NSA Prism whistleblower: State-run newspaper says Edward Snowden hiding in Hong Kong threatens US-China relations

Snowden: 'I am not here to hide from justice, I am here to reveal criminality'

The NSA whistleblower's evasion of US justice in Hong Kong poses a threat to Sino-American relations, according to a major Chinese newspaper.

Edward Snowden went to ground on Monday. He had fled to China's special autonomous region as controversy raged over the details he leaked to a newspaper about US government surveillance.

The revelations, published in The Guardian, were about the National Security Agency's Prism programme, which collects people's communication records in bulk.

On the the first business day after a three-day national holiday, the state-run English-language China Daily wrote that the revelations were "certain to stain Washington's overseas image and test developing Sino-US ties."

"How the case is handled could pose a challenge to the burgeoning goodwill between Beijing and Washington given that Snowden is in Chinese territory and the Sino-US relationship is constantly soured on cybersecurity," it continued.

Li Haidong, a researcher in American studies at China Foreign Affairs University, told the newspaper: "For months, Washington has been accusing China of cyberespionage, but it turns out that the biggest threat to the pursuit of individual freedom and privacy in the US is the unbridled power of the government."

The US Department of Justice is now planning criminal and extradition proceedings, but has filed no charges. Regina Ip, a pro-Beijing legislator and previously the city’s top security official, said: "I can't speak for the Hong Kong government now, but if the US gives a request, the government will deal with it in accordance with due process."

The city of seven million people is ultimately answerable to Beijing but maintains an independent judiciary and media.

Beijing itself has no extradition agreement with Washington, and Article 3 of the US-Hong Kong treaty allows the city to  refuse extradition if it believes that it might impact on China’s “defence, foreign affairs or essential public interest or policy”.

Hong Kong can also refuse extradition if either it or China believes the request is politically motivated, and that the person would be prosecuted for his or her political views.

In an interview yesterday, Snowden told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP): "I am not here to hide from justice, I am here to reveal criminality." He also dangled the possibility of more revelations, particularly evidence that the US has been hacking systems in China and Hong Kong.

He said he will stay in the city “until I am asked to leave”, adding: “I have had many opportunities to flee HK, but I would rather stay and fight the US government in the courts, because I have faith in HK’s rule of law.”

Snowden said the NSA had hundreds of cyberespionage targets in mainland China and Hong Kong. "We hack network backbones – like huge internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one," he said.

Today Chow Chung Yan, news editor of the SCMP, said the 29-year-old was still in the city. He declined to give details about the interview other than to say it took place on Wednesday in a secure location.

Cyberespionage has been a bone of contention between the world's two biggest economies, whose leaders met earlier this week. After the two-day meeting between President Barack Obama and his new Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, the best that US national security adviser Tom Donilon could boast was that "the Chinese senior leadership understand clearly the importance of this issue to the United States."

Back in America, the NSA director, Army General Keith Alexander, will address the Senate Intelligence Committee in closed session later today.

"I do think it's important that we get this right, and I want the American people to know that we're trying to be transparent here, protect civil liberties and privacy but also the security of this country," he told a Senate panel.

Gen Alexander defended the agency's surveillance programmes, saying they led to "disrupting or contributing to the disruption of terrorist attacks" but did not give details. He warned that revelations about the secret programmes have eroded agency capabilities and, as a result, the US and its allies will not be as safe as they were two weeks ago.

"Some of these are still going to be classified and should be, because if we tell the terrorists every way that we're going to track them, they will get through and Americans will die," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Sport
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • 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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk