NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden and the Chinese government issued flat denials that Snowden was a spy Monday, responding to speculation and accusations from U.S. officials.
Snowden called the accusations a “predictable smear” during a live Q & A with The Guardian, saying speculation about his working for the Chinese government was “intended to distract from the issue of U.S. government misconduct.”
“Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing?,” said Snowden.
“I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now,” he said.
Following up on a request for a flat denial of accusations that he colluded with the Chinese government, Snowden said, “No. I have had no contact with the Chinese government. Just like with the Guardian and the Washington Post, I only work with journalists.”
Snowden is believed to be hiding out from the U.S. government in Hong Kong.
Beijing also denied accusations from U.S. officials that Snowden might be working with the Chinese, and proceeded to lecture the U.S. about civil rights, despite a history of human rights abuses, censorship and surveillance of its own people.
Calling accusations that Snowden is a spy “completely groundless,” China spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the U.S. should “pay attention to the international community’s concerns and demands” and explain its surveillance activities, The Guardian reported.
Beijing’s response comes a day after former Vice President Dick Cheney called Snowden a “traitor” and speculated that the former Booz Allen Hamilton consultant might be working with the Chinese.
Snowden said during the Q & A that being called a traitor by Cheney “is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are.”