The PJ Tatler

What is Edward Snowden Really Up To?

NSA leaker/whistleblower/hero/traitor/dropout/overachiever Edward Snowden has resurfaced, briefly. He gave an interview to the South China Post’s Lana Lam, and in the interview he defends his reason for using Hong Kong as his base after leaving the United States.

“People who think I made a mistake in picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality,” Snowden said in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post.

“I have had many opportunities to flee HK, but I would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong’s rule of law,” he added.

Snowden cited Hong Kong’s court system and its “long tradition of protesting in the streets,” a tradition that has been strained since the city-state’s reversion to mainland communist China’s control in 1997.

But that tradition hasn’t been broken entirely. Hong Kong has retained its capitalist spirit and remains a global and regional media hub. Groups have already risen up to defend Snowden and protest in Hong Kong on his behalf.

If Snowden intended to call out both governments for their online tactics and data mining, then Hong Kong may have been an ideal place to run to. He could also have chosen Taiwan, but it’s less a regional media hub and its hostility to Beijing make basing himself there much less of a statement against the mainland than Hong Kong, which is under loose but real Chinese control.

Any protest in Hong Kong on his behalf targets not just the US government, but the mainland Chinese government as well. They would be protesting against both governments’ interests in taking Snowden into custody. They would be protesting against both governments’ violations of free speech and Internet surveillance. Chinese citizens outside Hong Kong may see the pro-Snowden protests and wonder both why they can’t protest about things they care about, and why their own government is so appallingly heavy-handed on Internet surveillance and censorship.