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  • Apr 20, 2014
  • Updated: 9:11pm

Edward Snowden

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

NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong minister rejects US accusations of deliberately delaying Snowden's arrest

US failed to provide information vital to processing whistle-blower's arrest

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 9:21pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 5:29am

Hong Kong’s justice secretary said on Tuesday the United States had failed to provide crucial information necessary to support its request for the arrest of whistle-blower Edward Snowden before he had left the city.

The missing information included things as basic as a confirmation of Snowden’s full name and passport number, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said on Tuesday.

“Up to the moment Snowden left the city, the US government had not replied to the Department of Justice’s request for the necessary information,” he said.

There was no legal basis to restrict or ban Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong
Secretary for Justice, Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung

“Therefore, it was impossible and there was no legal basis under Hong Kong law for the Department of Justice to ask a Hong Kong judge to sign off on a provisional arrest warrant,” Yuen said. “[Thus] there then was no legal basis to restrict or ban Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.”

Yuen’s public remarks – his first on the Snowden case – came after the White House said it was disappointed with the city’s failure to arrest the fugitive whistle-blower who has made public information detailing US internet spying programmes around the world.

Snowden left Hong Kong on Sunday and is believed to be in a transit area of a Moscow airport. The former CIA contractor had previously told the Post in an exclusive report that the US had been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and China since 2009.

Yuen said the US government had not responded to Hong Kong’s request for a confirmation of Mr Snowden name and passport number even though it had mentioned that he was a US passport holder, Yuen said.

The name used in US government diplomatic documents was Edward James Snowden, the US Department of Justice referred to him as Edward J Snowden, and Hong Kong’s Immigration Department had him recorded as Edward Joseph Snowden, Yuen said.

“I couldn’t say the three names were consistent, so we needed further clarification. Otherwise, there would have been legal problems with a provisional arrest warrant,” Yuen said.

The US also failed to explain to Hong Kong authorities how two of the three charges the US mentioned in its arrest request fell within the scope of a US-Hong Kong rendition of fugitive offenders agreement signed in 1996.

The Hong Kong government on June 15 received the US request for the provisional arrest of Snowden on three charges, namely unauthorised disclosure of national defence information, unauthorised disclosure of intelligence and stealing state property.

Yuen said the US had failed to tell Hong Kong authorities which part of the agreement covered the first two charges.

He also said documents from the US made no mention of what evidence they had against Snowden, a requirement for Hong Kong courts to move ahead with a provisional arrest.

Yuen chronicled the process of how Hong Kong had been dealing with a US request for the provisional arrest of Snowden starting from June 15. He rejected US suggestions that Hong Kong had been employing delaying tactics.

Any suggestion that we deliberately let Mr Snowden get away and had done anything to obstruct normal operations is totally untrue

“We had not been deliberately delaying the process. All along, we have acted in full accordance with the law,” Yuen said.

“And any suggestion that we deliberately let Mr Snowden get away and had done anything to obstruct normal operations is totally untrue.”

He said that on June 17, Hong Kong e-mailed the US Department of Justice, saying that it was drafting a list of questions for clarifications and further details needed to process the request.

Yuen said that on June 21 – two days before Snowden left — the Security Bureau wrote to the US government asking it to clarify reports that the US had been hacking into computers in Hong Kong.

On the same afternoon, Hong Kong’s Department of Justice e-mailed and sent by speed-post to the US its request for further information to support the US request for the provisional arrest of Snowden.

As of Tuesday, Hong Kong had not received a reply from the US to this request.

 

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Sticks Evans
The minister of injustice. Just ask and domestic worker.
CatInAFlap
Hong Kong let him go cos China told them to. Simples. Despite the rhetoric, it's probably a good outcome for the US too. Wikileaks have gobbled him up (whoever they are) and he'll either disappear or be spat out like a pieceof indigestable well-chewed pork. The only thing that we know for sure is that the world now knows the sham that was One Country, Two Systems is just that.
vivianyee
Hong Kong should have kept Snowden and flipped the US a royal bird.
alarchal.lee
The statement by the Secretary of Justice is a dumb explanation based on technicality.
pdem
Considerations about Snowden's actions, and whether they were right or wrong, and whether the US is right or wrong to use covert programs, are of course very important. However my concern is about the time taken for the HK authorities to come up with the questions it wanted answers to, which seems very long. What about if this had been a case of a criminal involved in drugs, illegal arms trading, or people traf****? This kind of delay would make it simple for such a criminal to slip out of HK, certainly not to our credit.
Wodetiana
Well, it wasn't drugs, arms, or people traf****, it was a person, who needed help and got it, whether intentionally or by lucky circumstance. As for the length of time taken, who knows how long these things take, I am sure in such a controversial case HK authorities wanted every i dotted and every t crossed properly. The USA failed to do it in the first place, so they only have themselves to blame.
layleng
Disingenuous b.s. from a trained barrister. It took your department 6 days to come up with those questions? Why couldn't you give Holder a heads up when you spoke to him the day before instead of giving him the impression you'd cooperate fully? The answer is obvious. By waiting until Friday to pose your questions you maximize your chances of creating an excuse to let Snowden escape. If you really wanted to cooperate with the U.S. you could have done so. This was deliberate obfuscation. You wanted this hot potato off the Chinese plate.
blue
Let me guess. You're one of those pro American government blowhards that think Snowden should be quickly arrested and convicted without due process?

Furthermore the US trampled on HK people's rights and BROKE HK LAW you nationalistic gasbag. Let's also not forget that the NSA also violated the 4th amendment of the US constitution.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky was under no obligation to make a snap judgment with regards to Snowden. Considering the circumstances, I think the HK government acted rather quickly and respected Snowden's human rights.
johnfra
No need to be personal or uncivilized name-calling! Just state your case!
Sticks Evans
What about all the money laundering in Hong Kong Banks.? The unfair treatment of foreign workers? Racism against Mainlanders? The NSA shares info tel with China and China is helping in Afghanistan. Intel is collected by all powers including the HK PD. Wake up. Snowden is a guy looking for attention and wants to cause chaos. China wants it to go away so fat Americans keep buying fat food and extra large clothing.

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