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.
Hong Kong lawmakers slam Washington for Snowden censure
US accused of hypocrisy for condemning city and Beijing for letting the leaker leave
Hong Kong lawmakers hit back yesterday at US disappointment with the city and Beijing for not handing over surveillance leaker Edward Snowden.
They passed a proposal to write to Congress and the White House condemning the comments and demanding an investigation of cyberspying activities against Hong Kong residents.
Beijing meanwhile described Hong Kong's action in letting Snowden leave the city as "beyond reproach".
"The US is like a villain suing the victim before the victim could prosecute him. It's completely disrespectful of Hong Kong and its citizens," Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said.
US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said after a meeting with senior Chinese officials in Washington that the United States was "very disappointed with how the authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong handled the Snowden case, which undermined our effort to build the trust needed to manage difficult issues".
President Barack Obama also expressed "disappointment and concern".
Former US government contractor Snowden was allowed to leave Hong Kong on June 23 after revealing details of US intelligence cybersurveillance both locally and internationally, despite the US seeking his extradition to face charges of espionage.
He is stuck in transit at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport.
Video: Edward Snowden talks to human rights activists at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport
The Civic Party's Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said it was "regrettable" that the US government would violate human rights and privacy in the name of national security and terrorism, and the comments were intolerable. "[The US government] is endorsing intrusive and abusive ways to interfere with international allies' citizens' rights," Chan said. "I hope that the Chinese foreign service will continue to show support [to Hong Kong] by bringing up this issue at every Sino-American meeting in the future. The US is allowed to condemn violation of human rights in Hong Kong and China, so we can also condemn them for their violation of human rights - which is what they are doing by breaching Hongkongers' privacy rights."
State Councillor Yang Jiechi said Hong Kong had "handled the Snowden case in accordance with the law and its approach is beyond reproach".
Pro-government lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said even without Beijing's verbal backing, Hong Kong could stand by its decision, which was based on the rule of law.
Lawmakers decided to ask Legislative Council chairman Jasper Tsang Yok-sing to write to the US Senate, House of Representatives and the Obama administration to express dissatisfaction and condemn the cyberspying on Hong Kong. They also are demanding a thorough inquiry and report on Snowden's allegations.