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  • Sep 21, 2014
  • Updated: 5:14am
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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27

This article is now closed to comments

chanaa
really ? Ambassadors get summon all the time for issues. Or is that just in movies ?
blue
I think many HK people are starting to realize how good the HK gov't is in comparison to the US government. The USA even has universal suffrage, but it is very much a fake democracy that many people in HK are afraid will happen here.

Americans had the choice of two Presidential candidates in the 2008 election, McCain and Obama. McCain was conservative and would continue the Bush policies while Obama offered hope and change. He promised the most transparent administration ever. He even promised to kick out the lobbyists that play the same role that functional constituencies play in HK. As soon as Obama was voted into office, he broke all of these promises. In fact Obama's administration is the most secretive administration in recent history. Obama even strengthened the NSA surveillance program that was started under the Bush administration. So much for one person one vote in the USA, right?

We should count our blessings. If the 2017 CE election will allow moderate pan-democratic candidates to stand for election, I think it will allow for a much more fair and transparent election than in the USA. Also unlike the USA, campaign spending is strictly limited in HK so nobody can drown out an opposing candidate's voice with money.
Paradox314
The US condemnation of HK is reactive angry bluster from a nation that has not yet begun to realize the depth and seriousness of its fall from 'grace' in the eyes of the world. In the past they were too powerful to care much, but events will soon force them to come to understand that they have to be more honest and considerate.
Well done CY Leung. While not forgetting the personal risk and sacrifice Snowden has taken upon himself through his recent actions, let us move in and focus upon the substance of the material he has brought to light. The pressure must surely be upon Washington to explain, make suitable amendments to its institutions and their actions, to apologize and to take steps to mend wounded relationships.
But we must be patient with them as they go through a process of denial and anger and eventually come to acceptance of the truth of this whole situation.
ianson
The Hong Kong government, under SfJ Yuen's legal leadership, proved it's no rubber stamp for Washington. It should take the same line with Beijing.
leon.davis.351
Chief Secretary Leung is setting exactly the right tone when he asks the US to explain its hacking of Chinese networks. The fact that the US is unlikely to provide a satisfactory explanation is quite beside the point. Just keep asking the question. My hat is off to the Hong Kong authorities for their deft handling of the Snowden matter. It was nicely done.
hard times !
It is our duty to well-treat mr.Snowden during his stay here as without his revelations, our Chinese Univ.never knows that their Internet Exchange has long been hacked into by the NSA since 2009 and our public officials (number is in hundreds);businessmen ( in thousands maybe) and our students' computers have also been hacked into.Snowden is actually the benefactor of Hong Kong people,though my computer is not worth to be hacked into except for my outspokenness due to our freedom of speech which is enshrined in the American constitution !
Wodetiana
At the very least since 2009. The USA considers it a god given right to be top dog in all world events, it is crazy scared of falling behind in all theaters, and will obviously resort to any means possible to stay on top. How deep this problem goes can only be guessed at, but, it is time the world started looking into and seriously considers these guesses.

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