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.
China 'gravely concerned' on cybersnooping by US, called world's 'biggest villain'
China said on Sunday that it was “gravely concerned” over cyberattacks by US government agencies after new allegations that they had snooped on Chinese targets.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the latest reports “again proved that China is the victim of cyberattacks, and we have already lodged representations to the US side”, according to state news agency Xinhua.
The remarks followed new claims by former US spy Edward Snowden that US spies had hacked the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing -- home to one of six “network backbones” that route all of mainland China’s Internet traffic -- and the Hong Kong headquarters of Pacnet, which operates one of the Asia-Pacific region’s largest fibre-optic networks.
Earlier on Sunday, Xinhua called the United States the world’s “biggest villain” for IT espionage, after the new allegations emerged.
“These, along with previous allegations, are clearly troubling signs,” Xinhua said in a commentary.
“They demonstrate that the United States, which has long been trying to play innocent as a victim of cyber attacks, has turned out to be the biggest villain in our age,” it said.
The comments came after the United States slapped an arrest warrant on Snowden on Friday, and White House National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said the charges “present a good case for extradition under the treaty, the extradition treaty between the United States and Hong Kong”.
“Hong Kong has been a historically good partner of the United States in law enforcement matters, and we expect them to comply with the treaty in this case,” he told CBS Radio News on Saturday.
Xinhua noted that the United States was now trying formally to extradite Snowden from Hong Kong, where he has gone to ground.
“But for other countries, Washington should come clean about its record first. It owes too an explanation to China and other countries it has allegedly spied on. It has to share with the world the range, extent and intent of its clandestine hacking programmes,” it said.
The United States and China are both victims of hacking and have to work together on the issue, Xinhua said.
But it stressed: “The ball is now in Washington’s court. The US government had better move to allay the concerns of other countries.”
Pro-Beijing Hong Kong lawmaker Regina Ip, a former secretary for security who sits on the Executive Council, said protections for political asylum-seekers were written into the US extradition treaty in “black and white”.
Washington may threaten Hong Kong with a withdrawal of visa-free access to the United States for its residents, she said on the Commercial Radio station.
But Ip emphasised: “We have laws, and the United States should also be aware of it.”