Human rights groups in Hong Kong are planning demonstrations this week to support National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. The groups have called upon their government to resist any attempts to extradite Snowden, who will likely face serious charges for revealing classified documents, and to protect his personal safety. Meanwhile, Russian official Dmitry Peskov said that a claim of asylum would be considered “if we receive such a request.”
Snowden fled to Hong Kong in May after leaking documents about the NSA’s intelligence-gathering activities, including the acquisition of telephone data for millions of Americans.
As Snowden hides out in a secure location, a website supporting freelance journalists has announced plans for a demonstration this week at the U.S. consulate and outside the city’s government headquarters, according to the South China Morning Post.
Organizer Damon Wong Chun-pong said he will invite more groups, including international human rights organizations, to join the protests. It’s sparked a call for protests in the U.S., as well, where organizers have called for demonstrations in support of civil liberties on July 4. Restore the Fourth, the group organizing the event, has called for public action to highlight what it sees as a decline in constitutional rights in the U.S. The Civil Human Rights Front, which is responsible for the annual July 1 pro-democracy march, has already agreed to join.
“We are yet to agree on the theme of the march but basically we want to express concern about the personal safety of Snowden here,” Wong said, according to the Morning Post. “If the US makes an extradition request, the Hong Kong government should not yield to pressure. It should confirm Snowden as a political asylum seeker and give him protection.”
Some prominent human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have not endorsed the protests, claiming they need more information about the case. They were focused on government accountability instead.
“Our concern is the US government must come clean. It is unacceptable to spy on foreigners,” said Tawanda Hondora, deputy director of Amnesty International in London, according to the Morning Post.
Hong Kong is part of China, but remains a separately administered region with a semi-autonomous government. As such, Hong Kong maintains an extradition agreement with the U.S., but must capitulate to the demands of Beijing on matters that would significantly affect China’s defense or foreign-affairs interests.
Hong Kong authorities can still be asked to follow Snowden and monitor his movements while in hiding. The Washington Post reports that James To Kun-sun, a Hong Kong legislator, says that law enforcement may be called upon to watch Snowden while the U.S. Justice Department moves on its investigation. “I suspect in this case . . . the FBI tells the HK police, ‘The request will be very soon,’ and [they can] ask police to keep an eye on him,” Kun-sun said.
Snowden’s window to find refuge appears to be closing quickly. The Associated Press reports that Michael Blanchflower, a senior counsel at Hong Kong’s Parkside Chambers says that it could be a matter of weeks before Snowden is extradited. The extradition agreement is based upon a 30-year history between Hong Kong and the United States whereby both agree to the “mutual surrender of fugitives.” The most recent extradition agreement was signed in 1997.
The protection of whistleblowers has been a difficult process subject to the whims of governments. Julian Assange, editor and founder of WikiLeaks, was able to find asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Despite threats to raid the embassy, Assange has avoided arrest and remained inside the embassy for nearly a year. He has continued his work during that time, including a campaign for Senate in the Australian federal election.
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