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.
    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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    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.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora