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Chinese newspaper: Edward Snowden staying in Hong Kong, despite many reasons to flee


Though the Western press has been filled with stories explaining why it was a terrible idea for Edward Snowden to seek refuge from the U.S. in Hong Kong and that he would be wise to seek asylum somewhere else immediately, the now-famous leaker of NSA secrets is still in the semi-autonomous city, according to an independent Hong Kong newspaper called the South China Morning Post.

The newspaper, which says it's met with Snowden but has not yet posted its interview, reports that Snowden "has been holed up in secret locations in Hong Kong since fleeing Hawaii." He seemed to say that he plans on staying.

"People who think I made a mistake in picking HK as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality,” Snowden told the South China Morning Post. "My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate. I have been given no reason to doubt your system.

Hong Kong was an unlikely choice for Snowden because the Chinese special administrative region has an extradition treaty with the United States, meaning officials would be legally compelled to ship him home if asked to do so by the Justice Department, and also is subject to interference from Beijing.

While it's certainly plausible that the Chinese government could intervene on Snowden's behalf, perhaps as a way to thumb its nose at the U.S. practice of sheltering Chinese dissidents, it's also very easy to imagine China seeing Snowden as not worth the trouble, given its many other priorities in its dealings with Washington.

Snowden's apparent decision to stay in Hong Kong is puzzling given both the risks of remaining and the fact that, at the moment, he does have other options. The United States has not yet filed a formal extradition request, which means that he should be able to move freely to a country that can offer him stronger protections. Russian officials have hinted that they would consider sheltering Snowden, as have some legislators in Iceland, though the latter may have a tougher time getting formal approval. Some countries in Western Europe have strong asylum protections. Other countries that don't have such protections, such as Ecuador, might still be eager for an opportunity to be seen as standing up to the United States.

So why would Snowden hang around in Hong Kong? Isn't he worried that his opportunity to travel to a country that could offer him asylum could close if the United States files an extradition request?

I'll be honest, I can't figure it out.



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Max Fisher · June 11, 2013

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