The Snowden saga has taken a centre stage in the current world of geo-politics. He is a self-less hero to many but a self-deluded traitor to some. I view him as a good person who acts on his conscience, fighting against an all intrusive big brother government system. Snowden has exposed the sheer hypocrisy and shameless audacity of the self-appointed champion of internet freedom. Another slap on the face is that Hong Kong and China choses to let him get away, rather than to extradite him to the US despite official request from the US government. Snowden has arrived in Moscow on Sunday and was supposed to catch a connecting flight to Cuba and then seek asylum in Ecuador or Venezuela.
A number of journalists have booked the same flight to Cuba from Moscow. However, Snowden was nowhere to be seen as the plane departed for Havana. His whereabouts remains a mystery as the Russians are not willing to divulge further information on Snowden.
Snowden revealed the highly secretive and unethical nature of US spying activities against everyone. These include massive internet surveillance and computer hackings all across the world. These data obtained (emails, sms texts, phone conversations etc. )are then stored by US and could be used against anyone or country. Because of Snowden’s revelations, the US suffered from a massive setback in its image around the world as the protector of freedom and democracy, as it is obvious that the ’emperor has no clothes’. People from all over the world could see now that see the so-called freedom internet slogans from the mouths of US politicians like Obama, Hillary Clinton and US companies such as Goggles are just self-serving propaganda.
Over here in Australia, the journalists are rather quiet on this whole affair. There is no opinion piece from any of the paid hacks yet, though this morning there is an article from SMH foreign editor Peter Hatcher, with the title “China’s bullying tactics backfire”.
On the fate of Snowden, personally I think it will not be wise to seek asylum in Venezuela or Ecuador. Firstly, these are small countries (albeit with feisty independent foreign policy) that are situated in US backyards. It will be easy for US to conduct covert operations over there. Secondly, there are considerable local pro-US factions and lawless elements that will cooperate with US to act against Snowden. Lastly, by staying in small countries, Snowden will have very limited freedom of actions and movements. Iceland and Ireland are out of the question too as they are deem to be part of the Western block, and will be under huge pressure to extradite Snowden.
Hence a stay in Russia and seeking asylum there is in his best interest, IMHO. The US is certainty going to be inflamed and exert considerable pressure on President Putin, but Putin will hold his ground. After all Putin had withstood the Western pressure on the Syrian crisis in the recently held G8 Meeting and did not yield ground. It should be remembered that the US and UK have been giving asylum to a number of fugitives Russian oligarchs and Chechen militants, and these actions will backfire on them.
China has taken a low profile position, unwilling to further escalate rows with US even though Snowden has revealed that US conducts massive espionage against China. The Chinese are probably not that surprised. Should China be more pro-active in assisting Snowden and use the occasion to denounce US tyranny? Probably it should if it considers scoring political points as high in its agenda. Perhaps China has other more crucial matters to focus on and it’s best avoid showdown with the bully.
Below is an article from Global Times on the Snowden saga:
Beijing has right to offer Snowden political asylum
Global Times | 2013-6-24 22:53:01
By Eric Sommer
The US announcement of an arrest warrant for Edward Snowden last Friday lends new urgency to the question of whether the Chinese government or other governments will offer him asylum.
Snowden has left Hong Kong, reportedly bound for Venezuela via Russia and Cuba. However, it is not too late for the Chinese government to consider offering asylum to whistle-blowers like him.
Snowden is a former worker for the US National Security Agency (NSA). He arrived in Hong Kong a few weeks ago and began exposing a secret and massive worldwide cyber-surveillance and cyber-spying of the NSA on its own people and on the world.
The exposures include serious violations by the NSA of the US constitution and of the sovereignty rights of other nations including China.
These violations included massive secret hacking of US citizens’ phone calls, emails, and other online activities; extensive hacking of computers of Chinese mobile operators and the resulting theft of millions of Chinese text messages; and massive US hacking of computer systems at Tsinghua University, one of Chinas’ most prestigious university, computer systems which service a large part of China’s universities and sensitive government and military research projects. How would the US government react if a foreign power made such break-ins at Harvard?
Snowden is not a common criminal but a political refugee. And asylum for political refugees is a normal part of international life. Last year the US for example, granted asylum to 9,500 Chinese who wished to live in the US and claimed, rightly or wrongly, to be political refugees.
The US, EU countries, and others all routinely offer asylum to political refugees and individuals accused in their home countries of political crimes.
Imagine that the situation was reversed, that a Chinese citizen fled to the US with documentary proof of a vast worldwide Chinese cyber-surveillance and cyber-spying program, like the one Snowden exposed, which included hundreds of break-ins of sensitive US computers and the theft of millions of text messages.
In such circumstances, would the US government send that person back to China? It is virtually certain that individual would be granted refugee status.
At this point the Chinese central government has made no announcement on possible asylum for Snowden. But the US government should not be shocked or surprised if, even though he has now left Hong Kong, the Chinese central government chooses to offer temporary or permanent refuge status in China to Snowden, who both inside and outside the US is a hero to tens of millions of global citizens who abhor the attempts of the US government to dominate both the real world and the cyber world.
Eric Sommer, a Canadian scholar living in Beijing