- Snowden says in new book that his 2013 spell in Hong Kong after fleeing the US ended because it was indicated he was unwelcome in the city
American whistle-blower Edward Snowden has said he was forced to leave Hong Kong in 2013 because the city's government resisted any United Nations efforts to grant him protection there, after he was charged with espionage by the United States.
"The Hong Kong government, under Chinese pressure or not, resisted any UN effort at affording me international protection on its territory," Snowden said in his new book Permanent Record, published on Wednesday.
"In other words, Hong Kong was telling me to go home and deal with the UN from prison. I wasn't just on my own " I was unwelcome. If I was going to leave freely, I had to leave now."
The US government charged Snowden on June 14, 2013 under the Espionage Act, and requested his extradition on June 21.
Snowden had flown to Hong Kong on May 20, 2013 after leaving his job at a National Security Agency (NSA) facility in Hawaii and fleeing the US. On June 23, he flew into Moscow.
He had leaked thousands of classified NSA documents, revealing the global surveillance apparatus run by the US.
In his book, Snowden says he chose Hong Kong because the city was the "closest I could get to no-man's land, but with a vibrant media and protest culture, not to mention largely unfiltered internet".
"It was an oddity, a reasonably liberal world city whose nominal autonomy would distance me from China and restrain Beijing's ability to take public action against me or the journalists " at least immediately " but whose de facto existence in Beijing's sphere of influence would reduce the possibility of unilateral US intervention," he writes.
Wanted: a new home for Snowden, who never chose Russia
"In a situation with no promise of safety, it was enough to have the guarantee of time. Chances were that things weren't going to end well for me, anyway: the best I could hope for was getting the disclosures out before I was caught."
Hong Kong's extradition treaty with the US stipulates that it cannot surrender a suspect accused of offences which would not be crimes under Hong Kong law.
The treaty also allows a suspect to walk free if charges are ruled by Hong Kong's courts to be politically motivated.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post in 2013, Snowden said the NSA had been hacking computers in Hong Kong and mainland China since 2009. None of the documents revealed any information about Chinese military systems, he said.
Among the targets in Hong Kong, according to Snowden, were university and public officials, businesses and students. The documents also pointed to hacking activity by the NSA against mainland targets.
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