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

Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurdish Leader: Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid