News / Asia

Hong Kongers Rally in Support of Snowden

Supporters of Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee who leaked top-secret information about U.S. surveillance programs, hold placards as they march to the Consulate General of the United States in Hong Kong, June 15, 2013.
Supporters of Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee who leaked top-secret information about U.S. surveillance programs, hold placards as they march to the Consulate General of the United States in Hong Kong, June 15, 2013.
Ivan Broadhead
Hundreds of people rallied in Hong Kong Saturday in support of former U.S. government contractor Edward Snowden, who fled to the semi-autonomous Chinese city last month after confessing to leaking documents on two top secret U.S. surveillance programs.  To many, the case raises questions about Snowden’s choice of Hong Kong as a haven as he fights an expected legal battle against extradition, and the broader implications regarding the secrets he has revealed.

Amid monsoon rains in the city where Snowden remains in hiding, hundreds of Hong Kongers, expatriates and tourists marched on the U.S. Consulate.

Participants delivered a letter for Ambassador Stephen Young, condemning U.S. cyber monitoring activities exposed by the former security consultant who fled Hawaii May 20.

Teacher’s Union representative Tsui Hon-kwong compared Snowden’s case to that of Chinese dissident Shi Tao.

“In 2004, Shi Tao blew the whistle and told the world that the Chinese government had given secret instructions to all the press in China that nothing about June 4 commemoration [the 1989 crackdown in Beijing's Tiananmen Square] must be reported," said Tsui. "The Chinese government got his name from Yahoo.  Many Americans supported Shi Tao.  I suppose it  is our turn this time to support this American who is undergoing the same ordeal.”

Snowden recently told a Hong Kong newspaper that the United States has been hacking local and mainland targets since 2009.

Charles Mok is a legislator and information technology expert.  Snowden’s revelations, he said, risk allowing Beijing to legitimize its Great Firewall and other cyber-monitoring activities within and beyond China.

“I hope that in the end we are not going to see people justify totalitarian regimes snooping on their own people, just because even the Americans are doing it," he said.  "I do not deny that there is a certain need of security and monitoring that needs to go on, but where do we strike the balance and what is the right level of transparency?”

From the U.S. Consulate, protesters continued on to Hong Kong government headquarters to deliver another letter.  Organizer Tom Grundy appeared delighted by the turnout, which he estimated at 900, in contrast to a police figure of 300.

“I think Hong Kongers reactions are a mix of bewilderment and pride that Ed Snowden chose Hong Kong.  You can see we have hundreds of people here - 28 groups - which is unprecedented for Hong Kong,” he said. 

Last year though, more than 100,000 people gathered outside these same offices in protest against the imposition of Chinese patriotism classes in Hong Kong.  Just two weeks ago, another 60,000 gathered for the annual vigil in memory of the Chinese government's June 1989 crackdown on student protesters in Tiananmen Square.

Marchers blew whistles and chanted, "No Way NSA."  Some, though, voiced concern that organizers had missed the broader debate emanating from Snowden’s disclosure that U.S. Internet companies have been providing the National Security Agency, or NSA, information on foreigners suspected of terrorism.

Professor Francis Borchardt has lived in Hong Kong for two years.  The U.S. citizen stood in the rain listening to the speeches, his three-year-old daughter perched on his shoulders. 

“I’m a little bit disappointed with the way the organizers framed the whole issue," he said.  "The issue for me at least is much broader.  It's about the surveillance state and about keeping tabs on how that is progressing and how it is continually intruding on our lives. Just talking about this one NSA issue, just talking about Edward Snowdon, yeah, it's is important, but it's not the whole story.”

Snowden is reported to have fled to Hong Kong because of the city’s civil and political freedoms.  YK Law, director of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, questioned that decision.

The former British colony has an extradition treaty with the U.S., he explained, and in 2004 forcibly deported a Libyan dissident, allegedly at the request of U.S. and U.K. authorities.

Law also warned that since the resumption of Chinese sovereignty in 1997, Beijing can legally intervene in Hong Kong matters related to national security and foreign affairs.

“So if the Chinese authorities intervene, then Hong Kong will have very little role to play [in Snowden's potential extradition].  I think China will probably see it as a good opportunity to embarrass the States, and they will be happy to see that dragging on,” said Law.

As the march concluded, Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leader, Leung Chun-ying, released a statement promising his government would handle Snowden’s case in accordance with local law. 

While the director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller, is vowing to take swift action against Snowden, by Saturday night, the U.S. had yet to initiate proceedings to extradite the 29-year-old confessed leaker.  This past week, Mueller told lawmakers that a criminal investigation has been opened into the leaks, which he said have dealt a blow to U.S. national security.

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Comment Sorting
by: Rudy Haugeneder from: canada
June 18, 2013 2:09 AM
Snowden represents what is often sorely missing in the United States and in Western countries: People with the conviction and courage to fight government wrongdoing;
Snowden's actions may see the OWS movement revived: An Occupy Wall Street movement and a simultaneous Occupy White House front. Both must be rigorously overhauled and made directly responsible to all the public rather than a select few. Viva democracy.

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
June 17, 2013 9:32 PM
These are my interests that if the US government would ask Hong Kong to deport Snowden and Hong Kong authrities would accept it. I think If Snowden violated some laws, he should be prosecuted no matter what he has done.

by: Richard from: Wisconsin
June 17, 2013 8:27 AM
There are many naive people in this world, I see. Yes, it is very wonderful to want to have a completely open and transparent government and I would wish that were even a possibility. However, the actual world we live in, and have lived in since the first World War, is one where governments keep secrets. From each other and, sometimes, from it's own citizens. I beg of you, how many countries on the face of the planet don't require that secrets be kept.

China? Great Britain? North Korea? France? And do we have citizens of our country , or visitors to our country who are wishing for the downfall of the USA? Recent history has shown us that it is true. And now, how do we deal with that? Hope it isn't our city or town that is being targeted by a group with a dirty bomb? The FIRST obligation of a government is to protect it's citizens. All of the rest is BS. Let's decide what it will take for our government to protect it's citizens. Without another 911. Snowden is a criminal. A very naive well meaning criminal, but a criminal non the less. He may be responsible for the next acts of terrorism.
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
June 17, 2013 10:47 AM
I dont care about US or Snowdon, but US government is a liar and should shut up and stop bashing China, since US is the one doing exactly what it claims to hate, stealing!
In Response

by: Awareness from: china
June 17, 2013 9:43 AM
"JUDGE NOT, and neither condemn, for you know not why a thing occurs, nor to what end". "And remember you this: that which you condemn will condemn you, and that which you judge, YOU WILL ONE DAY BECOME". "Rather, seek to change those things-or support others who are changing those things-which no longer reflect your highest sense of Who you Are." "Yet, bless all-for all is the creation of God, through life living, and that is the highest creation". From "Conversations with God" By Neale Donald Walsch :) Love. Oneness, Laughter and The Light of God Almighty, ALL That IS, GREAT SPIRIT! GREAT SPIRIT! :)

by: E.J. Pearcy from: Northern California
June 17, 2013 4:58 AM
Indeed Edward Snowden is a hero not only to those of us American citizens who continue to respect the wisdom of our founding fathers who provided us with guidelines for the relationship between we citizens and our government; but also to all of humanity who long for the truth and understand that government is rightly of, by and for We the People of whatever sovereign nation we consider. Leave him alone except for a hero's acclaim and reward for excellent citizenship here and with the world at large!

by: Anonymous
June 16, 2013 11:57 PM
Snowden is just too simple to know how closely the tyrannies are watching on their own people.

by: Chandra Shekhar A K from: Chennai
June 16, 2013 11:34 PM

The Orwellian spectre of state surveillance of its own citizens in the name of public security haunts every citizen of every nation, both democratic and otherwise. Courage of individuals like Snowden and Osange need to be supported by all free-thinking people everywhere. India has hypocritcally protested against the leaked US surveillance of citizens of non-US countries, but is using all its strength as regulator of telecom, media, net, web and what not for making the very same public surveillance of its own citizens. It is only alert citizens of every country who should protest and protect their own rights and the safety of individuals like Snowden who fight for the same.

by: axe from: china
June 16, 2013 11:00 PM
interesting ! see how goveerment deal with this

by: salnaz from: ca
June 16, 2013 10:25 PM
Iran loves Eddie Snowden.

by: thomas from: New Mexico
June 16, 2013 11:32 AM
Snowden is the modern Paul Revere. If he is prosecuted by the US then Al Queda has won the war by turning us into fascists.

by: Anonymous
June 16, 2013 10:57 AM
I support Snowden,he is a good guy,who dare tell people the truth.The United States is a thief who call other people to catch the thief.

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