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  • Jul 23, 2014
  • Updated: 4:09am
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

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.
the sun also rises
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.
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.
the sun also rises
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 ?
goncalo
Well done, C.Y.!
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..........
takce
The burden of proof should be resting upon Hong Kong, it is up to our Chief to submit evidences to substantiate Snowden's claims. Claims are always claims and Snowden's credibility is in serious doubt when he told people that he joined NSA just to spy on the Agency. The US has no case to answer in my opinion. The US did submit evidences to Xi about cyber-spying from Shanghai and what did Obama get, nothing! These are all big boys' plays and we should just have to accept that as part of life in today's geopolitics.
Wodetiana
actually, his getting a job with the "booz" to gain information about the NSA shows that he was already sure that the NSA was up to no good and wanted proof, he got it. This makes him a real hero, not an accidental one.
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.
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.
the sun also rises
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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