Edward Snowden

Snowden's last few days in Hong Kong: dramatic events prompted flight

Lawmaker and lawyer Albert Ho tells of helping Snowden make his escape, with the logistics discussed over pizza and fried chicken

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 June, 2013, 10:37pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 4:50pm

New details have emerged about Edward Snowden's final days in Hong Kong, including the identity of the man who escorted the whistle-blower to Chek Lap Kok airport on Sunday morning to board a Moscow-bound flight.

As speculation continued over which country will take in the fugitive, Democratic Party lawmaker and lawyer Albert Ho Chun-yan confirmed that he asked Jonathan Man, an associate at his law firm Ho, Tse, Wai & Partners, to accompany Snowden to the airport in case he was arrested.

Ho said Man had worked closely with Snowden during his time in Hong Kong so he was the ideal choice to be with Snowden if police did detain him.

Ho first met Snowden at a private home on Tuesday night when he sat down to dinner with him.

Man and another lawyer, Robert Tibbo, were also at the dinner, where the four tucked into pizza, fried chicken, sausages and Pepsi and for two hours discussed Snowden's legal options.

The dinner came the night before US officials reportedly asked about the possibility of Snowden's extradition from Hong Kong.

The New York Times reported that the dinner guests were asked to place their mobile phones in the fridge to prevent them from being tracked. The Times also said Snowden expressed concern that he might not be able to get bail and being forced to spend months or years in prison without access to a computer.

It was during this get-together that Snowden asked Ho to seek clarification about the Hong Kong government's position regarding extradition and whether it would "vigorously oppose" a bail application.

Snowden also wanted to know if he would be granted safe passage to leave Hong Kong and if this was what the administration wanted him to do.

The day after the dinner, US Attorney General Eric Holder reportedly called Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung to discuss extradition.

According to a Justice Department official, Holder stressed the importance of the case and urged Hong Kong to honour the request for Snowden's arrest, Reuters reported.

After Tuesday's dinner, Ho said he remained in contact with Snowden through "various means", which is understood to include phone calls and secure online exchanges.

Ho lined up a meeting with a "top government official" to discuss Snowden's case.

That meeting on Friday came before court documents detailing US charges of espionage and theft were unsealed, an important development which prompted Snowden's decisions on Saturday.

At Friday's meeting, which lasted less than 30 minutes, Ho said the official asked if he had written authorisation to act on Snowden's behalf and Ho said yes.

But he did not bring a copy of the authorisation to that meeting and the official did not ask to see it.

Also on Friday, Snowden received a message through a "middle-man" claiming to represent the Hong Kong government that he would be able to leave without fear of arrest, but he questioned the reliability of that message.

By Saturday morning, Snowden was becoming increasingly anxious and nervous and made plans to leave.

He asked Ho to push his government contact for a green light on his safe passage out of Hong Kong and got ready to board a Saturday night flight.

This move was delayed because Ho was unable to get a response from his government contact. But by Sunday morning, Snowden had made up his mind.

Ho called Man and asked him to accompany Snowden to the airport, so if police did intercede the lawyer could help him.