Snowden Tugs at Hong Kongers' Heartstrings
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 18, 2013
Summary: The best way for Beijing to deal with Snowden, and adhere to Western nations' standards for human rights, is to allow the Hong Kong government to deal with Snowden on its own, in accordance with public opinion. Last year Chen Guangcheng defected to the United States Embassy in Beijing. Eventually he got his wish and made his way to the United States. This year Edward Snowden has defected to Hong Kong. Surely the bar cannot be set lower now.
Full Text below:
Twenty-seven Hong Kong citizens' groups took to the streets yesterday. They called on the Hong Kong Government to protect Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) employee and whistleblower who has taken refuge in Hong Kong. They forced Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung to publicly promise that he would deal with the matter "according to the law." Is Snowden a hero or a traitor? This answers the question. He may be a fugitive wanted by the U.S. government. But in cyberspace he is a hero. Hong Kong is his hiding place the non-virtual world. Hong Kongers feel obligated to come to his defense.
According to a South China Morning Post poll, nearly half of the people in Hong Kong oppose turning Snowden over to the United States. Only 17% favor surrendering him to US authorities. A full 33% of those polled see Snowden as a hero. Only 13% consider him a traitor. About 23% consider him somehwere in between. Public passions in Hong Kong may fluctuate on certain issues, but they never dissipate entirely.
Outsider may be skeptical of Hong Kong's post-retrocession autonomy. But as far the Snowden incident is concerned, the "one country, two systems" arrangement has led to this intriguing development. On the one hand, it has forced Beijing to stand down. On the other hand, it has enabled Hong Kong to go on the attack. This amounts to a one two punch to the United States. The incident has answered another question for Beijing. Is Snowden a gift from heaven, or a hot potato? The answer is, he is clearly not the latter.
The Snowden incident has tugged at peoples' heartstrings for three reasons. One. Snowden chose to break the news when Obama and Xi Jinping were meeting to discuss cyberwarfare. This caused the U.S. government no end of embarrassment. Without even drawing his sword, Xi Jinping was promptly rendered unassailable. Two. Snowden chose Hong Kong, a free port, to make his appearance, This posed a problem for U.S. diplomacy. It also put Beijing's handling of Hong Kong to the test. Three. Netizens the world over were made aware of the United States 1984 style "Big Brother" intelligence gathering methods. They were shocked and disgusted. The US has long touted itself as the world's champion of freedom and human rights. The discrepancy between the rhetoric and the reality left them deeply disillusioned. Obama's image also took a hit.
It was in just such a political atmosphere that Hong Kongers came forward to support Snowden. Snowden said he chose to flee to Hong Kong because Hong Kong was so free. Some think Snowden lacked a clear understanding of Hong Kong. They said he went from the frying pan into the fire. But from another perspective, it was precisely his assertion that Hong Kong was so free that sent waves of emotion through Hong Kongers's hearts, and made them so willing to protect him, and fight the erosion of freedom in Hong Kong. The June 4th candlelight vigil commemorating the Tiananmen Incident took place a few days earlier. As a result, the organizers of the protest march praised Snowden for sacrificing his own freedom to defend others' freedom of speech and fredoom of expression.
Practically speaking, is Hong Kong really a place Snowden can pin his hopes on? Can he eventually defect to Iceland? For the moment it is hard to say. The Hong Kong Government has been placed in an awkward position. Behind the scenes, it must comply with the CCP's diplomatic strategy. On this matter, Hong Kong has no choice. On the surface, Beijing certainly has no reason to rollover for the United States. But could the situation change? Would that turn Snowden into a secret bargaining chip? It is hard to say. In fact, there are rumors that Snowden's leaks were orchestrated by the CCP. That is why the leaks were so perfectly choreographed.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London over the past year. Assange has suggested that Snowden seek political asylum in one of the Latin American countries. HIs implication was that Asian countries are likely to succumb to US pressure. His remark suggested a lack of trust. The British government has already forbidden airline companies to allow Snowden into the UK. Snowden's whereabouts have been a mystery for many days. Has he quietly fled to a third country? Or is he still under the protection of private individuals or the CCP? Everyone is wondering.
To be sure, the more Hong Kongers stand up for and express solidarity with Snowden, the less likely he is to be secretly extradited to the United States. More and more netizens are expressing solidarity with him. The likelihood that US security agencies will deal with Snowden illegally is diminishing. When the Prism Project came to light, the U.S. Government immediately tried to appease domestic public opinion. It insisted the plan was directed only at foreigners, rather than the American public. These words grated on the ears of foreign governments, especially those who see themselves as allies of the United States. These words were difficult for them to swallow. Snowden exposed the recklessness of U.S. security agencies, the high-handedness of the U.S. government, and the servility of major technology companies who kowtowed to their political authority.
The best way for Beijing to deal with Snowden, and adhere to Western nations' standards for human rights, is to allow the Hong Kong government to deal with Snowden on its own, in accordance with public opinion. Last year Chen Guangcheng defected to the United States Embassy in Beijing. Eventually he got his wish and made his way to the United States. This year Edward Snowden has defected to Hong Kong. Surely the bar cannot be set lower now.
2013.06.18 02:02 am