30-year-old American Edward Snowden, a contract employee at the National Security Agency, is the whistleblower behind significant revelations that surfaced in June 2013 about the US government's top secret, extensive domestic surveillance programmes. Snowden flew to Hong Kong from Hawaii in May 2013, and supplied confidential US government documents to media outlets including the Guardian.
Snowden should be questioned on extent of US privacy intrusions
Lau Nai-keung says China has the right to lawfully detain and debrief him
Who is Edward Snowden, and what is he up to? So far, the whole act is so strangely perfect, and the Western media so extraordinarily helpful, that it seems like a movie plot that's too good to be true in the real world. So much so that even some liberals in the West, such as Naomi Wolf, have openly cast doubt on the saga and warned people not to take it literally.
Of course, it is most embarrassing to the US government, whose official line is that the Prism project is necessary for homeland security. But this did not answer the pointed question of whether it is necessary to hack into people's personal data, grossly violating privacy rights, to quench the country's paranoid fears about terrorist attacks.
If that is indeed justifiable, then the US has no right to point its dirty finger at China for its internet actions.
China is under greater threat of terrorist attack, and its government has a duty to protect the life and property of its citizens. Some of those officially classified as terrorist organisations in China are called "freedom fighters" in the US.
The Snowden affair is also a great embarrassment to our dissidents who claim to champion human rights and frequently use this as an excuse to bash China. Given that Snowden surfaced in Hong Kong, they knew they had to say something but they did not want to harm their cordial relations with the US. So they chose to duck the real issue and instead focus the discussion on whether the Hong Kong government should hand Snowden over to the US, which he has obviously betrayed. Snowden has been portrayed as a freedom fighter and the US as the villain.
By spinning the issue, some of the pressure has been shifted from the US to the Hong Kong government, and ultimately the central government. Some Western politicians and journalists have even claimed Snowden is a Chinese spy, or has defected to China.
Indeed, why of all places would he choose Hong Kong to fight his corner? His flattering remarks about the city were not at all convincing.
Snowden's fate is not my primary concern; rather, it is the blatant infringement of my privacy by a foreign country. Those who authorised these thefts and allowed it to continue - that is, the US president and others - should be removed from office, and the US owes the world an apology. Failing that, China has the right to lawfully detain Snowden and debrief him.
Let's forget about extradition; it's not applicable in this case because we are all victims here.
Taking such a stance, I suggest that the Hong Kong police should arrest Snowden in due course, hold him in custody and interrogate him about what he and his country have done to us.
After that, there are a number of options. The most lenient would be to grant him immunity so he could expose more of the wicked things the US has done to us or is planning to do.
The next best thing for Snowden would be to grant him asylum after extracting all the details.
Should he refuse to co-operate, he should be put in jail, pending deportation. In any case, a simple extradition procedure is out of the question.
In handling the Snowden case this way, all our positions and our rights will be preserved. We cannot protect Snowden as a freedom fighter, or else we will have others lining up behind him, and this will put an unnecessary strain on Sino-American relations. We are not hostile to the US per se; only to its criminal acts victimising us.
In case we have to deport Snowden, China will still command the moral high ground and will not be perceived as striking a dirty deal with the US and sacrificing a freedom fighter.
Lau Nai-keung is a member of the Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee, and also a member of the Commission on Strategic Development