Snowden's Fate

Monday 17 June 2013

On Democracy Now today there was an insightful interview with Hong Kong legislator Charles Mok on the potential next steps for US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Snowden is currently believed to be in Hong Kong after passing a batch of NSA documents revealing top-secret surveillance programs to the Guardian, the Washington Post, and the South China Morning Post. US authorities have initiated a criminal investigation over the leaks and will probably pursue Snowden's extradition in the weeks and months ahead.

Mok talks about what that process could entail, and says that though Hong Kong enjoys independence from mainland China on many issues, the international magnitude of the Snowden case means the final decision that will determine his fate is ultimately likely to be made by central government in Beijing:

Please understand that at least we have a one-country, two-system system in Hong Kong and between Hong Kong and the mainland. So our laws are different from the laws in China. And we do have a border and so on. We do have different governments, even though as a regional government, we do report to the central government.

So I think what we want locally is to make sure that we can protect [Snowden] and make sure that we can live up to our core values and make sure that we treat this person according to all the rights that he should be getting under Hong Kong law. And... exactly what I don’t want to see, is that this sort of political influence to be interfering into the justice process, the judicial process that Mr. Snowden may end up having to get in Hong Kong. If, for example, the US starts by contacting the Hong Kong government to try to initiate an extradition, and if Mr. Snowden decides to try to get asylum or apply for refugee status here in Hong Kong, he — if he chose to do that, if the process comes to that point, he should be getting all the rights. [...]

If the US started to initiate a process [to] say that we want to arrest this person and start an extradition process, then Mr. Snowden could apply in Hong Kong for refugee status. And then there would be at least two tests: first by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees to determine whether or not, for example, that he will face torture at home and whether or not this is political persecution and so on, and second, also by the Hong Kong court. [...]

He will be accorded rights to appeal all the way up to our highest court in Hong Kong. So, assuming that money and financial issues — because you do need to get lawyers and so on — assuming those are not an issue, these processes in the past could have taken quite a bit of time. But... if [Snowden] isn’t successful and there has to be a final decision to be made about the extradition, our chief executive in Hong Kong, which is pretty much [like] our president... he will have to make the final decision. But because this case very likely will involve foreign relations, then he has to consult the central government. So, in the end, it means that the process can be a pretty prolonged process, and, second, Beijing will probably come into the equation to make a final decision in the end.

You can watch the full interview here.

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