Edward Snowden, the 29 year-old former employee of NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, majority owned by the creepy Carlyle Group, surfaced in Hong Kong last night. In an exclusive interview with a local paper he says he’s staying put:
SCMP — Snowden said last night that he had no doubts about his choice of Hong Kong. “People who think I made a mistake in picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality,” Snowden said in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post.
“I have had many opportunities to flee HK, 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,” he added. Snowden says he has committed no crimes in Hong Kong and has “been given no reason to doubt [Hong Kong’s legal] system”.
“My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate,” he said.
Experts in international law say that Snowden could remain free for a long time in Hong Kong even if the US pursues him aggressively:
The Guardian — If the US decides to bring criminal charges and requests his surrender – technically not extradition, because Hong Kong is not a sovereign state – he might be able to argue that he should be exempt under the treaty’s political exception provisions. There is no set definition of a political offence: it is at the discretion of the state that receives the request. Both the intent of the authority making the request and the motivation of the alleged offender are considered.
Tim Parker, an immigration lawyer in the territory, said the chief executive of Hong Kong – which is part of China but enjoys considerable autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework – would decide on the US request. But Snowden would then be able to challenge the decision through the courts.
“In controversial political cases it would likely go to the court of appeal and ultimately the court of final appeal,” he said. The process “could go on for months and easily into years”.