- Snowden possibly headed for Ecuador via Russia, Cuba
- Hong Kong delayed putting out a warrant for Snowden, requesting “more information”
- Hong Kong residents may face visa complications with US in the future
- Latest revelations: Pacnet once an NSA hacking target
This suggests that Snowden definitely got help leaving Hong Kong. Either the notification of his passport revocation was deliberately delayed, or that the Hong Kong government let him go anyway, contrary to its claim Snowden left via a “normal channel”. There is little doubt, however, of the rest of the countries on Snowden’s path granting him safe passage despite his lack of passport.
Alan Leong of the pro-democracy Civic Party told AFP that he was disappointed Snowden had left Hong Kong so quickly.
“I am a bit disappointed because Mr Snowden actually said he chose Hong Kong as a place of refuge because he trusted its rule of law, but he left this morning without giving an explanation,” Leong told AFP.
He added that the Hong Kong courts would have been able to deal with any extradition applications from the US.
[Claudia Mo said:]”He has abandoned Hong Kong and that’s somewhat sad. Personally, I think Snowden owes Hong Kong people an explanation.”
The Hong Kong government:
Edward Snowden has left Hong Kong on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel, and Hong Kong has informed the US Government of his departure.
The Hong Kong Government today said the US Government had earlier requested a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden.
Since the documents provided by the US Government did not fully comply with legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the Hong Kong Government requested additional information so that the Department of Justice could consider whether the US Government’s request met relevant legal conditions.
As the Hong Kong Government did not yet have sufficient information to process the request, there was no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.
At the same time, it has formally written to the US Government requesting clarification on reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies. It will follow up on the matter, to protect the legal rights of people of Hong Kong.
More from Wikileaks:
Mr Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower who exposed evidence of a global surveillance regime conducted by US and UK intelligence agencies, has left Hong Kong legally. He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks.
According to the Washington Post, Snowden’s destination is Ecuador, whose embassy in London is currently housing Julian Assange of WikiLeaks:
A black BMW with diplomatic license plates assigned to the Ecuadorian Embassy was seen parked at Sheremetyevo [International Airport], but it was unclear who might have been in the car.
Personally, I’m disappointed. The latest move by Snowden shows that he no longer trusts Hong Kong to handle his case fairly. It is also very possible that the Hong Kong government, not wanting to deal with such a high-profile case, actively arranged for Snowden to leave the city, despite claims to the contrary.
It should also be noted that Ecuador is listed as a “hybrid regime” by The Economist’s 2012 Democracy Index, a far cry from the “democratic nation” claimed by WikiLeaks. Ecuador ranked 87th out of 167 countries, whereas Hong Kong was 63rd, and Iceland, Snowden’s original choice of asylum, ranked third behind Norway and Sweden. The United States was 21st, though it will probably drop quite a bit in this year’s numbers.
“It’s a shocker,” said Simon Young, a law professor with Hong Kong University. “I thought he was going to stay and fight it out. The U.S. government will be irate.”
Meanwhile, the Economic Times warned of possible retributions for Hong Kong:
Washington may threaten Hong Kong with a withdrawal of visa-free access to the United States for its residents, [Regina Ip] said on the Commercial Radio station.
Taiwan was granted visa-free access to the US in October of last year, and it has been said that up to the current Snowden incident, Hong Kong was being considered for the same. The US does not currently grant this privilege to either BNO or HKSAR passport holders.
Meanwhile, US Senator Chuck Schumer has already accused Russia of “aiding and abetting Snowden’s escape” and Putin of being on “an anti-United States streak that could damage the two countries’ relationship.” Another Senator, Lindsay Graham, slammed Snowden’s “escape route” of “China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela,” none of which are known for protecting human rights. “So I hope we’ll chase him to the ends of the earth, bring him to justice and let the Russians know there will be consequences if they harbor this guy.”
All this, of course, detracts from the actual content of Snowden’s leaks. Most recently, it was reported that the NSA had previously hacked Pacnet. The SCMP states:
Pacnet, which has global headquarters in Hong Kong and Singapore, owns more than 46,000 kilometres of fibre-optic submarine cables and provides connections to 16 data centres for telecom companies, multinationals and governments across Asia Pacific.
Its regional network spans Hong Kong, the mainland, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Singapore.