Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old whistleblower who recently exposed the National Security Agency’s expansive surveillance policies, has become an Internet icon in certain circles of the Chinese blogging community.
“This is the definition of heroism,” one Chinese blogger wrote. “Doing this proves he genuinely cares about this country and about his country’s citizens. All countries need someone like him!”
The idea of a government closely monitoring its citizens’ personal data is nothing new to the people of China. Great Firewall, the nickname given to China’s digital surveillance program, is known for its widespread overreach and is the chief cause behind the country’s excessive prosecution of those engaging in news dissemination. Many of those heavily involved in Chinese social media and blogging view Snowden as a necessary champion of civil liberties while some even go as far as to label him as China’s potential savior from technological oppression.
“I hope that an Edward Snowden comes out of China’s Great Firewall system, exposes it, and goes down in the annals of history as a hero,” Wen Yunchao, a Hong Kong blogger, wrote.
With Snowden currently seeking refuge in Hong Kong, U.S. officials may try to immediately extradite him to the United States. “He must be protected,” one blogger wrote.
The terms surrounding Snowden’s extradition are murky. Formerly under British authority, Hong Kong became subject to Chinese sovereignty per an agreement with the United Kingdom in 1997, yet it maintains a separate extradition treaty with the United States. Under this treaty, extradition can be denied by either Hong Kong or the United States if the individual subject to extradition is accused or convicted of a political offense. The confusion stems from the agreement’s failure to provide a distinct definition of what constitutes a political crime.
“Short of a criminal group getting to him, I think he is safe here,” British legal expert Simon Young said. “One can take full advantage of Hong Kong’s legal system to challenge issues that may arise … and that could take a long time.”