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.
Chief executive denies US accusation of feigning confusion over Snowden's name
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Thursday rejected the US government accusation that the city's officials had feigned confusion over Edward Snowden’s name as a pretext for not detaining the intelligence leaker before he departed to Russia.
A US Justice Department spokeswoman earlier on Thursday said Hong Kong was simply trying to create a pretext when it asked the US for a clarification of Snowden’s middle name.
The spokeswoman said that because Snowden’s image was widely available through news outlets, Hong Kong’s request for information was not genuine.
Leung said the US accusation was not true.
“It was not a pretext at all. We were just following the laws of Hong Kong,” he said during a media session on Thursday afternoon.
The chief executive said there was a real need to determine certain facts about Snowden with the US authorities when its request for his arrest was being processed.
Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung on Tuesday said the US had failed to give Snowden’s passport number and confirm his full name, making it impossible for the city to issue an arrest warrant.
“There were some important facts that we needed to determine from the United States authorities,” Leung said. “We were just abiding by a very fundamental principle of procedural justice and fairness.”
Snowden, a former contract employee for the National Security Agency in Hawaii, left Hong Kong on Sunday and is now in the transit area of a Moscow airport.
He is facing espionage and theft charges in the United States after leaking details about secret US surveillance programmes to the news media.
Ecuador is considering granting Snowden political asylum, a process that could take up to two months.