China's State Newspaper Praises Edward Snowden For 'Tearing Off Washington's Sanctimonious Mask'

Edward Snowden HK

China’s top state newspaper has praised the fugitive US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden for “tearing off Washington’s sanctimonious mask” and rejected accusations

Beijing had facilitated his departure from Hong Kong.The strongly worded front-page commentary in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist party, responded to harsh criticism of China from the US for allowing Snowden to flee.

The Chinese government has said it was gravely concerned by Snowden’s allegations that the US had hacked into many networks in Hong Kong and China, including Tsinghua University, which hosts one of the country’s internet hubs, and Chinese mobile network companies. It said it had taken the issue up with Washington.

“Not only did the US authorities not give us an explanation and apology, it instead expressed dissatisfaction at the Hong Kong special administrative region for handling things in accordance with law,” wrote Wang Xinjun, a researcher at the Academy of Military Science in the People’s Daily commentary.

“In a sense, the United States has gone from a ‘model of human rights’ to ‘an eavesdropper on personal privacy’, the ‘manipulator’ of the centralised power over the international internet, and the mad ‘invader’ of other countries’ networks,” the People’s Daily said.

The White House said allowing Snowden to leave was “a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the US-China relationship”.

The People’s Daily, which reflects the thinking of the government, said China could not accept “this kind of dissatisfaction and opposition”.

“The world will remember Edward Snowden,” the newspaper said. “It was his fearlessness that tore off Washington’s sanctimonious mask”.

The exchanges mark a deterioration in ties between the two countries just weeks after a successful summit meeting between presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping. But experts say Washington is unlikely to resort to any punitive action.

A commentary in the Global Times, owned by the People’s Daily, also attacked the US for cornering “a young idealist who has exposed the sinister scandals of the US government”.

“Instead of apologising, Washington is showing off its muscle by attempting to control the whole situation,” the Global Times said.

Snowden gave US authorities the slip by leaving Hong Kong on an Aeroflot plane to Moscow on Sunday. The US had requested his detention for extradition to the US on treason charges but the Hong Kong authorities responded that the papers had not been in order and Snowden was free to leave.

Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said Washington did not believe the explanation that it was a “technical” decision by Hong Kong immigration authorities. “The Hong Kong authorities were advised of the status of Mr Snowden’s travel documents in plenty of time to have prohibited his travel as appropriate. We do not buy the suggestion that China could not have taken action.”

On Monday Snowden had been expected to board another plane from Moscow for Cuba and ultimately fly from there to Ecuador, which is considering granting him asylum. But journalists who boarded the plane in Moscow soon found Snowden had not taken his seat.

When the plane landed in Cuba there was likewise no sign that Snowden had been on board. The pilot greeted journalists at Havana’s Jose Marti international airport by pulling out his own camera, taking pictures of the them and saying: “No Snowden, no.”

The harshly worded Chinese commentaries did not appear on the country’s main news portals on Tuesday afternoon. Instead most articles focused on hard news, such as Snowden’s still-unknown final destination, his relationship with WikiLeaks and the details of his departure from Hong Kong.

Another editorial in the People’s Daily on Monday defended the Hong Kong government for allowing Snowden to leave despite a US warrant for his arrest, claiming that it acted according to the law and “will be able to withstand examination”.

“The voices of a few American politicians and media outlets surrounding the Prism scandal have become truly shrill,” it said. “Not only do some of them lack the least bit of self-reflection but they also arrogantly find fault with other countries for no reason at all.”

Shi Yinhong, an expert on China-US relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said the Snowden affair had given China’s leaders an opportunity to shore up their own legitimacy domestically by projecting a strong message of US hypocrisy.

Yet behind the scenes, he said, top leaders were probably reluctant to allow the affair to significantly impact bilateral ties. “Maybe this will have an impact on public opinion in China, but for the Chinese government almost nothing has changed,” he said. “Even if this damages China-US relations it’ll be very temporary.”

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