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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs