Accusations on Snowden rebuffed by HK govt
Updated: 2013-06-25 10:31
By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily)
A good example of procedural fairness and justice, says Leung
While US officials accuse Chinese and Hong Kong governments of not helping arrest National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the response from officials and experts on the other side of the Pacific is quite different.
After staying in Hong Kong for several weeks following his revelations of massive US surveillance programs all over the world, including Beijing and Hong Kong, and after the US charged him with violating the Espionage Act, Snowden flew to Moscow on Sunday.
The plane believed to be carrying him on to Cuba landed in Havana on Monday, but reporters aboard the plane did not see him.
White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the Hong Kong Special Administration Region government's remark that the decision to allow Snowden leave Hong Kong was a technical one.
"We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official," he told the news briefing on Monday.
"This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the US-China relationship," he said.
US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell made similar statement.
"With the Chinese relationship, it does have a negative impact," he said. "We were very clear about our interest in this individual, and we've emphasized the importance of building mutual trust, and this has dealt a serious setback."
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Monday that there was "no legal basis" to stop Snowden from leaving the city while Hong Kong SAR authorities were processing the US extradition request and "asking (the US) for further important information" on the case.
"This is a good example to illustrate 'one country, two systems', Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong, and the high degree of autonomy that we have," said Leung, adding that "it is also a good example to illustrate the rule of law that we uphold and the procedural fairness and justice that we uphold."
In a statement on Sunday, the Hong Kong SAR government said it has formally written to the US government requesting clarification on earlier reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies.
While US officials and some lawmakers heap accusations on China, some Chinese think their government had sufficient reason to keep Snowden to help investigate his claims about the US spying programs in China, including hacking into Chinese cell phone firms to steal SMS data and attacking the network backbones at Tsinghua University and computers at the Hong Kong headquarters of telecom service provider Pacnet.
Liu Zongyi, a research fellow at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said China has shown enough respect for US feelings on this case.
"China does nothing to extract information from Snowden out of the consideration for preserving the China-US relationship after the Sunnylands summit," said Liu, referring to the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama early this month.
Zhu Zhiqun, a professor of political science and international relations at Bucknell University, said the US accusation does not make much sense.
"Will the US send a Chinese spy who reveals Chinese espionage on the US back to China?" he said. "The US government should not have expected Hong Kong or Beijing to extradite Snowden in the first place."
Zhu does not believe this will have major negative consequences on US-China relations.
"In fact, the Snowden case reveals where the relationship is weak and how the two countries should act next in order to improve relations," he said. "The fundamental problem here is the lack of trust, which is the very reason why large-scale and aggressive espionage has been plaguing the two nations."
George Koo, a board member of New America Media, a nationwide association of more than 3,000 ethnic media organizations, said the Hong Kong government was well within its jurisdiction when handling the Snowden case.
"Accusing China for not cooperating is as wrongheaded as Dick Cheney's comment that Snowden must be a spy for China," Koo said.
Over the past few days, the US has been warning Western hemisphere nations that they should not allow Snowden to proceed further in international travel. However, Ecuador Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said on Monday that Snowden is being "persecuted" and that his government was considering his request for asylum.
During his visit to Hanoi, Vietnam, Patino read a letter from Snowden to Ecuador's president in which he asked for asylum "due to the risk of persecution by the government of the United States and its agents".
In the letter, Snowden, who turned 30 on Friday, said that he revealed the information about the highly classified surveillance program because the US "is intercepting the majority of communications of the world".
"I have been accused of being a traitor" and "there have been calls for me to be executed or imprisoned", the letter said. Snowden said it was unlikely that he could receive a fair trial.
Patino said that Ecuador would not base its asylum decision on its potential to damage the country's relationship with the US.
"There are some governments that act more upon their own interests, but we do not," he said. "We act upon our principles. We take care of the human rights of the people."
Chen Jia in San Francisco and agencies contributed to this story.
(China Daily USA 06/25/2013 page1)