Will China Protect Edward Snowden?

After leaking information on alleged U.S. spying of Hong Kong and Mainland China’s computers to the South China Morning Post, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden may have complicated his legal options while appealing to China’s security forces.  The New York Times’ Keith Bradsher reports that various analysts have disputed the potential consequences of his revelations in Hong Kong:

Kevin Egan, a former prosecutor here who has represented people fighting extradition to the United States, said that Mr. Snowden’s latest disclosures would make it harder for him to fight an expected request by the United States for him to be turned over to American law enforcement. “He’s digging his own grave with a very large spade,” he said.

But a person with longstanding ties to mainland Chinese military and intelligence agencies said that Mr. Snowden’s latest disclosures showed that he and his accumulated documents could be valuable to China, particularly if Mr. Snowden chooses to cooperate with mainland authorities.

“The idea is very tempting, but how do you do that, unless he defects,” said the person, who spoke anonymously because of the diplomatic delicacy of the case. “It all depends on his attitude.”

The person declined to comment on whether Chinese intelligence agencies would obtain copies of all of Mr. Snowden’s computer files anyway if he were arrested by the Hong Kong police pursuant to a warrant from the United States, where the Justice Department has already been reviewing possible charges against him.[Source]

Xinhua reporter Xu Peixi welcomes Snowden to China and hails him as a brilliant idealist for shedding light on hypocrisy within the U.S. government:

We can see, therefore, that when American politicians and businessmen make accusatory remarks, their eyes are firmly fixed on foreign countries and they turn a blind eye to their own misdeeds. This clearly calls into question the integrity of these rich, powerful and influential figures and gives the definite impression that the U.S. bases its own legitimacy not on good domestic governance but on stigmatizing foreign practices.[Source]

Despite complications shrouding the Snowden case, SCMP reports that the Chinese government has nothing to lose:

“This is a win-win for China,” said David Zweig, director of the Center on China’s Transnational Relations at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “I don’t see them losing at this point, the fact that he’s here, running away from the United States with all this information … whether he goes back or whether he goes free. I don’t see this as bad for China.”

Ideally for officials in Beijing, Zweig said, “if they don’t have to get involved and Hong Kong arrests him, and they get the computer, they win.”

Law Yuk-kai, director of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, said the Chinese government would be happy to see the case drag on and embarrass the U.S.

“It is a setback for people who want the U.S. to restrain China in its abuse of Internet freedom,” he said.[Source]

The Chinese government appears to be weighing its various options while deciding how to handle the case, the Los Angeles Times reports:

So far, officials in Beijing look to be playing it cool by doing nothing — and that, several experts said Friday, is perhaps the savviest thing they could do.

With some U.S. lawmakers calling Snowden, 29, a traitor and raising questions about whether he has a relationship with a foreign government, any moves by Beijing to contact Snowden could inflame tension with Washington just days after a summit between President Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Given that it’s unclear whether Snowden has information that would be particularly valuable to the Chinese — and whether he’d be willing to share it if he did — it’s a risk Beijing may not yet be ready to take.

At the same time, any immediate effort by Beijing to grant Snowden permanent haven or urge him to depart for another locale could raise hackles in Hong Kong. [Source]

The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos, however, foresees bleaker prospects for Snowden.


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