Edward Snowden

Snowden called 'an American hero' on Sina Weibo after being charged

Contrasting internet reactions emerge after US charges former CIA employee with espionage

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 1:42pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 5:14pm

A variety of strong opinions from Chinese and western commentators emerged on the internet on Saturday - after US authorities formally charged Edward Snowden with espionage, theft and the sharing of classified information.

Posts on China’s Sina Weibo ranged from sympathetic to disparaging - with some commentators calling Snowden “an American hero” and “the embodiment of America’s values.” Others argued that “Hong Kong does not need to listen to American devils” and should ignore requests from the US to detain Snowden.

The legitimacy of the US stance was also questioned. “Espionage?” one blogger asked. “What country was he providing spy services for? It’s all too unclear; extraditing him is only going to make things worse.”

Many people expressed pessimism about Snowden’s chances of remaining in Hong Kong now that charges have been filed. “I think the mainland and Hong Kong governments will give him up,” one post said. “Brother Snowden, you came to the wrong place. The people here don’t have any convictions. If you go against their interests, they’ll definitely sacrifice you."

“So, politicians are just the same as businessmen,” another wrote. “Except the worse thing about them is that they make trades over countries and people.”

A few commentators argued that it was natural for the US to want to track down Snowden.

“America wants to catch a traitor, other countries want to protect him,” wrote Zhang Yiwu, a Peking University post-modernist professor with more than five million Weibo followers. “It’s no wonder. Every country is striving for its own agenda… There is no country in this world that doesn’t have its own national interests in mind. Those who believe a country such as that exists are too naïve.”

On western social media, the Twitter hashtag #snowden quickly exploded with news of the charges. Many commented that Snowden was “getting charged with espionage for exposing espionage,” and that this was “a case of the pot calling the kettle black”.

"Hey [United States] government," one user posted. "If you're charging Snowden with espionage, what are you charging the NSA with for violating the constitution?"

CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson said on his Twitter he wondered how long it would be before Hong Kong police arrested Snowden.

After attending a press conference where Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung said Hong Kong would deal with Snowden's situation in accordance with the law, Robertson tweeted about the possibility that Snowden might already be under police protection, a claim originally suggested by Apple Daily newspaper. 

Some Twitter users noted the irony that the charges against Snowden were originally revealed on June 21, the day of his 30th birthday.

“Happy birthday, Edward Snowden,” one tweet read. “The US just charged you with espionage.”