Hong Kong: Hong Kong was silent on Saturday on whether a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor should be extradited to the United States now that he has been charged with espionage, but some legislators said the decision should be up to the Chinese government.
Edward Snowden, believed to be holed up in Hong Kong, has admitted providing information to the news media about two highly classified NSA surveillance programs.
It is not known if the US government has made a formal extradition request to Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong government had no immediate reaction to the charges against Snowden.
Police Commissioner, Andy Tsang, when was asked about the development, told reporters only that the case would be dealt with according to the law.
When China regained control of Hong Kong in 1997, the former British colony was granted a high degree of autonomy and granted rights and freedoms not seen on mainland China. However, under the city`s mini constitution Beijing is allowed to intervene in matters involving defence and diplomatic affairs.
Outspoken legislator Leung Kwok-hung said Beijing should instruct Hong Kong to protect Snowden from extradition before his case gets dragged through the court system. Leung also urged the people of Hong Kong to "take to the streets to protect Snowden."
Another legislator, Cyd Ho, vice-chairwoman of the pro-democracy Labour Party, said China "should now make its stance clear to the Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) government" before the case goes before a court.
China has urged Washington to provide explanations following the disclosures of National Security Agency programs which collect millions of telephone records and track foreign Internet activity on US networks, but it has not commented on Snowden`s status in Hong Kong.
A formal extradition request, which could drag through appeal courts for years, would pit Beijing against Washington at a time China tries to deflect US accusations that it carries out extensive surveillance on American government and commercial operations.
Snowden`s whereabouts have not been publicly known since he checked out of a Hong Kong hotel on June 10. He said in an interview with the South China Morning Post that he hoped to stay in the autonomous region of China because he has faith in "the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate."