Lai Ying-kit

Edward Snowden

Snowden's Hong Kong hacking allegations will be probed, says security minister

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 4:21pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 4:56pm

Hong Kong’s security minister remained tight-lipped on how the city would handle US whistleblower Edward Snowden’s case, but pledged the authorities would investigate allegations made by the ex-CIA worker.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok told the Legislative Council on Wednesday the government was concerned about recent reports regarding Hong Kong computers being hacked and would investigate further to discover the truth.

He was speaking during an urgent meeting to address lawmakers’ questions on Snowden’s allegations that the US has been hacking Hong Kong’s computers under a top-secret cyber-spying programme.

We ... will actively follow up on any cases of rights infringements
Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok

“We will continue our efforts to ascertain the facts and will actively follow up on any cases of rights infringements involving individuals and corporations,” he said.

Ex-CIA analyst Snowden earlier told the South China Morning Post that secret and illegal attacks on Hong Kong computers by the US National Security Agency, which he said had been taking place since 2009, had recorded a success rate of more than 75 per cent.

One of the targets he identified was the Chinese University of Hong Kong - home to the Hong Kong Internet Exchange - a central hub of servers through which most of the city’s web traffic passes.

The university has said it has detected no abnormalities in its server system, but the American’s claims have raised concerns that information on many Hong Kong private and corporate computers might have been intercepted.

Lai remained taciturn about lawmakers’ questions about how the government was handling the case, such as whether it had contacted the US government for verification of Snowden’s claims and over procedures for extraditing him. Some also asked whether Hong Kong would seek directives from the central government.

Declining to comment on individual cases, Lai repeated that the government would strictly adhere to the city’s legal procedures in dealing with them.

“But we would not reveal any details about any actions we have taken or will take,” he said.

In response to some legislators’ concerns that Hong Kong might not be able to fend off cyber attacks, Lai said there were measures in place to stop them.

He said these included a monitoring system on central system networks, regular checks on internet traffic flows, online security reminders to government departments and a police taskforce to combat cyber crimes.