June 24, 2013

Snowden's Hong Kong exit shows Chinese anger over spying

The Hong Kong government ostensibly said it allowed Snowden to leave because the U.S. request to provisionally arrest Snowden did not comply with legal requirements.

By Kelvin Chan / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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A TV screen shows a news report of Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee who leaked top-secret documents about sweeping U.S. surveillance programs, at a shopping mall in Hong Kong on Sunday.

AP

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Hong Kong lawmaker and lawyer Albert Ho said he suspects authorities in Beijing were calling the shots.

He said his firm had been representing Snowden in an effort to clarify his legal situation with the government. Snowden wanted to know what his circumstances would be like in the event he was arrested and whether he would be able to leave the city if he wanted. Ho said an intermediary who claimed to represent the government relayed a message to Snowden saying he was free to leave and should do so.

Ho said he didn't know the identity of the intermediary and wasn't sure whether the person was acting on Hong Kong's or Beijing's behalf.

"The entire decision was probably made in Beijing and Beijing decided to act on its best interests," Ho told reporters. "However, Beijing would not want to be seen on stage because it would affect Sino-U.S. relations. That's why China has somebody acting in the background."

Under Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the city is allowed a high degree of autonomy from mainland Chinese authorities until 2047. It also has its own legal and financial system, a holdover from the British colonial rule that ended in 1997.

When asked by reporters whether he took directions from Beijing, Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying said the territory is only required to communicate and discuss matters involving foreign affairs with the central government.

Ho also revealed a few more details about Snowden's life in hiding in Hong Kong, saying he had been living in a "private place" after he was forced to check out of the hotel where he was staying once he was discovered by journalists.

"Most of the time he did not leave the place where he was living, though once or twice he changed locations," Ho said.

"He only left at night, very carefully. He didn't want anyone to see him. He was very cautious."

Ho said Snowden lived in a "very small place. Fortunately he had a computer. He could contact anyone in the world."

 

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