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  • Jul 23, 2014
  • Updated: 6:42pm
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

the sun also rises
i think your credibility is in serious doubt too. As anybody with sense will ask,why hasn't the US government denied what the leaker-hero accused just ONCE publicly instead of charging him with so-called leaking national defence secrets and confidential data plus stealing government properties---the files he stored in his USB(s) which amounts to 1000 maybe.No wonder the Obama administration is so anxious and nervous to have him caught.His administration can be said running in a hysterical condition or menatlity I should say.What a scene or a farce indeed ! ha ! ha ! Maybe it is the outcome of all hypocrites ! it serves them right ! Well done ,Snowden who risked his life in revealing the top secrets of the cyberspying acts of the NSA to the world ! Bravo !
the sun also rises
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 !
14u2nv
Hypocrisy from both sides is just ridiculous, you couldn't make it up. China has an army of hackers trying to penetrate U.S. and other global systems. The U.S. has the same courtesy of the NSA.
There is no 'moral high ground' here.... if there is, it's currently empty.
the sun also rises
Did/does China spy on all the netizens in the world through its NSA ? May I ask ? of course not ! Even our students' computers in Hong Kong have been hacked ever since 2009 according to this leaker-hero,the so-called traitor/spy Mr.Edward Snowden.Were our students terrorists or jeopardizing the security of America ? Nonsense ! Yet five days have passed and not a reply or explanation has come from the US government related to our secretary for security's enquiries so how can this Big Brother blame us for deliberately releaseing their fugitive who didn't commit any crimes here in Hong Kong ? ! Now the US is threatening to waiver our visa-free access too.I think Hong Kong government should retaliate by waivering the visa-free of American travellers here (which rule was established in the British colonial days ) too ! We Hongkongers are not fear of this Big Brother who used to bully small nations or weak tribes--------Iraq,Afghanistan,Pakistan (where they captured bin Laden without consent from the Paskistan government),Libya,Grenada (which was invaded by the US in 1983) or Talibans who have fought with the G.I.s for 12 years but not yet defeated !
chanyellowgreen
Even if what you said is true, that all countries are doing this dirty work of spying, at least China is not lecturing to US, but US is all the time pointing fingers at and blaming others (as if they are the only saints). Who is more hypocratic?
richieskerr
Th United States has long ago lost the moral high ground, when it comes to the issue of cyber-spying, and surveillance. It continued acting as if the World was still in the midst of the Cold War, long after the break up of its arch enemy, the Soviet Union. It now devotes as much of its cyber spying activity on the American people, and its allies, as it does to its perceived "enemies". Hong Kong responded to the United States demands for extradition of Ed Snowden, as it would respond to any legal process, according to the statutes of its own laws, which do not bend simply to the will of external demands. Hong Kong responded appropriately. The time has come, though it may be hard for the U.S. government to understand, that the rest of the World will no longer just turn on a dime, when faced with U.S. demands. The time for unilateralism is past. It is now the era of multilateralism. Even small nations such as Ecuador, now dare to consider their own legal processes, rather than just caving into the demands of the United States. The whistle blower, Ed Snowden, gave the U.S. government a good look at its own vulnerabilities. He did the U.S. a favor. The United States should not be distracted by this relatively small affair, at the expense of broader global relationships. That would be short sighted indeed.
chanaa
HK is not alone in seeking explanation from the US. Theres no way they will respond - thats the prob with th US govt - arrogant & unaccountable for any of their actions. They lecture the world on everything but turn around and do it themselves. Hypocrites.
the sun also rises
Yeah,we Hongkongers have every right to demand the US government to give us an acceptable and reasonable explanation for her intrusions(hackings) into our Internet Exchange (located at Chinese University in Shatin which is the hub of servers that serves 90% of local web passages) since 2009 and the computers of our public officials(the chief executive,ministers,dept.heads,lawmakers,NPC delegates and CPPCC members and...),businessmen( the big shots and pro-China businessmen) plus our students (maybe those undergrads and post-grads plus exchange students from Mainland China who are suspected of being secret agents).Besides,I wonder why our respectable lawmakers of both pro-establishment and pan-democrats camps have never considered summoning the US consul here to the Legco to give us an explanation of his government's illegal hackings into our computers and cybersurveillance plus a promise such nasty acts won't be committed in future and even a proper apology for his government's hackings (on behalf of his government ).
KwunTongBypass
Hey 'whistle-blower!' you are up early today! How many silly blogs, under how many names are you going to post today? By the way, thanks for the English lesson
blue
Unfortunately the US consul has diplomatic immunity and can not be summoned under the Power & Privileges Ordinance.

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