – to promote.”

FIFA has outlined guidelines for security forces at the event to practice “leniency towards behaviors that do not threaten physical integrity or property.” The US ambassador to Qatar also called on local authorities to use “patience and tolerance” when dealing with visitors that aren’t respecting the country’s rules. But only time will tell how the World Cup might affect human rights in the country in the future.

“It’s important that the Qatari authorities issue a moratorium to charges that discriminate or criminalize peaceful exercise of human rights, but this should apply to all, not just to visiting fans, and be a first step towards repealing such crimes altogether,” said Rothna Begum, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.

In other news …

📉Stocks: MSCI’s global gauge of stocks is down 0.24% 2493.88, at the time of writing.

📰Some specifics:

  • Dow Jones is down 1.55% to 32,147.76.
  • Nasdaq Composite is down 3.36% to 10,524.80
  • S&P 500 is down 2.5% to 3,759.69.
  • Hang Seng Index went up 2.41% to 15,827.17.

🧠Some quick factors to bear in mind:

  • In the US, the central bank released its policy statement on Wednesday. As expected, the Fed raised the key lending rate by a 0.75 percentage point for the fourth time, to a range of 3.75% to 4%, its highest level since 2008. At first, stocks jumped with the hope that this could be the peak of rate hikes and that tightening could cool off in the future. But that was short-lived until the following press conference.
  • The market reacted sharply after Fed chair Jerome Powell said it was too soon to speculate over a pause in future rate hikes. US stock sold off and ended down, Treasury yields were up and S&P 500 suffered its worst day since Jan 2021.
  • Meanwhile, China and Hong Kong stocks ended higher on Wednesday. Trading in Hong Kong closed early due to a typhoon, but the Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s business conference went ahead as planned.
  • Tencent and state-owned telecommunications company China Unicom have received approval to set up a joint-venture company, Tencent’s shares rose 1.4% in Hong Kong, and China Unicom’s shares surged 10% in Shanghai.

👄Some comments and chatter:

  • “When Powell made his comments regarding nothing pivot-related, or no shot of that, I think that was the ‘dagger’ for the market,” said Alon Rosin, head of institutional equity derivatives at Oppenheimer & Co.
  • “This is not an environment in which the Fed will pivot or signal a pivot. To do so would be malpractice, and the Fed knows that. In December, the Fed will have two more inflation reports and two more jobs reports. Then, perhaps, the FOMC can signal a deceleration in tightening, but not before, “ said Ronald Temple, head of US equity at Lazard Asset Management.
  • “Despite slowing economies and China’s COVID-19 woes, the odds are that the lack of supply will gain the upper hand over demand concerns in the short term. Therefore, expect oil prices to close out this year heading into triple-digit territory,” said PVM analyst Stephen Brennock.

🛢Oil: Oil prices rose following the Fed’s fourth interest rate hike of the year, backed by the decline in US oil inventories and ahead of the winter heating season. US crude rose 1.8% to US$90, and Brent rose 1.6% to US$96.16 per barrel.

👛Bitcoin: Bitcoin was down 1.68% to US$20,139.30 at the time of writing.

👀Iran and Saudi Arabia: The US has responded to reports of threats from Iran against Saudi Arabia, expressing concern and saying it won’t hesitate to respond if necessary. Neither Saudi Arabia nor Iran has commented publicly.

📞Russia’s nuclear discussions: Senior Russian military leaders recently discussed when and how Russia would use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, according to US intelligence. This conversation is causing concern for Ukraine’s allies.

😲Meloni’s Nazi minister?: Recently, politician Galeazzo Bignami was named undersecretary of the infrastructure ministry in Italy. But in 2016, photos surfaced of him wearing a Nazi swastika armband back in 2005 at a stag party, which, at the time, he shrugged off as NBD. On Monday, Bignami said he felt “profound shame” over the photo, condemning “any form of totalitarianism” and describing nazism as “the absolute evil.”

👩‍⚖️Public trials in Iran: Iran has charged about 1,000 people in Tehran for involvement in the nationwide protests triggered by Mahsa Amini's death. Their trials will be heard in public over the next few days.

🚚Pro-Bolsonaro protests: Protests have erupted in Brazil after its recent presidential election declared Lula the new president over incumbent Bolsonaro. Truck drivers are leading the protests, effectively blockading roads. This is making it difficult to ship grain, meat and fertilizer around the country, disrupting the agriculture industry.

🙏Finnish NATO bid: Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has called on Hungary and Turkey to approve Finland's and Sweden's bids to join NATO. They asked to join in May of this year, prompted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

🔒China puts new lockdown around iPhone plant: China announced a COVID lockdown in a Zhengzhou industrial park, where the world's largest iPhone factory is located. Now, there's some concern that production will be cut just ahead of the holiday season.

🐤Elon's Twitter subscription idea: Elon Musk plans for Twitter to charge US$8 a month to users who want the blue verified tick by their name. He claims it will be "essential to defeat spam/scam." Instead, critics say this move could make it more difficult to identify reliable sources.

🦁Lions escape zoo: Five lions escaped from their enclosure at the Sydney Taronga Zoo. They were spotted outside their exhibit on Wednesday, and the zoo was then put on lockdown. One cub was tranquilized, but all of the lions were secured quickly, and no one was injured.