Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Beijing Is Mum on Snowden

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Beijing Is Mum on Snowden

Article excerpt

Since NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed 10 days ago that he was hiding out in Hong Kong, the Chinese government has pointedly refused to say if it intends to do anything about him.

Officials here are silent for a reason, explains Zhu Feng, a noted international affairs analyst. "Snowden is too hot to handle," he says. "Beijing would seem to have very few options."

So far, the government has treated Mr. Snowden's fate as anybody's business but China's. Beyond denying that the former National Security Agency employee is a Chinese spy, Foreign Ministry spokespeople have built a wall of "no comment" around his case.

Official government and ruling Communist Party media have ignored the question of how Snowden's situation should be handled, though they have published many articles accusing Washington of cyber- hypocrisy. The authorities here clearly relish Snowden's revelations of widespread official US telephone and Internet surveillance; they have taken some of the sting out of US accusations that China harbors the world's worst hackers.

"The one party who always blames others for hacking attacks turns out to be worse than all the rest," charged the Communist Party's official organ, the People's Daily, in a commentary on Wednesday. "Henceforth, who will believe those accusations?"

China could intervene

On the legal front, Beijing could intervene in Snowden's fate if the United States lodged an extradition request with the Hong Kong authorities, even though the former British colony's legal system is independent of mainland China.

Washington's extradition treaty with Hong Kong, agreed in 1996, allows Hong Kong's Chief Executive to reject an extradition request if surrendering a fugitive might implicate "the defense, foreign affairs or essential public interest or policy" of the central government in Beijing. …

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