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  • Oct 2, 2014
  • Updated: 8:51pm
Column
PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 June, 2013, 9:50am

The best way to handle Snowden's case is to help him move to a third country

Snowden's arrival in Hong Kong may have been a PR coup for Beijing, but they will probably be happy to see the back of him

BIO

Wang Xiangwei took up the role of Editor-in-Chief in February 2012, responsible for the editorial direction and newsroom operations. He started his 20-year career at the China Daily, before moving to the UK, where he gained valuable experience at a number of news organisations, including the BBC Chinese Service. In 1993, he moved to Hong Kong and worked at the Eastern Express before joining the South China Morning Post in 1996 as our China Business Reporter. He was subsequently promoted to China Editor in 2000 and Deputy Editor in 2007, a position he held for four years prior to being promoted to his current position. Mr. Wang has a Masters degree in Journalism, and a Bachelors degree in English.
 

On February 06, 2012, Wang Lijun, the former police chief of Chongqing, drove to the US consulate in Chengdu , which immediately triggered a flurry of high-level telephone exchanges between US and Chinese officials.

The details of those conversations to resolve Wang's stay in the consulate have never been made public and both Washington and Beijing were conspicuously quiet over the issue. But it came at a politically sensitive time, just days ahead of the then vice-president Xi Jinping's visit to the United States. That visit, watched closely around the world, was billed as the first opportunity for international audiences to get to know China's future leader.

Thus it was very interesting that on February 7, while Wang was still inside the consulate, Xinhua reported a phone conversation between Xi and his US counterpart, Joe Biden, in which both men promised to work to strengthen bilateral relationships ahead of Xi's visit.

As Xinhua said the phone conversation was initiated at Biden's request, it is impossible to think that the men did not discuss Wang's case, given the timing. Indeed, on the same day, Wang reportedly "left of his own volition" and was taken by national security agents to Beijing, resulting in one of the biggest political crises in recent decades and the downfall of Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai , who was then one of the mainland's rising political stars.

Fast forward to today. Since US whistle-blower Edward Snowden broke cover and announced his presence in Hong Kong last week, Beijing again has remained silent. The foreign ministry spokesperson refused to comment on Snowden's case directly and chose to broadly urge for deeper co-operation over cyber security between the two countries.

Although mightily pleased inwardly, mainland officials were wise to bite their tongues. The explosive revelations by the former NSA contractor about top-secret US surveillance of the global internet was the best evidence of Washington's hypocrisy at a time of its increasing public denunciation of China's state-sponsored cyber hacking operations.

Again, the timing was very sensitive. Snowden's astonishing disclosures came days after the presidents of China and US held seven hours of informal meetings to cultivate stronger ties based on mutual trust - characterised by Xi as "a new model of major power relationships".

In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post, Snowden said he would seek refuge in Hong Kong, and placed his faith in the city's people and its rule of law. But the fact remains that his fate is most likely to be decided by Beijing and Washington. By coincidence, the Snowden case fell into Xi's lap as a birthday present as Saturday marked the president's 60th birthday, an important anniversary to celebrate in the Chinese calendar. No doubt, how to resolve it would again test his wisdom and that of the entire Beijing leadership in the context of Sino-US ties.

While Xinhua has carried no reports of a phone conversation from Obama congratulating Xi on his birthday, it is interesting to note that Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Saturday to "discuss bilateral ties and the situation on Korean peninsula". The conversation contained nothing newsworthy, just the usual diplomatic language. But the one sentence quoting Xi as saying that he cherished his personal friendship and mutual trust with Putin seems to suggest that the Russian president called to congratulate the president on his birthday. In another interesting development, on the same day North Korean leader Kim Jung-un sent a birthday message to Xi, calling for stronger ties, according to the North Korean state media. Strangely, however, Chinese state media made no mention of Kim's message. It was quite uncharacteristic and could suggest an open snub against Kim amid North Korea's recent reckless behaviour.

Did Putin and Xi talked about Snowden's case? Your guess is as good as mine but the phone call came days after the Kremlin reportedly offered refuge to Snowden.

As one top foreign policy adviser to the Chinese leadership told the Post last week, Beijing would handle the Snowden case discreetly and had no interest in turning the event into a political case. If that reflects Beijing's thinking, the options of allowing Snowden to be extradited to the US or seeing him seek possible asylum in Hong Kong are not ideal as both would involve a lengthy court process and could strain Sino-US ties and create further complications for Hong Kong's political situation.

That leaves the third option that China would provide necessary assistance for Snowden to go to a third country. Under the circumstances, that would be the optimal solution.

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This article is now closed to comments

johnrai7
Is this the best way to solve this case? By avoiding or ignoring? I think not. We know Snowden is safer in HK ,lets support him and not let him down for political reason.
hard times !
up till now, there is still no so-called extradiction request formally raised by the U.S government to have the hiding Snowden extradicted to the States to be tried /tortured to death/a lifetime.Well knowing that there won't be any fair trial in this world-shocking revelation case,Mr.Snowden will seek asylum here through the hearings of our courts.Yet it looks that the Obama administration would more likely making use of his secret agents (sent here recently from the NSA named Team Q) to grab this hidden Snowden secretly and flew him out of the territory back to his home countray for a so-called trial----sealing his mouth from continued revelation of the top secrets collected by the NSA concerning Hong Kong as China plus elsewhere and would make world-known that the biggest hacker in the world is nobody(not even Mainland China) but America herself--the self-anionted so-called World Cop ever since 1945 when she won the WWII and since become the No.1 power in the world though as time goes by,her world power is decling and a rising power in the east is gradually catching up and one day...
Carioca no Coracao
best thing for HKG is to give Snowden a fair adjudication according to HKG laws. the rule of law and one country two systems is profound to the "core" value of hongkong and unique in the world. finding a 3rd country and wash hands is the last hkg should do. what if china came for a hkg citizen?
lucifer
There is no adjudication...HKSAR and the US have extradiction agreements. If the theft of government property falls under the agreement, then HK must hand him over. I think in the end, they will arrest him
captam
You cannot 'steal' property which has already been stolen. You can 'fence' it but the correct course of action for a good citizen finding property, which has been unlawfully obtained, is to report it. Something which Snowden has admirably done.
hongkiejj@malaysiaboleh
There is a difference between wang lijun and snowden.
Lets not get mix up with this. Wang was going to expose his boss, Bo. Its purely domestic.
To simply imply dat there is a connection and a favor in return is just not correct.
Whereas, Snowden is an entirely different story here. I do not need to elaborate on his case. The rest we all know.
As far as leaving for another country, the choices are limited and even if there is one, it's a tough choice.
We can speculate all we want but till our govt gets the papers for whatever lame reasons from USA, there is not much we can do...for now.
vijaymundhra
Edward Snowden is "Wellcome" in Hong Kong. Perhaps he'd like Park N' Shop too?
hard times !
yeah,maybe the best way now our administration can solve the Snowden case is to look for a country to accept Mr.Snowden and let him go as soon as possible so as to get rid of any troubles Hong Kong might face----the kidnapping of him by force by the CIA sent /stationed here or even killed ! Right ?
 
 
 
 
 

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