Edward Snowden

Oliver Stone, other celebrities urge Canada to protect Edward Snowden’s Hong Kong ‘guardian angels’

Award-winning filmmaker leads calls for seven who sheltered former US contractor to be granted asylum as they begin to run out of options

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2018, 5:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2018, 8:47am

International figures, including award-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone, have thrown their support behind the asylum seekers who sheltered former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, urging the Canadian government to offer them protection.

The group of seven are going through appeal processes in Hong Kong after their applications for refugee status were rejected.

Families who sheltered Edward Snowden say NSA whistleblower ‘gave them hope’

The seven have also been waiting more than a year for Canada to screen their refugee claims, which they see as their final hope to reach safety.

One of the latest high-profile messages of support came from Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst turned activist after he leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 revealing the classified history of the US war in Vietnam.

“At great risk of their own liberty and lives, they exercised the rarest acts of courage to protect undoubtedly the most significant whistle-blower of the 21st century,” Ellsberg said on Wednesday.

The group – four adults from Sri Lanka and the Philippines, and three stateless children – helped Snowden in 2013 after he fled the United States and leaked confidential documents that revealed the extent of electronic spying by American authorities and other governments. The former NSA contractor left Hong Kong after about two weeks and ended up in Russia, where he currently lives under asylum status.

“The Snowden guardian angels fled civil war, violence and death,” Ellsberg said, in a message posted by the Canadian non-profit group For the Refugees. “When Edward arrived at their doorstep, they stepped away, not to avoid him, but to allow him to enter into the safety of their homes.”

In another post published by the NGO, Stone – director of the 2016 biopic Snowden – urged Canada to approve their claims for protection.

“Accepting these brave families will demonstrate to the world that Canada is a beacon of hope in these uncertain times,” he said.

The identity of the seven was revealed in 2016, about three years after they sheltered Snowden and soon before the release of Stone’s film. Robert Tibbo, who provided legal advice to Snowden and who represents the group, previously said their identities had been disclosed to guarantee their safety.

The Pamela Anderson Foundation – launched by the Hollywood actress in 2014 and dedicated to human, animal as well as environmental rights – joined the movement. It also called for the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to grant them asylum.

The messages of support came after Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the Canadian immigration minister, accusing the country of “dragging its feet” in accepting the asylum seekers who helped Snowden.

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Refugee claims were filed in January last year in Canada on behalf of the seven, but their cases have not yet been screened.

The rejection of their protection claims in Hong Kong in May last year have sparked fears of eventual detentions and deportations to their home countries where they claim they faced persecution.

If they win their appeals, they will be allowed to stay in Hong Kong until the UN finds a country to relocate them. But if they lose, the could face deportation. The acceptance rate of protection claimants in Hong Kong stands at about 1 per cent.