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  • Updated: 1:25am
Edward Snowden
CommentInsight & Opinion

What will Hong Kong do with Edward Snowden? The world is watching

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 June, 2013, 7:18am

Hong Kong has a celebrated place in history as a safe haven for revolutionaries: Sun Yat-sen, Ho Chi Minh and José Rizal spent time here fine-tuning ideological positions, formulating strategies and gathering support. Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former CIA employee who has chosen our city as a base from which to unmask the American secret security community's alleged excesses, does not intend to overthrow a regime, but he is driven by the same zeal for change. He has put his faith in our freedoms, reputation and rule of law. As the US ponders what to do about the whistle-blower, we have to be acutely aware that the world is watching our government's every move.

Snowden's campaign does not directly involve Hong Kong. It is centred on the US National Security Agency and its secret surveillance programme. Documents he passed on to The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers detailing how his country pries into the digital communications of citizens, Americans and otherwise, are eye-opening; every activity can be observed, it would seem. The US government views revealing such information as a grave crime and it pushes for long prison sentences for offenders.

That reality has sent Snowden fleeing to our shores; he has been in hiding since May 20 in a hotel, from which he revealed his identity and cause on Sunday. His fight, he says, is about protecting internet freedoms, privacy, and basic liberties. Hong Kong, he contends, upholds these fundamental rights and its government is independent-minded. Beijing's sovereignty also likely comes into his calculations.

The timing of his going public is interesting: within hours of the end of the first summit between presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama at which greater co-operation was the focus. The US has had an extradition treaty with Hong Kong since 1996 and rarely in that time have American requests to hand over suspects been rejected. There is a provision, though, for a denial of political cases and Snowden could easily argue that his is in this category. Ultimately, though, Beijing is in charge of Hong Kong's foreign policy and it has the final say.

Much is at stake for the Sino-American relationship and Hong Kong's reputation. Our respect for rights and freedoms and our judicial system are our strengths; they are why so many companies decide to be based here. As Snowden's case unfolds, we need to be mindful of our city's place and role in history.


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This article is now closed to comments

His choice of Hong Kong is a tremendous compliment to the people and rule of law here. Let us hope the government will uphold those crucial values and give safe harbor to this man of courage and conscience whose actions have made the extent of the surveillance state in the US apparent to all. As an American citizen, I salute Mr. Snowden's brave and difficult choice, that of putting the constitution and the rights of the people ahead of material benefits and governmental imperatives.
In regard to this surveillance program the public opinion is split once again between those who respect themselves and their freedom and those who instead live in fear, look for protection and welcome the leash of their master.
It is also about a certain culture that had been slave since ancient Egypt.
Bubble Burster
Speaking as a legal American citizen - born and raised here ... the MAJORITY of people in the U.S. are appalled at this "secret" violation of our Constitutional rights. We will always have shallow people that fear everything but I repeat the majority of people VALUE their privacy and see no reason for the government to record the CONTENT of our e-mails, phone calls and film us for doing nothing wrong and no probable cause.
This is a complete violation of the Patriot Act which was put in place to allow law enforcement to immediately do these things with probable cause concerning an INDIVIDUAL; certainly NOT THE MASSES as Obama is doing.
BTW, to show how this is ineffective ... how come the Boston Marathon bombing was NOT stopped? Russia warned the U.S. TWICE. The FBI actually interviewed the two TWICE and had no problem with them. The Boston police were NEVER informed about them being a threat. Want to know why is wasn't stopped/ Obama doesn't see them as "terrorists". He sees legal Americans opposed to him as the "terrorists"to be watched and spied on - no kidding. The IRS audits were ALL directed to who Obama sees as his enemies.
And that is the TRUTH! Think about it ....
No, the majority are outraged, appalled and feel BETRAYED by these huge violations of our FREEDOM. It's becoming like the 1984 movie here and it is being challenged.


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