Julian Assange praises whistleblower Edward Snowden who faces extradition from Hong Kong back to US over NSA Prism revelations

Fears for fate of Edward Snowden as politician warns that extradition treaty with the United States will be observed

Hong Kong

One of Hong Kong’s top politicians has advised the NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden to leave the city, where he is thought to be in hiding, saying he would not be safe from extradition to the US if he stayed.

Regina Ip, chair of the pro-Beijing New People’s Party and formerly Hong Kong’s security secretary, said the city was “definitely not a safe harbour” for the NSA contractor, whom Washington lawmakers have demanded be returned to the US for prosecution.

Ms Ip told reporters the city would be “obliged to comply with the terms” of the extradition treaty between Hong Kong and the US, which was signed in 1997, should the US submit an official extradition request. “It’s actually in his best interest to leave Hong Kong,” she said.

Mr Snowden, 29, made his identity public on Sunday, after leaking details of the NSA’s vast electronic surveillance programme to The Guardian and The Washington Post. He said he had chosen to flee the US for Hong Kong due to its “commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”.

Speculation was rife about which of a string of luxury hotels near the city’s US consulate on Hong Kong Island Mr Snowden might be holed up in, after he mentioned that a CIA station was “just up the road”.

Mr Snowden is reported to have left his “plush hotel” just three times in his three-week stay. He said he feared for his safety, worried that he could be rendered by the CIA or dealt with by the Chinese triads.

Last night it became clear Mr Snowden had spent at least some of his time on Hong Kong’s mainland. The Independent spoke to duty manager Kevin Ko at the Mira Hotel, in the centre of Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district, who confirmed that a guest by the name of Edward Snowden had checked in at 6am on Monday but left shortly afterwards. Mr Ko was unaware of the notoriety of the Mira’s guest and was bemused by the attention the hotel was receiving.  “We thought he was an ordinary guest,” Mr Ko said.

In sharp contrast to the media scrum forming around Hong Kong’s top hotels, most people on the street were completely unaware of the former CIA technical agent, or the global interest that was forming around Hong Kong as a result. “You think an American spy has been staying there?” said a property consultant Lucifer Chung, who works in a building opposite the Mira. “No way. Everyone would know!”

Julian Assange told Sky News that Snowden is a "hero". The WikiLeaks founder said the NSA whistle-blower was  “in a very, very serious position, because we can see the kind of rhetoric that occurred against me and Bradley Manning back in 2010, 2011, applied to Snowden”.

In the US, politicians’ condemnation of Mr Snowden was tempered by public support for his actions. Peter King, the Republican chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, demanded Mr Snowden’s extradition, saying in a statement: “The United States government must prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.”

Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said Mr Snowden’s case had been referred to the US Justice Department for investigation. Mr Snowden’s last employer, the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, released a statement promising to co-operate with any investigation.

Rand Paul, a Republican senator, by contrast claimed he was considering suing the federal government for the intrusive surveillance programmes detailed in Mr Snowden’s leaks. At a White House press briefing, President Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney defended the administration’s record on transparency, calling its policies “broad and significant”, and saying Mr Obama “welcomes a debate” about the balance between privacy and security.

But Mr Carney would not be drawn on the specifics of Mr Snowden’s case, despite a petition on the White House website calling for him to be pardoned, which had attracted some 16,000 signatures by lunchtime on Monday.

Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, told The Independent: “There is a huge groundswell of support for Edward and what he did. People feel like they were kept in the dark about this massive surveillance programme, and he says he acted not for monetary gain, but to protect Americans’ rights.”

Mr Snowden suggested he might seek asylum in Iceland, though the nation also has an extradition treaty with the US. On Sunday the Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir said she had begun work on an asylum application on Mr Snowden’s behalf, aided by Smari McCarthy of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative. “We feel it is our duty to offer to assist Mr Snowden,” they said in a statement.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has started a fund to cover Snowden’s potential legal costs.

A whistleblower in quotes

"I will be made to suffer for my actions, [but] I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law ... and irresistible executive powers that rule the world ... are revealed even for an instant.”

"Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA ... or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads ... That is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”

"I am not afraid, because this is the choice I’ve made. The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more.”

"I had an authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge or even the President, if I had a personal email.

"You don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to have eventually fall under suspicion ... and then they can use this system to go back in time and ... derive suspicion from an innocent life”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent