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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower