Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked top-secret files belonging to the National Security Agency (NSA), has disappeared in Hong Kong as the Obama administration presses ahead to get him extradited to the US.
The ex-CIA official had checked out of the Mira Hotel in Hong Kong on Monday afternoon, suggest reports. While his whereabouts are unknown, he is still believed to be in Hong Kong which is subject to Chinese sovereignty.
Hong Kong, while under Chinese sovereignty, has some level of autonomy both formally and informally including having its own extradition treaty with the United States.
Meanwhile, authorities in Hong Kong are treading cautiously as any extradition row would place further strain on the fragile relationship between Washington and Beijing.
“We do have bilateral agreements with the US and we are duty-bound to comply with these agreements. Hong Kong is not a legal vacuum, as Mr Snowden might have thought,” said Regina Ip, a Hong Kong policymaker and former security secretary, according to Reuters.
Though the Chinese territory has its own extradition agreement with the US, it could possibly take several months before Beijing takes a leading role in getting hold of Snowden.
Presumably Snowden chose Hong Kong for a reason though he may have underestimated America’s reach. Or he may be interested in working with the Chinese and is meeting with them currently. It is very hard to say what Snowden’s plan is or if he even has disappeared willingly. He could have been abducted and be facing interrogation somewhere at this moment. It would be an odd strategy to announced yourself to the world then go underground, then again, there are not a lot of precedents for this are there?
A petition seeking a Presidential Pardon of Snowden has more than 44,000 signatures.