'America owes explanation' for hacking, says editorial
The United States should explain to internet users around the world why it accessed their private conversations, credit cards and emails, one of China's leading dailies said in an editorial on Thursday.
"We have to figure out how we are affected by the [hacking], we have the right to ask the American government for an explanation," the editorial read. "For instance, on whether the 'Prism programme' has been used in commercial negotiations between Chinese and US companies," referring to a programme by the US' National Security Agency, which tracks web traffic and phone records.
The editorial on the Global Times website appeared half a day after US whistleblower Edward Snowden confronted the South China Morning Post with what he said was conclusive evidence the US had been infiltrating Chinese and Hong Kong networks for years through its "Prism" programme.
The Global Times is one of China's most widely-sold daily papers. Its editorial line has a reputation for being stridently nationalistic.
It offers a hint at a consensus forming among Chinese decision makers on how to deal with Snowden seeking refuge in Hong Kong as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying and Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying refused to comment on the case.
The editorial argued that Snowden's statement has "confirmed speculation" on US hacking.
China's response to an extradition request for Snowden to the United States will depend on what kind of explanation the US will give for its hacking, the editorial argued. Hong Kong and the US have a treaty that obligates the city to surrender the whistleblower if the US should make such a request, but the treaty grants Beijing a final say in matters of national security.
"We should be more clear about America's real side and its hypocritical side, we can't be stupid and naive," the editorial read. "This issue directly touches our vital interests."
Snowden's allegations lent credence to long-standing Chinese allegations that the US has been accusing China of hacking US companies to whitewash its own hacking of Chinese companies and institutions.
While the US should explain why it hacked Chinese computers, China will not get the apology it wants, said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D C.
"[Hacking] is just what governments do," she said in a phone interview. "What are you apologising for? Apologising suggests that you are not going to do it again and implies you did something wrong."
"I don't think this is against the norms that exist in the international community," she said. "We are trying to protect our national security. I think the Chinese are doing the same."