Edward Snowden’s decision to fight extradition from Hong Kong appears to be a high-risk geopolitical play in a most unique place, where the British common law overlaps with the dictate of the Chinese Communist Party.
The former British colony is a special administrative zone, which unlike mainland China has an extradition treaty with the United States. But Beijing gets final say in cases where “surrender of a fugitive would harm defense, foreign affairs or essential public interest or policy.”
“My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate,” Snowden told the South China Morning Post. “I have been given no reason to doubt your system.”
Despite the rivalry between the United States and China, and the mutual recriminations over hacking and cyberespionage, few experts expect Beijing to go out of its way to shelter Snowden.
“The Chinese leader is pretty new and has just had an amicable round of chats with President Obama,” said Martin Lee, one of Hong Kong’s most respected democracy advocates and a senior lawyer.
Snowden’s advocates are expected to argue that extradition to the United States could subject him to cruel and unusual punishment, citing the treatment of Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of giving documents to WikiLeaks.
Snowden might be counting on Hong Kong’s activists – who zealously treasure their rights to hold commemorative marches over the Tiananmen Square crackdown and to protest against China – to rally to his defense. Their involvement could make it a political headache for Beijing to kick him out.
Los Angeles Times