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China sidesteps allegations on role in Snowden departure
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 24, 2013

Kerry warns China, Russia of consequences on Snowden
New Delhi (AFP) June 24, 2013 - US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Monday of consequences to ties with Moscow and Beijing over an intelligence leaker's flight from Hong Kong to Russia, saying it was "deeply troubling" if requests for his extradition had been ignored.

Speaking on a visit to New Delhi, Kerry insisted that Edward Snowden, who is the target of an American arrest warrant after he leaked details of massive US cyber-espionage programmes, had betrayed his country and should have to face the consequences.

Snowden is expected to fly out of Moscow later Monday to seek asylum in Ecuador after being allowed to board a flight in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong on Sunday which took him to the Russian capital.

Asked about the diplomatic consequences of Snowden's departure, Kerry said it would be "very disappointing" if it were found that he was "wilfully allowed to board an aircraft".

"As a result there would be without any question some effect and impact on the relationship and consequences," said the top US diplomat.

"With respect to the China, Russia relationship and where this puts us, it would be deeply troubling obviously if they have adequate notice and, not withstanding that, they made a decision wilfully to ignore that and not live by the standards of the law," Kerry added.

After issuing the arrest warrant against Snowden, the US State Department revoked the former intelligence operative's passport and asked other countries to prevent him from travelling.

He was however still able to board an Aeroflot flight which landed in Moscow on Sunday.

Questioned in particular about Russia's role in Snowden's flight, Kerry said: "I would urge them (Russia) to live by the standards of the law because that's in the interests of everybody.

"In the last two years we have transferred seven prisoners to Russia that they wanted so I think reciprocity and the enforcement of the law is pretty important."

Kerry also defended the decision to seek Snowden's arrest, saying he had betrayed his country.

"He is an indicted individual, indicted on three felony counts," said Kerry.

"Evidently he places himself above the law having betrayed his country with respect of the violation of his oath and I think there are very serious implications in that."

China on Monday sidestepped allegations it orchestrated the departure of former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden from Hong Kong, which infuriated Washington after it had requested his arrest and extradition.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying refused to directly comment on the affair at a regular press briefing in Beijing, or provide details on any role Beijing played in Snowden's flight to Moscow on Sunday.

"The central government of China always respects the Hong Kong SAR government's handling of the relevant case," she said, referring reporters to Hong Kong's statement Sunday which said he departed through "legal and normal means".

Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy under the handover agreement that governed its transfer from British rule in 1997, but Beijing retains control over its defence and foreign policy, and the right to veto extradition decisions.

Analysts have speculated that Beijing intervened in Snowden's case, due to its potential to create a drawn-out legal saga that would strain relations between the US and China.

US Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said Hong Kong's decision to allow the former CIA agent to leave came as a "very big surprise".

"China clearly had a role in this, in my view. I don't think this was just Hong Kong without Chinese acquiescence, she said on CBS's "Face the Nation" programme.

Hong Kong lawmaker Albert Ho, who acted as Snowden's lawyer in the city, said on Monday he suspected that Beijing had engineered the exit.

"The Hong Kong government has no power to decide or say anything whatsoever," said the respected pro-democracy figure.

Snowden is expected to head for asylum in Ecuador, in a dramatic flight after Washington charged him with espionage over his leaks on a global spying and hacking programme.

His shock departure has disappointed rights advocates in the southern Chinese city, after he initially said he would stay and fight extradition in what would have been an important test for Hong Kong's judicial independence.

H.K. chief defends handling of Snowden affair
Hong Kong (AFP) June 24, 2013 - Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying on Monday defended his government's decision to allow former US spy Edward Snowden to leave the city, and said it was normal for him to discuss foreign-policy matters with Beijing.

Leung broke his long silence on the affair to amplify a government statement issued on Sunday when Snowden dramatically flew out of Hong Kong, escaping a US arrest warrant.

The city government's chief executive noted "expressions of displeasure" from some in the United States, but told reporters that "the people of Hong Kong expect Hong Kong to uphold its own laws including the Basic Law".

The Basic Law is capitalist Hong Kong's mini-constitution guiding its "one country, two systems" form of autonomy under the rule of communist China.

Leung did not answer when asked if he had received any special instructions on the Snowden case from Beijing, which retains ultimate control over Hong Kong's foreign and defence policy, and the power to veto extradition requests.

But he said: "Under the one country, two systems, of course we surely need to communicate with the central government and discuss events that are related to foreign affairs."

Snowden, a former contractor at the National Security Agency, is wanted by the United States on theft and espionage charges after he fled to Hong Kong in late May and began leaking details of NSA programmes.

He flew to Moscow on Sunday, reportedly heading to a third country, despite Washington having requested his arrest and eventual extradition from Hong Kong. Leung's government said the US paperwork was deficient and it had no legal basis to prevent Snowden leaving.

That decision provoked fury in Washington and Leung said he "understood" US complaints against Hong Kong. But the city had not received any notification that Snowden's passport had been voided by the US State Department, he said.

Some lawmakers in the Chinese territory are concerned at the possibility of US reprisals, such as a withdrawal of visa-free access to the United States for Hong Kongers.

Leung tried to defuse concerns about fallout on the relationship.

"I personally treasure relations between Hong Kong and the United States on various aspects," he stressed.

"I believe our friends in the United States, including government officials and in the business sector, treasure their relations with Hong Kong."

Leung recently went on a trade-promotion trip to New York, where he repeatedly refused to answer questions about Snowden during an interview with Bloomberg TV on June 12.


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Snowden exit: Hong Kong revels in its rule of law
Hong Kong (AFP) June 23, 2013
Hong Kong has risked the threat of US reprisals in allowing Edward Snowden to leave. But its government insists that the rule of law took primacy for a territory that jealously guards its separateness from mainland China. On social media, there was talk of political considerations at play in allowing the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor to escape his Hong Kong bolthole. A ... read more

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