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.
US visa bill passes without Snowden mention, but issue will come up again
A bill that would add Hong Kong to a list of territories under consideration to join the US visa-waiver scheme passed through the US Senate without discussion of the Edward Snowden case.
But US political analysts say the bill, supported by President Barack Obama's Democratic Party, has little chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
That may mean a new bill being debated, which would again raise the question of Hong Kong's inclusion in the waiver scheme, which allows residents of 37 countries access to the US without applying for a visa.
A senior adviser at the DC International Advisory consultancy, Ross Feingold, said issues related to tourism or residents of other jurisdictions were not the focus of the immigration bill.
"As is often the case with … complex legislation, it is possible for little-noticed amendments to be inserted by a member at the last minute prior to a vote," he said. "We like to think that most issues in Hong Kong-US relations are non-controversial.
"The Washington community [government, national security scholars, pundits] are aware of what occurred and it is certain that some members of Congress will not support Hong Kong's entry into the visa waiver program at this time."
But, he added, politicians would have to respond to the concerns of their constituents.
State Department official Patrick Ventrell indicated on Tuesday that Hong Kong's chances of joining the waiver scheme could be hurt by its decision not to arrest Snowden and to allow him to leave on a flight to Moscow.
*Correction: An earlier version identified DC International Advisory as a think tank. It is a consultancy.