Edward Snowden

Serial suer Chan Yuk-lun accuses US of defaming China

Writ says Prism saga has shaken confidence and caused the stock market to tumble

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 2:21pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 June, 2013, 5:30am

A serial litigant is suing Edward Snowden and the United States, accusing them of defaming China over the whistle-blower's exposure of the Prism cyberspying programme.

In a High Court writ, Chan Yuk-lun says allegations that Snowden is a Chinese spy are defamatory, and attributes a fall in the stock market last week to Snowden's comments about internet security in Hong Kong, which Chan says has shaken confidence in the city's financial system. He claims Snowden and the US have harmed China, in which he is a "stakeholder".

Chan says US surveillance of other countries has no legal basis and claims Washington has committed "tort" and "theft" under Chinese law, "contrary to universal values and justice".

He is asking the court to order Washington to make a public apology and pay not less that US$1, as well as legal costs.

Chan is no stranger to the courts. Last year he filed a suit against Japan and asked the High Court to declare that the disputed Diaoyu Islands belonged to China. He also sued the Electoral Affairs Commission, claiming last year's election for chief executive was illegal as the government had yet to implement national security laws under Article 23 of the Basic Law. Both cases were rejected by the courts.

In the writ, Chan says that while surveillance might be legal on US territory under American security laws and the Patriot Act, the laws do not extend overseas.

He says Snowden's comments since he came to Hong Kong have not had any "positive effects" on the people of Hong Kong or the world. He says allegations by US politicians such as former vice-president Dick Cheney and Congressman Mike Rogers that Snowden is a Beijing spy are groundless and defamatory.

"The plaintiff has reasons to believe that some people intentionally or unintentionally connive [ sic] the speeches and conduct of personnel under them to impact China's politics and economic strength," the writ says.

Describing Hong Kong as a world trade and financial hub, Chan says Snowden's comments on internet safety seriously affect people's confidence in carrying out economic activities and investment in the city.

He says surveillance intrudes on Chinese people's privacy and harms the public and commercial interests of the people.

"Although the US government boasts that there [are] stringent mechanisms in place to ensure that private information intercepted will not be used in areas other than for purposes of anti-terrorism, such oral guarantees indeed cannot put people's [minds] at ease," the writ says.