Edward Snowden, the whistleblower behind the revelations of the United States massive Internet spying program, turned to the Guardian newspaper once again, this time for an online Q&A, shortly after China broke its silence over the leaking scandal and said that he was not a spy for the country.
Chinese Foreign Ministry has been tight-lipped for the past week on the Snowden saga. Its belated response—still very much carefully worded— came amid intensified media frenzy on what many believe to be the biggest intelligence leak in US history.
The Ministry’s spokeswoman Hua Chunying denied that Snowden might be a spy for China, calling such allegations “sheer nonsense”. She also urged the US to heed the international community’s concerns about the surveillance programs and offer a “necessary explanation”.
In the 90-minute Q&A session with British newspaper the Guardian on June 17, 2013, the 29-year-old former CIA worker retained his strong-willed demeanor: “All I can say right now is the US government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.” Snowden is believed to have conducted the online chat in an undisclosed location in Hong Kong, where he is currently seeking refugee.
The furious debate over privacy versus security initiated by Snowden’s explosive revelations has the potential to spill over into a diplomatic dilemma for Beijing. China under newly appointed leadership has been carefully navigating the treacherous waters of Sino-US relations, making the handling of Snowden's case a high-stakes game.
Some US politicians have pushed for an extradition of Snowden for him to face prosecution back home. But half of Hong Kong residents believe Snowden should not be extradited, according to a poll in the Sunday Morning Post.
Despite a cautious response from the government, China's online world has been abuzz with chatter surrounding Snowden.
Zui Mowen is now residing in US. On popular Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo, she ranted about what she believes to be unbalanced reports in the US media:
Most US media reports of Snowden practically made no mention of Prism programs and its content, they reported [the incident] in the context of “leaking state secrets”. Only a handful mentioned that what has been leaked is associated with security surveillance programs by the state.
China's national broadcaster CCTV posted the official response on its Weibo:
CCTV NEWS【Snowden: I am not spy for China】In answering questions from questions filed by netizens across the globe, Snowden said he is not a spy for China. He stressed that he only cooperates with media, and hasn't contacted the Chinese government. The idea that Snowden is a “spy” for China and might be cooperating with the Chinese government is completely unfounded and groundless, spokeswomen for Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hua Chunying said on the same day. She also said US needs to give the international community an explanation.
Former head of Google China Kaifu Lee urged non-partisan perspective when examining the Snowden case:
I wrote a few Weibo postings on Snowden and Prism and criticized the US government, I also ranted about the weakening human rights in the Internet era. I was shocked to see how some people responded to me: “Kaifu Lee looks one way but rows another? What does he mean to do? Is he trying to promote the communist party online?” Friends from both the leftist and rightist faction: We all have the ability to think, why don’t we judge a case as it stands? For both US and China, we should applaud when they do good things. And we need to criticize when they mess things up. To choose one faction without making sense of the whole situation only proves that you lack the ability to think.
Li Mu, a columnist residing in Canada, was very hawkish:
Snowden is a traitor, or he might be a spy for China—This is the latest accusation leveled at him by US former Vice President Cheney. I thought the US might come up with a new way to name call, look at yourself [what you have done]…..
Jingying_Dong_Ras from Beijing wrote:
Will Snowden be the next Assange? Beijing and Hong Kong need to carefully calculate. Washington is determined to extradite [him], whether that will materialize or not will depend on how Beijing would gauge the short-term and long-term repercussions of it. What we can see for now is that Beijing and Hong Kong have been “passing balls” to each other. Interestingly, Beijing just failed a football match, but perhaps it will show some skills in China-US diplomacy.