Regina Ip, chair of the pro-Beijing New People’s Party and formerly Hong Kong’s security secretary, said that Hong Kong is not a safe harbor for the NSA whistleblower who revealed the US government’s massive PRISM internet spying operation.
The lawmaker added, “It’s actually in his best interest to leave Hong Kong.” Alluding to a possible extradition to America, she said,”I doubt it will happen so quickly.” Hong Kong has an obligation to comply with the extradition treaty for fugitives that it signed with the US in 1996, a year before the handover to mainland China, she asserted.
The Hong Kong government has yet to make an official comment on the Edward Snowden situation.
Snowden would have to be indicted for a crime by a federal grand jury or other equivalent body before any extradition request would be appropriate, however. Apart from the legal technicalities of the extradition issue, Snowden would have to obtain permission from Hong Kong authorities to live in the city on a long-term basis.
The 29-year-old NSA contractor who outed himself on Saturday previously stated that he headed to Hong Kong because of its tradition of free speech. He has been believed to be staying in a hotel in the upscale Tsim Sha Tsui district in Kowloon, which is across Victoria Harbor from Hong Kong Island, but it has been reported that he checked out from that location and his exact whereabouts are unknown.
He has also spoke approvingly of relocating to Iceland if things get too “hot” in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is considered a special administrative region of China with a substantial degree of autonomy from the Beijing communist government pursuant to the 1997 treaty. However, Beijing can veto a decision by Hong Kong to extradite someone “if the request affects Beijing’s ‘defense, foreign affairs, or essential public interest or policy. ‘”
In the meantime, an Edward Snowden petition was started yesterday on the We The People White House petition site, aimed at preventing charges against the NSA whistleblower. The petition states that “Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued a a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs.”