News / Asia

Snowden Flight to Hong Kong Stirs Debate

Photos of Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), and U.S. President Barack Obama are printed on the front pages of local English and Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong, June 11, 2013.
Photos of Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), and U.S. President Barack Obama are printed on the front pages of local English and Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong, June 11, 2013.
William Ide
The revelation that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has fled to China’s Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong is stirring up discussion among Chinese about Internet freedom and the measures governments take to monitor online activity in the name of national security. 

Although state-media in China have given the case limited coverage, many people are busy commenting online about Edward Snowden’s flight to Hong Kong and what he has exposed about U.S. Internet surveillance programs.

Some praise Snowden, calling him a hero for standing up to the U.S. government and compare him to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.  Another calls the case another slap in the face of U.S. democracy.

Blogger and columnist Michael Anti writes about Internet issues in China.  He said many people online in China are surprised that the U.S. is doing the same thing the Chinese government does.

“I do not think the Chinese government will [be] embarrassed by the case because Xi Jinping and Obama and talk about, the top issue is cyber security, so this case come out, it made the argument made by the American government about cyber security is less convinced [convincing] to the public," said Anti. "So I think this story benefited the Chinese government.”  

Anti said there are still contradictions between the leaker’s statements and companies such as Google and others who have denied involvement, but the case could have a serious impact on Internet freedom in China.

“The [Chinese] government will say, 'We told you, every government does the same thing about Internet control, and all the criticism you [the U.S.] once made to us about Internet freedom, basically is very hypocritical," Anti noted.

University of Hong Kong legal scholar Simon Young agrees. “Like in many human rights debates that the U.S. and China have, this might well be an issue that fortifies the mainland authorities in rebuffing the U.S. in saying, 'Well you are no better than us, and look at how you defend these practices and policies so hence, what's wrong with what we are doing, in the mainland',” he said.

As the debate about the case goes global, U.S. officials have given no indication they might scrap the program, despite the backlash.  Critics said the program is a threat to privacy protections and it exceeds the limits set by laws on American intelligence set up to thwart possible terrorist attacks.

U.S. President Barrack Obama is coming under increasing pressure to take action in the case and possibly seek the extradition of Snowden.  U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee chair Diane Feinstein says Snowden has committed an "act of treason" that should be prosecuted.

But Young said getting to that point could take a long time.  Extradition or request for surrender, as it is called in Hong Kong, would involve both a lengthy court process and approval from Hong Kong’s chief executive.

“Throughout this process it is possible to challenge the various decisions made in the higher courts and ultimately on appeal to the court of final appeal, if leave is granted.  It would probably be definitely months and possibly even years if he tries to exhaust all of his appeal routes,” stated Young.

Young adds residents in Hong Kong are likely to be sympathetic with Snowden’s efforts to safeguard citizens privacy.

“I think these issues are largely about what you think about secrecy in government, interference in one's private life, and whistleblowing essentially, and in many respects Hong Kong's values in this area are probably very similar to Western values," said Young. "I mean, Hong Kong is an international city and like the United States we have constitutional protection against interference with privacy.”

But just as much as the case is a legal matter, it is also political and diplomatic.

The revelation that Snowden was in Hong Kong came a day after U.S. President Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping held their first informal talks in California and focused on improving ties.

Political analysts say how they handle the matter could be the first major test Obama and Xi face in the effort to open a new chapter for U.S.-China ties.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
June 12, 2013 12:16 PM
American's in a way deserve this because they supported china as china was doing this to their citizens what you thought it wouldn't come here? also you americans voted Obama in (if votes are even counted in America) so now you reap what you sew
(I hope my ip address isn't logged for obvious reasons :(

by: NT from: us
June 11, 2013 9:48 PM
national security is more important than privacy. Sometimes, we cannot have both. I rather have government monitoring than terrorist attacks
In Response

by: NT from: us
June 12, 2013 2:54 PM
you forget the fact that US is trying to track down terrorists, not political dissidents like China or other communist countries and dictators. US didn't do that before 9/11 event. We have lived in a different world after 9/11.
In Response

by: Stone from: CN
June 12, 2013 11:10 AM
if you think so, just tell your government not to criticize Chinese government! just live in your own "democracy"! so funny!

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
June 11, 2013 9:31 PM
LOL, US democracy is a joke!

by: Steve Grumman from: Philippines
June 11, 2013 9:13 PM
It looks like America's image as a democracy has been taken down several notches. Americans appear to have little better than their Chinese counterparts...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs