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U.S. Says Hong Kong Hurt Ties Failing to Turn Over Snowden

Hong Kong’s handling of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s departure from the city left a “bad taste” in American officials’ mouths and damaged ties, U.S. Consul General Stephen Young said.

“Frankly I don’t think we had a good-faith partner throughout this process,” Young, who leaves Hong Kong at the end of July after a three-year posting, told journalists today. “I would hate to see us treat Hong Kong as just another part of China.”

Young’s remarks echoed comments made by other American officials after Hong Kong said a U.S. warrant for Snowden’s arrest didn’t meet the city’s legal requirements. Snowden left the city on June 23 and Russian President Vladimir Putin said he’s now in the transit zone of a Moscow airport.

Snowden, a former government contractor who also previously worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, has revealed he was the source of leaks on top-secret U.S. National Security Agency programs that collect phone and Internet data. He has applied for asylum in Ecuador.

China took back sovereignty of Hong Kong from the U.K. in 1997 and allows the city wide-ranging independence to govern itself under the “one country, two systems” policy. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said June 24 that Hong Kong upheld the rule of law in Snowden’s case, while acknowledging that some people in the U.S. voiced “displeasure” about his departure.

Extradition Treaty

Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen said today the matter was handled in accordance with the city’s laws and a 1996 extradition treaty with the U.S. Yuen didn’t discuss the case with his mainland peers, he told reporters in Beijing, where he is attending a conference.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he won’t engage in “wheeling and dealing” or jeopardize cooperation on a broad range of issues with China or Russia in the pursuit of Snowden.

At a news conference yesterday in Dakar, Senegal, Obama said he hasn’t spoken with Chinese President Xi Jinping or Putin as the U.S. seeks Snowden’s extradition. “I shouldn’t have to,” Obama said.

Snowden, a former employee of Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp., faces theft and espionage charges in the U.S. Hong Kong’s handling of Snowden’s departure may affect its plans to become a member of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, State Department Spokesman Patrick Ventrell said on June 25.

The Snowden affair left a “bad taste in American policy makers’ mouths,” Young said today. He said there was a significant lapse of cooperation by Hong Kong that “injected a tone of distrust that will take take time and effort to erase.”

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