Protesters rally in HK to support Snowden
June 15 2013 10:01 PM

Protesters supporting Edward Snowden, a former contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), march to the US Consulate at Hong Kong’s central district yesterday.

AFP/Hong Kong

Hundreds of protesters staged a rally in rain-hit Hong Kong yesterday to urge the city’s government not to extradite former spy Edward Snowden, and slam the US for its surveillance programmes.

Snowden, 29, has gone to ground in the city after blowing the lid on the US’s vast electronic surveillance operation and has vowed to fight any extradition request.

The city’s first major demonstration on the issue saw protesters, including pro-democracy lawmakers, activists and a large number of expatriates march to the US consulate holding banners and shouting “Defend Free Speech”, “Protect Snowden”, “No Extradition” and “Respect Hong Kong Law”.

Many blew their whistles loudly and wore masks with Snowden’s face on it.

“Today we all blow the whistle,” shouted Tom Grundy, a British blogger and activist who lives in Hong Kong.

One protester held a sign of US President Barack Obama’s famous ‘Hope’ poster, edited to show the leader as a spy wearing large headphones. Another sign read: “Betray Snowden, Betray freedom”. The US has launched a criminal investigation after Snowden, a former CIA technical assistant, leaked details of Washington’s secret Internet and telephone surveillance programmes. The protesters, made up of 27 civil society organisations, handed a letter over to the US consulate addressed to Consul General Steve Young, which said: “For many years, the US State Department has publicly supported the cause of Internet freedom and criticised other governments for conducting cyber attacks, surveillance and censorship.

“We now understand, through recent revelations, that the US government has been operating their own blanket surveillance systems and allegedly conducting cyber warfare against Hong Kong. “This is a violation of Human Rights of people of Hong Kong and around the world.”

Snowden told the South China Morning Post newspaper earlier this week that there have been more than 61,000 NSA hacking operations globally, targeting powerful “network backbones” that can yield access to hundreds of thousands of individual computers. There were hundreds of targets in mainland China and Hong Kong, Snowden was quoted as saying. Hong Kong has a long-standing extradition treaty with the US, but Beijing has the potential to veto any ruling.

“We are going to see a lot of political juggling between two of the biggest powers in the world in order to possibly extradite Mr. Snowden,” lawmaker and Hong Kong entrepreneur Charles Mok told protesters.

“Who is losing? You and I, all the Internet users in the world. Why? Because we in Hong Kong know the best, we live outside of the Great Firewall of China,” Mok said. And the rally comes amid increasing concern in the city over perceived mainland interference.

“It’s quite ironic that Snowden thought that Hong Kong has impeccable rule of law. Long time residents here would know that our freedoms are being stifled on a daily basis on every front,” pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said. “Our rule of law is facing all kinds of political challenges, so good luck to Snowden,” she added.



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