• Fri
  • Oct 24, 2014
  • Updated: 2:01am
Edward Snowden
NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong govt silent on Snowden’s fate as lawmakers call for China to decide

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 12:33pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 1:01pm
 

Hong Kong authorities were silent on Saturday on the fate of a former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor ahead of an expected extradition request by the United States where he has been charged with spying.

But a Hong Kong newspaper said he was under police protection.

Edward Snowden was charged with theft of US government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorised person, according to the criminal complaint, dated June 14 and made public on Friday.

Two US sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States was preparing to seek Snowden’s extradition from Hong Kong, which is part of China but has wide-ranging autonomy, including an independent judiciary.

Take to the streets to protect Snowden
Legislator Leung Kwok-hung

Documents leaked by Snowden and revealed by him in Hong Kong showed that the NSA had access to vast amounts of internet data such as emails, chat rooms and video from large companies such as Facebook and Google, under a government program known as Prism.

The Washington Post said the United States had asked Hong Kong to detain Snowden on a provisional arrest warrant.

Hong Kong Police Commissioner Andy Tsang declined to give details but said Hong Kong would deal with the case in accordance with the law.

“The laws that are enforced in Hong Kong are Hong Kong laws, not foreign laws,” he told reporters.

The Apple Daily newspaper said police had provided Snowden with a safe house and protection. Police had checked his documents to make sure he hadn’t overstayed but didn’t talk to him on other matters or take any statement, the paper said, citing police sources.

The US Consulate referred inquiries to the US Department of Justice in Washington.

Hong Kong legislators said that the Chinese government should make the final decision on whether former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden should be extradited to the United States now that the Justice Department has charged him with espionage and theft of government property.

Outspoken legislator Leung Kwok-hung said Beijing should instruct Hong Kong to protect Snowden from extradition before his case gets dragged through the court system. Leung also urged the people of Hong Kong to “take to the streets to protect Snowden.”

Another legislator, Cyd Ho, vice-chairwoman of the pro-democracy Labour Party, said China “should now make its stance clear to the Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) government” before the case goes before a court.

It is not known if the US government has made a formal extradition request to Hong Kong.

When China regained control of Hong Kong in 1997, the former British colony was granted a high degree of autonomy and granted rights and freedoms not seen on mainland china. However, under the city’s mini constitution Beijing is allowed to intervene in matters involving defence and diplomatic affairs.

The United States and Hong Kong signed an extradition treaty which came into effect in 1998.

China has urged Washington to provide explanations following the disclosures of National Security Agency programs which collect millions of telephone records and track foreign internet activity on US networks, but it has not commented on Snowden’s status in Hong Kong.

He said in an interview with the South China Morning Post that he hoped to stay in the autonomous region of China because he has faith in “the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate.”

He and his supporters have also spoken of his seeking asylum from Iceland.

A prominent former politician in Hong Kong, Martin Lee, the founding chairman of the Democratic Party, said he doubted whether Beijing would intervene at this stage.

“Beijing would only intervene according to my understanding at the last stage. If the magistrate said there is enough to extradite, then Mr. Snowden can then appeal,” he said.

Lee said Beijing could then decide at the end of the appeal process if it wanted Snowden extradited or not.

While espionage and theft of state secrets are not cited specifically, equivalent charges could be pressed against Snowden under Hong Kong’s Official Secrets Ordinance, legal experts say.

Snowden, however, could claim political asylum. Under article six of the treaty, extradition should be refused for “an offence of a political character”.

Legal sources in Hong Kong say Snowden has already approached prominent human rights lawyers in preparation for a protracted extradition battle.

If Hong Kong authorities don’t charge him with an equivalent criminal act, authorities cannot arrest or take legal action. He was also theoretically free to leave the city, one legal expert said.

Simon Young, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, said a formal extradition request would likely be made through diplomatic channels to Hong Kong’s chief executive, who must decide whether or not to issue an “authority to proceed”.

A magistrate would then issue a warrant for the arrest and then decide whether there was sufficient evidence to commit Snowden to trial.

While China has veto power over extradition proceedings if its “defence or foreign affairs would be significantly affected”, this power has rarely been invoked by Beijing for previous cases involving non-Chinese nationals.

“If he requested asylum, then from a humanitarian standpoint, we should protect him,” said 60-year-old resident Elli Fan near a street-side banner saying “Protect Snowden. Protect Freedom.”

An Icelandic businessman linked to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said on Thursday he had readied a private plane in China to fly Snowden to Iceland if Iceland’s government would grant asylum.

A one-page criminal complaint unsealed Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, said Snowden engaged in unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence information. Both are charges under the Espionage Act. Snowden also is charged with theft of government property. All three crimes carry a maximum 10-year prison penalty.

The complaint will be an integral part of the US government’s effort to have Snowden extradited from Hong Kong, a process that could become a prolonged legal battle. Snowden could contest extradition on grounds of political persecution.

Hong Kong lawyer Mark Sutherland said that the filing of a refugee, torture or inhuman punishment claim acts as an automatic bar on any extradition proceedings until those claims can be assessed.

“Some asylum seekers came to Hong Kong 10 years ago and still haven’t had their protection claims assessed,” Sutherland said.

Organisers of a public protest in support of Snowden last week said on Saturday there were no plans for similar demonstrations this weekend.

Reuters and Associated Press

Share

Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive
 
 

 

11

This article is now closed to comments

Pearl of Orient
Beijing better not messed up with HK's internal affairs and judiciary! Long Hair Leung Kwok-Hung is silly enough to make such a comment!
Pearl of Orient
Hope Mr Snowden is taking necessary steps to contest the extradition request or preparing to go a 3rd country safely. Mr Snowden has done an excellent job for the whole world and to HK, he should be allowed to stay in liberal HK permanently.
dynamco
PRISM admissions minimal vs ECHELON - happy reading !
ECHELON worldwide network has been (+ still is) spying worldwide for years on all countries’ communications, mobile phonecalls, microwave, fiber, emails, fax, VOIP etc.
Allegations were made on 60 Minutes+ of the use of ECHELON to swing a USD 6 billion Airbus sale in Saudi Arabia to Boeing.
Prior to 1997 GCHQ operated similar operations from Tate’s Cairn + Little Sai Wan listening stations and no doubt continues same from Cheltenham.
www.newstatesman.com/books/2010/06/gchq-agency-britain
Just another form of invasive electronic pollution initially aimed at Counter Terrorism that seems to have morphed into something else far more sinister
www.duncancampbell.org/content/echelon
www.theregister.co.uk/2013/06/11/prism_numbers_not_adding_up/
www.duncancampbell.org/menu/surveillance/echelon/IC2000_Report%20.pdf
www.duncancampbell.org/menu/journalism/newstatesman/newstatesman-1988/They%27ve%20got%20it%20taped.pdf
www.duncancampbell.org/
www.nsawatch.org/echelon.html waaah! patented spying
www.ncoic.com/nsapoole.htm
cryptome.org/echelon-cia2.htm
We are the omnipotent Superpower, do as we say, not as we do, we are the World’s self-appointed policemen
news.techeye.net/security/china-spy-scare-hypocrisy-is-spelled-echelon#ixzz2WMJszr00
cryptome.org/echelon-ep-fin.htm
rao.nasir.900
upto I saw the receipt that said $5604, I didn't believe ...that...my friends brother woz like realy erning money part time at their computer.. there sisters neighbour has been doing this 4 less than twelve months and recently paid for the depts on there apartment and bourt Buick. read more at,....... ****Cat48.com
caractacus
"Leung Kwok-hung said Beijing should instruct Hong Kong to protect Snowden from extradition." "Cyd Ho... said China “should now make its stance clear to the Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) government” before the case goes before a court."
Excuse me, aren't these two legislators known for their view that Hong Kong should have true autonomy from China? Now in the same breath they are inviting Beijing to do just the opposite when something is too big for them. This shows their small minded, double standards. Cyd Ho had better stick to discriminating against ESF children and parents who can't fight back.
The answer is very simple: all the posturing and protesting doesn't matter a fig because in the end, if he stays in Hong Kong long enough, the courts will decide if Snowden is to be extradited, regardless of anyone's opinion. It is also highly improbable if he can genuinely claim refugee status or assert he will be tortured or subjected to inhuman treatment. The USA isn't China.
Does anyone really think that Beijing or Hong Kong will repudiate an international extradition treaty over one unfortunate young man? They have the right to ask for an explanation from the US Govt. about its surveillance activities in Chinese sovereign territory, but they have no right to break their own laws. Beijing, Legco business functional constituencies and the tycoons who are in bed with our Government officials will certainly not risk harming their exports to the USA.
pandalogic2010
If Snowden is sent back to U.S. it tells a lot about HK.
Let's play with this;
Megaupload was in HK and it was passed on a silver plate to U.S. officials. Alone for this reason I've been really puzzled what went on Snowdens mind when he seeked to escape to HK. What does he know that we others don't?
HK is a poor place indeed. If he vanishes, both sides can blame the other. For this reason alone (again), what does Snowden know we others dont? My wild guess is, Snowden is already in Beijing in a round room where he is questioned till the end of his days. Regardless of his will, he will answer all the questions they pass - they have time.
If americans found him first, the faith is just the same. They have all the time in the world to get the answers. For sure Snowden will never appear to any courtroom anywhere, he might already be dead.
Just plain logic. I know nothing.
caractacus
You have been reading too many (bad) spy novels.
hard times !
Now the world's largest hacker:the National Security Agency of America which is responisble to President Obama and his National Intelligence Committee has accused the whistle-blower and leaker-hero in most people's eyes all over the world as a spy ! Of which country ? Please stipulate ! China or ...By just guessing or accusing Snowden to be a Chinese spy because he came to Hong Kong to disclose the ugly top-secret cyber-surveillance activities done through the program:The Prism since 2007 on other nations all over the world and on Hong Kong since 2009. How absurd and illogical plus ridiculous the charge or accusation is ! Shame on the Obama administration ! Shame on his secret agencies as well ! Shame on them all !
jayb
also they are busy accusing him of not graduating from high school, drifting jobs to jobs, having a pole dancer girlfriend... meaning character assassination...
ghrt8
Sorry. The courts should decide. The rule of law must prevail.
pandalogic2010
If the law is unreasonable and the vast majority of the population agrees it is unreasonable, do not obey the law.
 
 
 
 
 

Login

SCMP.com Account

or