Edward Snowden

Hong Kong campaigners, asylum seekers to demand US presidential pardon for Edward Snowden

Representatives of Socialist Action, League of Social Democrats and Refugee Union to march to US consulate to make their demand

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 September, 2016, 10:52pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 September, 2016, 10:52pm

Campaigners and asylum seekers in Hong Kong will call for a presidential pardon for whistle-blower Edward Snowden and demand better rights for asylum seekers in the city at a protest to take place on Sunday.

They will meet at Chater Garden in Central at 12 noon and march to the US consulate. The demonstration is organised by the Trotskyist group Socialist Action and supported by the League of Social Democrats and the Refugee Union.

The city was Snowden’s first “safe harbour” in June 2013 after he fled the United States. It was revealed this month that the former US intelligence contractor – who leaked classified documents showing the extent of electronic spying by the US and other governments – took shelter in asylum seekers’ houses during his stay in the city.

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“We would like to thank Snowden for acknowledging their help and also to raise Hong Kong awareness of refugee rights. Many asylum seekers have waited some 10 years to have their cases screened,” said Sally Tang Mei-ching, chairwoman of Socialist Action, an organisation that advocates asylum seeker rights in the city.

Hong Kong-based refugees will join the protest. “We are motivated by the belief that ordinary people around the world have benefited from Snowden’s disclosures, which have increased public awareness of the surveillance activities of the US and other states,” Refugee Union secretary general Peter Maina said.

“Our protest will also show appreciation for Snowden’s expressions of solidarity with the plight of refugees in Hong Kong,” he said.

Snowden wrote on his Twitter account on September 7 that he thanked the families of asylum seekers in Hong Kong who protected him while he was in the city. “Three years ago, these brave families protected me in Hong Kong’s underground. They are still waiting for asylum,” he wrote.

Stark realities for asylum seekers in Hong Kong are alien to Edward Snowden

There were 11,169 outstanding claims from asylum seekers in June. Hong Kong has one of the lowest acceptance rates in the world, standing at 0.6 per cent of applicants.

Snowden’s supporters have recently stepped up their campaign for a presidential pardon and the right to return to his home country. He is accused of violating the US Espionage Act and could face 30 years in prison if convicted.

Snowden, currently in Russia on a three-year residence permit granted in 2014, told the British newspaper The Guardian this month that one of his arguments for a pardon was that the disclosure of the scale of surveillance by the US and British intelligence agencies was not only morally right but had also benefited people.

He is asking Barack Obama to grant him a pardon before he leaves office in January.