NSA Prism revelations: Hong Kong remains silent on Edward Snowden extradition
US Department of Justice has filed espionage charges against Snowden
Hong Kong has given no official reaction to US authorities' announcement of charges filed against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is thought to be hiding in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
Snowden has admitted providing information to journalists about two highly classified NSA surveillance programs and yesterday the US Department of Justice said it was charging the 30-year-old with espionage and theft of government property.
Asked about the charges, Police Commissioner Andy Tsang only told reporters that the case would be dealt with according to the law, and a police statement said it was "inappropriate" for the police to comment on the case.
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.
Outspoken legislator Leung Kwok-hung said Beijing should instruct Hong Kong to protect Snowden from extradition before his case gets dragged through the court system. Leung also urged the people of Hong Kong to "take to the streets to protect Snowden."
And Cyd Ho, vice-chairwoman of the pro-democracy Labour Party, said China "should now make its stance clear to the Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) government" before the case goes before a court.
China has urged Washington to provide explanations following the disclosures of National Security Agency programs which collect millions of telephone records and track foreign internet activity on US networks, but it has not commented on Snowden's status in Hong Kong.
Cyberespionage has been a bone of contention between the world's two biggest economies, whose leaders met earlier this month. After a 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."
China is still trying to deflect US accusations that it carries out extensive surveillance on American government and commercial operations.
Snowden's whereabouts have not been publicly known since he checked out of a Hong Kong hotel on June 10. He said in an interview with the South China Morning Post that he hoped to stay in the autonomous region of China because he has faith in "the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate."
Tsang said in interview broadcast on local television that he could not comment when asked about a local newspaper report that Snowden was in a police "safe house."
A prominent former politician in Hong Kong, Martin Lee, the founding chairman of the Democratic Party, said he doubted whether Beijing would intervene at this stage.
"Beijing would only intervene according to my understanding at the last stage. If the magistrate said there is enough to extradite, then Mr. Snowden can then appeal," he said.
Lee said Beijing could then decide at the end of the appeal process if it wanted Snowden extradited or not.
The process could become a prolonged legal battle, with Snowden contesting extradition on grounds of political persecution.
Hong Kong lawyer Mark Sutherland said that the filing of a refugee, torture or inhuman punishment claim acts as an automatic bar on any extradition proceedings until those claims can be assessed.
"Some asylum seekers came to Hong Kong 10 years ago and still haven't had their protection claims assessed," Sutherland said.
- 1 Howard Jacobson: Let's see the 'criticism' of Israel for what it really is
- 2 Instagram of US airport security chiefs: Lipstick knives and IED training kits among items seized
- 4 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
Jennifer Lawrence face palms Emma Watson at Christian Dior show in Paris
Instagram of US airport security chiefs: Lipstick knives and IED training kits among items seized
Mick Jagger denies being World Cup curse and reason for Brazil’s embarrassing defeat
Gingers face extinction due to climate change, scientists warn
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
British jihadist calls for 'flag of Islam' over Downing Street and Buckingham Palace
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories
£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...
£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...
£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...
£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...