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White House: Hong Kong damaged relationship by releasing Snowden

Hong Kong made a "deliberate choice" to release Edward Snowden and has damaged relations between the United States and China in the process, White House Secretary Jay Carney said Monday.

In strong terms, Carney condemned the release of the former National Security Administration staffer who leaked top-secret government documents to journalists.

“The Chinese have emphasized the importance of building mutual trust, and we think that they have dealt that effort a series setback," he said.

Snowden fled Hong Kong for Moscow on Sunday. He did not board a flight to Havana on Monday as was expected. "It is our understanding that Mr. Snowden remains in Russia," Carney said.

Hong Kong officials have said that they had no legal basis to hold Snowden because they had not received a response from the U.S. Department of Justice to questions about its request that Snowden be arrested.

“We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official," Carney said, arguing that authorities had plenty of notice that Snowden's passport had been revoked.

“The Hong Kong authorities were advised of the status of Mr. Snowden’s travel documents in plenty of time to have prohibited his travel as appropriate," he said. "This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive… and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship.”

Carney would not say whether President Obama has spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping since Snowden's release. But he did say that the administration is communicating with authorities in Russia. "We have communicated to the Russians our hope that they will look at all options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States," he said.

Asked whether he had spoken with Russian President Vladmir Putin, Obama told reporters Monday that "we are following the appropriate legal channels and working with various countries to make sure that all the rules are followed."

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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