Edward Snowden a hit on Sina Weibo

This is pretty funny. The Wall Street Journal informs us that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been a big hit among freedom-hungry Chinese cyber-cognoscenti. “This is the definition of heroism,” wrote one particularly enthusiastic micro-blogger (presumably on Sina Weibo). “Doing this proves he genuinely cares about this country and about his country’s citizens. All countries need someone like him!” This is a brilliantly acceptable guise for dissent within China: it places Beijing in the uncomfortable position of either having to tolerate the dissent or implicitly diss a dissident from the rival superpower! We were a little skeptical when Snowden took refuge in Hong Kong, recalling Julian Assange‘s coziness with authoritarian regimes even as he is glorified as an avatar of freedom. But Beijing will probably see Snowden as too hot a potato, for obvious reasons. “He must be protected,” one sharp wit wrote on Sina Weibo. “This is one of the few opportunities the Communist Party has to contribute to world good.” (See report at Quartz)

Quartz also notes that Hong Kong signed an extradition treaty with the US in 1996, a year before the then-British colony was handed over to Chinese rule. But under the “one nation two systems” policy, Beijing maintains control over military and foreign affairs—meaning it could override a Hong Kong decision to extradite. The Guardian informs us that documents found in Tripoli after the fall of Qaddafi revealed that Hong Kong had cooperated in the CIA “rendition” of an Islamist militant to Libya under the dictator. Beijing presumably knew about this, and apparently didn’t interfere. But Snowden isn’t a case that could languish comfortably in the shadows. We’ll bet the Beijing bureaucrats are quite releived by reports that he has checked out of his hotel and possibly left Hong Kong…

  1. Snowden: US hacks China
    In an interview with the South China Morning Post, carried out from a “secret location” in Hong Kong, Edward Snowden claims that the US government has been hacking into computers in both Hong Kong and mainland China for years, collecting data on users there as well. OK, the world deserves to know about this. And in spilling the beans on this, Snowdon is not necessarily obliged to protest Chinese surveillance and censorship. But at what point does it start to look like acquiescence? Another story in the SCMP on responses to the Snowden affair by Chinese bloggers notes that a cynical tone has become more blatant. “Too bad China already knows every cyber-secret of its people,” activist Chen Yunfei wrote on Twitter, “otherwise Snowden would have made a good fortune.”

  2. Snowden and China: irony deepens
    Further monitoring of Chinese media reaction to the Snowden affair is provided by The Atlantic Wire blog. Global Times, tabloid arm of the official Communist Party organ People’s Daily, ran a cartoon showing the NSA logo with the bald eagle representated as stereotypical spy in a trenchcoat and fedora. That’s the same paper with an editorial stating that “Web regulation [is] in [the] public’s best interest” on June 4 — the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Cute, huh? Meanwhile, the official news agency Xinhua has run nothing on the affair—perhaps seeking to preserve its rep for objectivity without upsetting the party bosses.

    James Fallows writes in The Atlantic (picked up by Politico in a devastating and unexpected take-down of Snowden):

    Hong Kong is not a sovereign country. It is part of China—a country that by the libertarian standards Edward Snowden says he cares about is worse, not better, than the United States. China has even more surveillance of its citizens (it has gone very far toward ensuring that it knows the real identity of everyone using the internet); its press is thoroughly government-controlled; it has no legal theory of protection for free speech; and it doesn’t even have national elections. Hong Kong lives a time-limited separate existence, under the “one country, two systems” principle, but in a pinch, it is part of China

    So, as we have had all too much reason to complain before, a critique which is taboo on the rad-left is exploited by neocons and liberals…

  3. Snowden to Ecuador?
    Interesting. Just as Russia approved a sweeping Internet piracy bill that gives authorities the power to shut down websites (Jurist, June 23), comes word that Edward Snowden has split Hong Kong for… Moscow! A press statement said he was on his way to asylum in a “democratic nation.” The Hong Kong government said it had “no legal basis” to prevent him from leaving because the US had failed to provide enough information to justify the arrest warrant that has now been issued. Well, thank goodness the “democratic nation” in question is, apparently, not Russia! Bangkok Post names it as Venezuela, while CNN says it is Ecuador. These aren’t nearly in the Russian or Chinese league of authoritarianism, but they don’t exactly qualify as “democratic” either. We had to point out Ecuador’s abuses of press freedom when Julian Assange announced he was seeking refuge there last year. According to the CNN report, Assange’s WikiLeaks is now handling Snowden’s PR. 

  4. Qaeda threat closes US embassies… ho-hum
    We generally have antipathy for the kneejerk assumption in conspiranoid quarters that every terror attack is a “false flag” operation and every threat empty hype, but we have to say we have the utmost skepticism about the unprecedented closure of 22 US embassies and consulates across the Greater Middle East, a move being applauded on both sides of the aisle. (WP) CNN “reports” in extremely vague terms about intercepted al-Qaeda communications, but it overwhelmingly seems based on what is called “chatter.” The vagueness and the convenience of the timing—amid all the outrage over NSA surveillance—can’t help but make us wonder. Almost smells like the Bush administration’s shameless manipulation of the color-coded terror alerts