Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old U.S. contractor who says he leaked details of an electronic surveillance program, may be seeking legal help in Hong Kong after checking out of a hotel in the Chinese city on Monday.
Snowden is trying to contact Hong Kong-based human rights organizations and lawyers for help, the Oriental Daily News, a Hong Kong-based Chinese language newspaper, reported today, without naming its sources. Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor has not received any message from Snowden, the paper said.
He left the Mira Hotel in Hong Kong’s Kowloon district at lunchtime on Monday, according to the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper yesterday, which reported that he is thought to be in a safe house. The city’s immigration department has no record of him departing, according to another Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, which cited unidentified sources.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, currently on an official visit to New York, declined yesterday to answer questions by reporters about how his government would handle the case.
The American identified himself as the source of reports in the Guardian and the Washington Post about the U.S. surveillance program, prompting U.S. House Speaker John Boehner to call him “a traitor” whose disclosure “put Americans at risk.” Boehner spoke on ABC News’s “Good Morning America.”
Snowden was a former technical assistant for the Central Intelligence Agency and had worked for the National Security Agency in the past four years for contractors including Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp., according to the Guardian and the Washington Post. Booz Allen, his most recent employer, said yesterday Snowden has been fired.
Song Zhe, Commissioner of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, said yesterday the U.S. government has not contacted China on the Snowden case, Oriental Daily News reported. A staff member at China’s Foreign Ministry who answered the phone yesterday wouldn’t say if there would be an official statement on the case.
Chinese markets and businesses have been closed for the past three days for holidays. A June 10 Xinhua News Agency story about Snowden mainly summarized details from international media. Hong Kong has a holiday today.