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.
Sina Weibo users unleash scathing criticism of US hacking 'hypocrisy'
Revelations by Edward Snowden that Washington has been hacking mainland China and Hong Kong for years triggered scathing criticism from Sina Weibo users, many of whom have previously held the US government as a role model for protecting human rights and freedom of speech.
On Weibo, Snowden's exclusive interview with the Post was promptly translated into Chinese by Sina News, reposted by influential opinion leaders and commented on thousands of times.
"Isn't this a slap in the face for Obama?" a microblogger wrote. "What a hypocrite US turns out to be despite its endless talks of freedom and democracy."
"This is exactly a case of a thief yelling thief," commented another blogger, referring to recent allegations the US made about cyberattacks from China.
Many bloggers also speculated on China's next move.
"Too bad China already knows every cyber-secret of its people," activist Chen Yunfei wrote teasingly on Twitter, "otherwise Snowden would have made a good fortune." Despite criticism directed at the US government, more people say Snowden is the true embodiment of the American spirit.
"He doesn't blindly follow orders from the powers and dares to challenge and rebel," microblogger Zheng Wei wrote. "He has the true American spirit of scepticism."
"As much as we are so willing to criticise the US for their bad behaviour," cautioned Zhao Xiao, a professor at University of Science and Technology Beijing, "it doesn't give China the excuse to act more evil."
The official China Daily said US-China relations will be tested after the disclosure of a huge US electronic surveillance programme, which "is certain to stain Washington's overseas image and test developing Sino-US ties", the newspaper cited analysts as saying. "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."
One analyst noted the irony that the US surveillance programme was exposed just as Washington has intensified its public accusations of Chinese state-backed cyberattacks, which Beijing vehemently denies.
"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 paper quoted China Foreign Affairs University researcher Li Haidong as saying.
Additional reporting by Patrick Boehler, Agence France-Presse