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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 4:37pm
Edward Snowden
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SECURITY

Hong Kong chief hits back in war of words on Snowden cyberspying claims

Chief executive says US must address Snowden's hacking claims, as justice chief denies accusation that city stalled over request for fugitive's arrest

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 2:35pm
 

The war of words over Edward Snowden escalated yesterday, with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying renewing a call for Washington to address the whistle-blower's claims that Hong Kong was a target for US cybersnooping.

Leung's call came after the White House described Hong Kong's decision to let Snowden leave for Russia on Sunday as "a deliberate choice to release a fugitive ... which unquestionably has a negative impact on the US-China relationship".

It also came as US lawmakers prepared to debate President Barack Obama's immigration bill, a component of which is the issue of granting visa-free access to the US for SAR passport holders. Leung said the government valued the US-Hong Kong relationship and saw the visa-free issue as important.

But he said he "could not ignore the alleged network invasion and unfair comments" by the US.

Leung said: "Snowden has left, but the matter is not over. The Hong Kong government needs to safeguard the interests of Hong Kong.

"A few days ago, the government wrote to the US side officially asking for a full explanation on whether it had hacked Hong Kong's networks and invaded Hong Kong citizens' privacy, as claimed by Mr Snowden. But we have received no response so far."

Meanwhile, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung issued a rebuttal of US claims that Hong Kong deliberately stalled over Washington's request for Snowden to be detained under a provisional arrest warrant.

"I can tell you in no uncertain terms that we have not been deliberately delaying," Yuen said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney had earlier said Washington did not believe the explanation that it was a "technical" decision by Hong Kong immigration authorities. "We do not buy the suggestion that China could not have taken action," he said.

In a detailed response, Yuen outlined a series of "substantive" shortcomings in the information provided by Washington to support its request that Snowden be detained.

Meanwhile, in a front-page commentary in the overseas edition of People's Daily, Beijing praised former CIA analyst Snowden, describing him as young idealist whose actions had served to "tear off Washington's sanctimonious mask".

Experts said it was unlikely that Washington would retaliate in tangible terms and the dispute would remain a war of words.

China yesterday refuted a US accusation that it had facilitated Snowden's departure from Hong Kong, after Washington said Beijing had chosen to release him.

"It is unreasonable for the US to question Hong Kong's handling of affairs in accordance with the law, and the accusation against the Chinese central government is groundless," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing in Beijing.

She added: "China cannot accept that."

But analysts said neither side would be keen to let ties deteriorate just weeks after a successful summit between Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping .

"China does not want this to affect the overall situation. Beijing has always maintained a relatively restrained attitude because Sino-US relations are all important," said Zhao Kejing, a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University.

"The US has no real reason to take substantial action or exert greater pressure either," he said.

Professor Simon Shen Xu-hui, of the Social Science Faculty of the Chinese University, said Beijing had been "reserved" in its comments and Washington's criticism had not been particularly harsh. He commented: "It's just saying what it has to say."

He said it was unlikely the process of including Hong Kong into the US list of visa-free destinations would be affected. He added: "It's more about attracting foreign investment to the US, so it's quite unrelated in this matter."

Stanley Lau Chin-ho, vice-chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, said he did not believe the US would retaliate against Hong Kong.

Exports to the US account for about 20 to 30 per cent of annual export revenue, he said, adding: "If the United States … imposed sanctions on Hong Kong, then its own companies would be impacted too."

Lau said the possible visa-free status was not especially important to the business sectors.

He said: "All along, we have to apply for a visa to travel to the US. It will be more convenient if we don't have to, but we are used to it already anyway."

Travel Industry Council chief Joseph Tung Yao-chung also said travellers to the US accounted for only a small percentage.

Reuters, The Guardian

 

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This article is now closed to comments

chanaa
really ? Ambassadors get summon all the time for issues. Or is that just in movies ?
deendayal.lulla
The chief executive is right. Papa ,do not preach. If the US is blaming Hong Kong,then it should make the relevant documents public. Transparency should be the motto. All this talk of metadata is humbug. Metadata gives phone number,and other internet details. If you have phone number,you can find out how many people called on this number,and also outgoing calls. One has to be afraid,very afraid of snooping on innocent citizens. You cannot say that nobody is innocent. Then it includes the authorities also.
hard times !
agree, dare the US government show the document concerned the so-called extradition to the public of the world,especially her own citizens of whom up to 40% support Mr.Snowden ? Once really extradited to the States to be tried openly and fairly (most improbably),more unfavourable information concerning the cyberspying by the NSA will be disclosed to the American public and the American society will be divided into two ! Now the Obama administration should thank us for tackling the case so nicely----saving his face for the longer Snowden stays here,the more chances for him to disclose more secret info.to the world which will definitely make Obama government lose more faces but no less ! Right ?
daily
Obama and his administration has again and again shamed the USA and America..........when he was elected, the Americans were too stupid to see through his words and lies and elected his so-called change. He is nothing more than a hypocrite......and the only thing that made him stand out at that time was that he was black..........nothing more.......Maybe now, the Americans will realize what a horrible nightmare of a President they have elected and is now time to show him the middle finger..........
hard times !
this writer is surprised that the so-called KwunTongBypass dares not appear here on this topic for fear of being attacked by all righteous and sensible writers here maybe.How miserable he is ! if his arguments are logcial and sensible,why daren't he post his here as his antagonist does from time to time by posting his so-called 'silly blogs' ? Right ? Our Chief Executive might be weak in his governance,but this time,his government has done a good job indeed----letting Snowden leave safely here and not allowing him to stay longer to expose more secrets which would definitely infuriate and embarrassed the battered Obama administration which popularity rating has plunged as low as our leader in town !
sinohog
I will agree with the point that Hong Kong has a right to be interested and informed on what is going on within its borders. Hong Kong was left out of the loop. That wouldn't have happened under the British. The British would have been informed precisely what was going on. Therefore Hong Kong Immigration is bound to investigate whether or not Snowden broke any laws himself and precisely how he acquired all of that information. Was he in fact one of the "spooks' who unilaterally spied on Hong Kong? He was a relatively low level analyst and wouldn't have been aware of what he is claiming to know unless he was directly involved or hacked into that himself. Clearly by law, Hong Kong had a right to hold him. Clearly Snowden was ignorant of all of these issues when he came to Hong Kong and didn't know what he had gotten himself into.
hard times !
this so-called sinohog should better shut up and stop misleading our dear readers ! Go and embrace your beloved America instead of uttering nonsense here to pollute the precious space of our Comment column in which you put in trash nonsense ! Go !
sinohog
The snooping that took place in Hong Kong needs to be placed in context. I don't think that it was directed at Hong Kong specifically but rather what passed through Hong Kong as Hong Kong has always been one of the world's largest shipping hubs. At that time, there was serious unrest in a predominately Muslim provence of China. That had to have been worrying to America's "spooks'. So they would want to tap into the info pipe line to see if any threats might be passing through Hong Kong on their way to the U.S. What the U.S. government really wanted was to have Hong Kong's ports locked down very tightly to the same security standards that American ports are so that Hong Kong didn't inadvertently trans ship something that was harmful to the U.S. Hong Kong did trans ship Snowden, despite whatever your political views may be on cyber efforts to combat terrorism. I seriously doubt that there is anything of local interest to the U.S. at Chinese University. It is however a major node in the world's data pipelines and as such may be of value to the terrorists as a place to hide their communications among the vast amount of data that passes through Hong Kong. One also must be reminded of the special relationship that Hong Kong enjoyed with the U.S. while Hong Kong was under British rule do to the special relationship that the the U.K. has had with America. Now the British have left and relations with Hong Kong are adrift. I don't think that this is a good situation.
Wodetiana
wow, did you get the smoke and mirrors on discount? oh we are not interested in spying on HK or China, we just wanted to get information on others, we didn't ask permission because you may have said no, and then caught us when we did it anyway.
Give us a break, that's the weakest argument I've heard all day.
goncalo
Well done, C.Y.!

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