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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell