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
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat