NSA leaker to stay in Hong Kong while fighting extradition to US

2013-06-13T00:00:00Z NSA leaker to stay in Hong Kong while fighting extradition to USBarbara Demick Los Angeles Times Arizona Daily Star
June 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

BEIJING - Edward Snowden, the former U.S. government contractor who says he leaked National Security Agency secrets, told Hong Kong media Wednesday that he intended to remain in the self-ruled Chinese territory and fight extradition to the United States.

"I have had many opportunities to flee Hong Kong, but I would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong's rule of law," 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."

The interview was the first public word from Snowden, 29, since Monday, when he checked out of a Hong Kong hotel.

Snowden revealed himself Sunday as the primary source of unauthorized disclosures of highly classified U.S. telephone and Internet surveillance systems, calling America's spying capabilities "horrifying." He is now believed to be staying in a private home.

The U.S. Justice Department was expected to file criminal charges against Snowden.

Snowden also told the Morning Post that the Internet surveillance program code-named PRISM is used to spy on people in Hong Kong and elsewhere in China.

"Unfortunately, the U.S. government is now bullying the Hong Kong government to prevent me from continuing my work," he said.

Snowden's strategy in Hong Kong appears to be a high-risk geopolitical play in a unique place, where British common law overlaps with the dictate of the Chinese Communist Party. The former British colony is a special administrative zone, which unlike mainland China has an extradition treaty with the U.S. But Beijing gets final say in cases where "surrender of a fugitive would harm defense, foreign affairs or essential public interest or policy."

Despite the rivalry between the U.S. and China, and the mutual recriminations over hacking and cyberespionage, few experts expect Beijing to go out of its way to shelter Snowden.

"The Chinese leader is pretty new and has just had an amicable round of chats with President Obama," said Martin Lee, one of Hong Kong's most respected democracy advocates and a senior lawyer. Lee acknowledged that Snowden could keep the case tangled up in the courts for years.

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