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.
Chief executive Leung says Snowden departure shows Hong Kong's respect for rule of law
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Monday defended his government’s handling of the case of US whistle-blower Edward Snowden after the US expressed disappointment over the city’s failure to arrest the fugitive intelligence leaker.
On Sunday, Snowden left the city and fled to Moscow, despite Washington having requested his arrest and extradition. The Hong Kong government said the documentation supporting his extradition was incomplete.
Leung said on Monday afternoon said that there had been expressions of displeasure from some quarters in the United States over Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong. He said that his government had found no legal grounds to prevent him from leaving the city.
“Mr Edward Snowden left Hong Kong as a normal passenger using our usual and lawful channels yesterday while the Hong Kong government was processing the request of the United States government to issue a provisional warrant of arrest on Mr Snowden,” he said.
“We were asking the United States government for further important information on the case, and there was no legal basis to stop Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong,” Leung said.
The chief executive’s comments came after the US Department of Justice insisted US officials had fulfilled all the requirements of Washington’s extradition treaty with Hong Kong. US officials also said they were also “disappointed” by Hong Kong’s decision to let him go.
Leung said Hongkongers and the international community expected the city to uphold its own laws, procedural fairness and a high degree of autonomy, and Snowden’s case was one that showed Hong Kong did just that.
“This is also a good example to illustrate the rule of law and the procedural justice that we uphold,” he said.
Questions have been raised over how Snowden left Hong Kong as sources said Washington had revoked Snowden’s US passport.
Leung said that records from the Immigration Department showed there had been no documents from the US authorities showing Snowden’s passport had been revoked.