After sweating under the hot glare of international attention as intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden weighed his options over pizza and Pepsi, Hong Kong’s officials can relax and go back to what they do best – unconvincingly detailed, overly defensive, panicky whining about nothing much. Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen says that the Big Lychee’s authorities had no possible legal way to prevent the trendy geek hero-traitor from leaving town because, while our authorities had him down as Edward Joseph Snowden, the US paperwork named him variously as Edward James Snowden or Edward J Snowden.
Imagine that (say) the perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing had fled to Hong Kong: would a quibble over his middle name leave him free, lest we pick up the wrong Timothy McVeigh? This is where mendacity becomes audacity. Few US officials or politicians would stoop to debate this sort of crap even if Ed were still here rather than in Moscow. To confound them even more, Hong Kong is also still demanding a response to its query about the National Security Agency’s hacking into our local Internet hub up at Chinese U.
This is rather obviously taking a leaf from China’s statecraft textbook: playing the ‘victim’ card. That’s hardly surprising given that the whole drama has required Hong Kong to align (to put it mildly) its interests fully with Beijing’s. But it goes beyond presentation; this affair has resulted in a step forward in the ‘Mainlandization’ of Hong Kong’s international relations. The US and its closer intelligence-sharing allies will not see honorary-Anglosphere-member Hong Kong in the same light again. Give it time, and Rimsky will be complaining that Western powers’ misdeeds are hurting the feelings of the Big Lychee’s people.
And so we have to return to domestic trivia. The Hong Kong government releases its annual wine-purchasing meta-data. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam gets through a lot, but then she does so much work doesn’t she? Ultra-patriot Lau Nai-keung’s medication kicks in – or wears off – with the pointed observation that Hongkongers can hardly go around being happy smiling Chinese if their city and well-being are sacrificed to an influx of tourists…
If our collective interests are genuinely shared with 1.3 billion compatriots on the mainland, how can we reconcile this fact with our everyday experience – such as congestion, inflation, shop closures and rising real-estate prices?
And, as if on cue, the Cochrane Street branch of Pho Tai in Central is ordered to be closed down after its owner is found guilty of operating an inoffensive, affordable and cheerful Vietnamese restaurant aimed at local people, and because we really need another jewelry/cosmetics/scented candles/luxury French macaroon outlet…
Schoolboy error by the Yanks though.
The world’s greatest superpower who know everything about everybody as a result of high tech computer hacking and yet they can’t get the name of their most wanted citizen right.
Keystone cops stuff – bet someone in the US Justice Dept is getting a right rogering now.
Rimsky is quite right. They also didn’t use the right form I should think.
I can’t agree with you about Pho Tai. I couldn’t eat what they put in front of me. I paid and left without touching it. Surly, unfriendly staff. And I often walk out of a restaurant which brings you a can without a glass, then dump it unopened and walk off. Cans should never be served at table in any case. I think they brought the can and a straw, dumped them and left. Even untrained people would be more helpful than that.
If you’re untrained and unfriendly and serve unpalatable food, you really have to close down. They’ll never learn otherwise.
“The US and its closer intelligence-sharing allies will not see honorary-Anglosphere-member Hong Kong in the same light again.”
This is an excellent point and probably the most significant development for Hong Kong in the whole affair. Bye-bye plucky little Hong Kong fighting for democratic rights, hello untrustworthy communist stooge.
Admit it, you can’t reconcile the essentialist occidental philosopy that says if you know who you’re talking about only a malevolent formalist would wilfully misunderstand and the worldly, pragmatic, sceptical ethic that appearance and reality can’t be separated, and there are only 63 or so surnames shared between 1.4 billion dissembling people, so you can’t be too careful.
I look forward to the SCUMP’s commentators, desperate to scrabble together tomorrow’s copy, picking up, after a decent interval, your invariably innovative catchphrases and mordant vision. After all Lau Nai-keung is just parroting your decade-old reservations about mainland tourism, so it does eventually all come around.
@PCC Exactly. Even if HK manages to convince the US that it was just following Beijing’s orders, that still makes it a stooge. The US will be sure to factor that into its future dealings with HK.
Putin compared Snowden to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been given asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, saying that both men were labelled criminals but consider themselves rights activists and champions of freedom of information.
“Ask yourself a question: Should people like that be extradited so that they put them in prison?” he said.
“In any case, I would prefer not to deal with such issues”
” It’s like shearing a piglet: a lot of squealing and little wool.”
Good stuff from comrade Vladimir ! Bet he is a-lovin’ it !
PS : Fred (previouslyknown as RTP has no connection with LTP (r’ted or otherwise) . But I do advise us all to keep changing our names in case one day the NSA snoops on the Big Lychee and puts out a search warrant because we mentioned enery the orse aka HK’s own home-bred WMD.
With luck they’ll get our name wrong… (well it’s a long shot but worth the try)
Sorry Hemlock – totally disagree. The State Department revoked his passport so they really had no excuse for miss-spelling his name! And I wouldn’t mind betting that, if RTP received a tax demand and discovered that HIS name was miss-spelt he would take full advantage of the error using his ‘existentialist pragmatic philosophy’!
Typically in law enforcement cooperation, you identify a person you want arrested overseas or extradited by their proper full name and a passport or ID card number for extra certainty. As LTP observed, in HK and China, lots of ethnically Chinese people can have the same name and this may have informed the Immigration and Justice Dept’s practice even if the odds of two US citizens Edward J Snowden’s being in and leaving HK at the same uniquely coincidental time were close to zero. HK civil servants tend not to be imaginative. HK civil servants also tend to observe the Justice Dept’s advice with near religious deference, even to the point of abdicating any common sense on occasion, and the Justice Dept is ridiculously cautious. I can well imagine advice on the horrors of the minor chance of arresting the wrong Snowden. Here the civil servants and Leung have the added incentive of using legal advice to avoid making a controversial decision too – so easy to say they were relying on legal advice. It’s all too easily imaginable.
Then, why is this so indefensible? Extradition under the relevant HK law is discretionary and conditioned on considerations of human rights, like most Western countries, that legitimately gave the HK authorities an out if they took that view. Depending on your individual balancing of rights to privacy versus the supposed imperative of fighting terrorists regardless of the civil liberties cost and the right of the public to know about what their national or foreign authorities are doing, they seem to me to have been quite entitled on one view to let Snowden go. Especially when the NSA have probably committed crimes under HK law of dishonest use of a computer for which they’ve yet to receive an answer. Even US allied European governments are questioning what the US has done. Why do they have to arrest Snowden in these circumstances? Or then surrender him.
Politicians and governments around the world take faux refuge in technicalities to avoid publicly admitting what everyone knows sometimes, doubly so in diplomatic affairs. So, adopting the same practice here may be patent or disingenuous but not surprising or nefarious.
Lastly, the Basic Law since inception has given the central govt the final say on foreign affairs as you’d expect under one country, two systems. This may have been an occasion when one country trumped two systems and you can’t be surprised about that.
Any foreigner living in HK who ignores that HK is ultimately a part of China on core Chinese interests relating to sovereignty and foreign affairs is living in an imaginary colonial still life.
I’d expect normal HK-US and other western country cooperation on normal law enforcement cases to continue. This wasn’t a normal case.
One last thing, does anyone really think that Western intelligence agencies really share matters that they think might be passed to the central govt with the HK govt? They may on matters of common interest like terrorists, money laundering, people and drug smuggling and like pure law enforcement issues that they suspect has a HK impact or that may happen in HK territorially. I don’t think they’re sharing info on who they spy on and how and information that they get that would reveal that on matters closer to traditional “national security”.
Dick Cheney still thinks Snowden was a Chinese spy and a lot of the loonier parts of the US congress think Hutchison Whampoa’s port operations were a front for Chinese intelligence. Huawei might be, it might not be. I remember the Australian govt didn’t let Singapore Telecom take over the second Australian telecom company on the basis that Singapore intelligence might use it as a trojan hourse. A not too paranoid fear I would have thought. It can certainly be argued by the Chinese govt now that Google, Facebook etc are trojan horses for US intelligence.
Re “The US and its closer intelligence-sharing allies will not see honorary-Anglosphere-member Hong Kong in the same light again.”
If the US wants to ensure that they have fewer friends around the world – which they have spent the last decade or two doing with magnificent success – they’re welcome to talk tough for a few minutes in HK’s direction. But that’s just Kerry making noise; sound and fury signifying nothing, from the country with the world’s shortest attention span. It’s already obvious that the US trusts nobody, not even its own citizens.
I’m more curious about how Eddy the Snow is enjoying his “debriefing” in Moscow. One must sing for one’s supper.
@colonelkurtz – what a load of bollocks and random generalizations. “HK civil servants tend not to be imaginative” – well, they thought of putting a cruise terminal on a runway – “Justice Dept is ridiculously cautious” – being cautious is their job. There is nothing ridiculous about it at all. And the discretion that is exercised in the system is discretion in law, not discretion in administration. As to whether the NSA committed crimes under HK law, so what? The point is whether or not Eddie did. He apparently didn’t as the HK authorities didn’t arrest him, or even bring him in for questioning.
But my sympathy is with Eddie. After a few weeks of being debriefed by ex-KGB Russians, I suspect he’ll be begging for extradition.
Because some of the commentators here are so closed-minded when it comes to anything to do with the USA, I offer up this: the actual text of the extradition treaty.
It asks only for a “description of the person sought, together with any other information which would help establish his identity and nationality, including, if known, his whereabouts.
Anyone find the bit requiring passport numbers or the exact spelling of the middle name feel free to post the link.
Whatever, How about this for a description: male, short black hair, brown-black eyes, between 5′ 5″ and 5′ 10″, no distinguishing marks?
HK authorities let Ed go because Beijing told them to.
It’s a reeeeaaally slow day at work so I did read through your post. Somewhat off subject, but, contrary to your assertion, Singapore Telecom DID take over Australia’s 2nd Telco, Optus. It was thought that the Chinese authorities blocked Singtels attempt to take over HongKong Telecom on similar spurious and paranoid grounds, leaving the way clear for Li minor to clean up.
You sound like a possible former or present HK civil servant, maybe a former or present justice dept lawyer. I may be wrong. I apologise if I am. I know from more than 10 years experience what they’re like. Legal advice has to be sensible and practical as well as legally correct. I know from experience the HK justice dept is often not. (I’m not sure if the reference to cruise terminal is relevant or a joke.). Discretion whether legal or administrative is still discretion. The distinction is effectively meaningless.
My other observations are from working in an area that makes me reasonably informed on these issues.
Problem with viewing these things from outside is none of us (including the media we rely on) know the facts so we can only speculate. Your speculation is based on gut feel or prejudice or relying on media reports that seem from my reading to be based on speculation or partial information. I’m just illustrating relevant considerations and dealing with some of the outrage that I think is misplaced.
“Whatever”, I would not describe the commentators here has “closed-minded when it comes to anything to do with the USA”, so much as “critical of the hypocrisy, double standards and contempt the USA uses in dealing with the rest of the world”.
For example, the NSA maintains they didn’t break any laws because they didn’t spy on Americans, despite the fact that they provably did, because spying on Americans is wrong; but the fact that they spy on citizens of the rest of the world without restraint is, for those same Americans, a non-issue. Hypocrisy and contempt.
@ Gerald : Please note that my name is now Fred . I have reformed.
(But you are right : RTP would have done just that )
@ colonelkurtz : ZZZZZZZZZZ ……………………
Even RTP at his verbose worst was not so long-winded……
What really got me with the NSA, when their initial claim that it didn’t matter, because they were only targeting foreigners, proved untenable, they tried to fall back on categories like US-based foreigners, foreign-based Americans and the inevitable foreign foreigners.
Reminds me of the Chinese policy on yuan (remember FECs?) or the HK govt policy on the localisation of trees in country parks.
I owe you an apology.
having waded ( with aqualung support) through everything you wrote it makes a lot of sense, and I do agree with you in general
But, on a more depressing note, read the leader op-ed in the SCMP today by some ex USA- diplomat guy called Murphy ( of Murphy’s law fame? ) now studying at HKU who states that as a matter of basic fact there’s f**********g nothing that will ever stop the NSA snooping on us as in the past.
Leopards don’t change their spots and Yanks don’t change their stars and stripes
“O say can you see by the dawn’s early light ” etc
PS : Two interesting side points about the USA :
a) The reason why the Star-Spangled Banner is such a rousing national anthem tune is that it was originally written to fit a pub drinking song (unlike most other national anthem tunes which were composed by morons, except for the Germans)
b) the reason the USA does not go metric is that they consider the metric system as having been set up by the evil-catholic- French
Strange but true
Quoting from the treaty: Exceptions granted if it is determined:
(1) that the request was politically motivated,
or (3) that the person sought is likely to be denied a fair trail or punished on account of his race, religion, nationality, or political opinions. T
For 1), prosecution based on his exposing the illegal activities of the biggest spy organization in human history counts as a political.
For 3), considering that Obama has already declared him guilty, it is clear he would not have a fair trial.
Hong Kong took the easy way out and just told the defector Snowden that he should defect somewhere else.
I only wrote so much because extradition is technical and I thought I could give some experience informed comments.
Also, a lot of commentors crictical of what HK did, apply a hypocritical standard that ignores that this is exactly what their own home countries do. That needs a bit of redressing other than simplistic pro or anti US rhetoric.
The US will do what it wants until it’s no longer the world’s economic centre of gravity. That’s slowly happening with other nations developing economically and the US overspending on foreign wars and unable to reform their own domestic governance. As with imperial Spain and the UK, as economic power fades, so does military and diplomatic power.
US excpetionalism is ultimately the US’ own worst enemy.
@ colonelkurtz ( yet again)
You correctly wrote :
“The Basic Law since inception has given the central govt the final say on foreign affairs as you’d expect under one country, two systems. This may have been an occasion when one country trumped two systems and you can’t be surprised about that.
Any foreigner living in HK who ignores that HK is ultimately a part of China on core Chinese interests relating to sovereignty and foreign affairs is living in an imaginary colonial still life”
That is a truth I recognized and accepted back in the mid – 80’s, which is why I am happy to live in HK ( and also partly in China) and have disassociated myself from those few remaining foreigners who still live in that ‘imaginary colonial still life’.
You are like the speaking dog from “UP”
Down boy. There now….
OK. Point taken
(But is it so wrong to actually love China – I mean love the Chinese people and all that is good in China, even though I don’t condone the bad ? )
Anyway…. time for bed and wake up for tomorrow’s Hemmer’s blog.
Life is not so bad in the BL
Re: incorrect details.
Coincidentally earlier this year I received letters from the Magistrates Court regarding a petty claim against my company. The company details were incorrect, even the company name. We put them straight in the bin.
A few months later we received further letters informing us that we did not attend the hearing and surprise surprise the judge found in favour of the plaintiff. Incorrect company details again, straight in the bin.
A few days later we had another batch of judgement against you letters, only this time with the correct name and address. Not only did they retroactively ammend the company details to the correct one, but even to this day we cannot get an appointment with a real person to explain what went on and ask why they are allowed to change details after the case has been heard.
When HK went metric the Police issued a wanted notice stating they were looking for a male, black hair, 1.75cm in height.
He was not apprehended.
What’s up with your usual music link? Is there a new band called Error 404 that I haven’t heard of??
While we’re on the subject of hypocricy, just imagine what would happen if the FBI turned up to any court in the USA with an arrestee on a warrant in which the full name was incorrect – the defence counsel would walk to the bank giggling.
I preferred the pre-Pho Tai establishment, when it was a dumpling and other stuff eatery. A bowl of dan dan min and a few dumplings were a great dinner. It turned Vietnamese with the same surly serving ladies and I never went there again.