Thursday, November 26, 2015   

Ip in security minister's shoes

Mary Ma

Thursday, June 20, 2013


It's common to see a charged atmosphere at the Legislative Council, but the drama over US whistle-blower Edward Snowden yesterday takes the cake.

Security secretary Lai Tung-kwok said he couldn't reveal details of what the government has been or will be doing about Snowden.

While Chief Executive Leung Chun- ying may have said "no comment" seven times in a Bloomberg interview, Lai must have muttered the phrase much more often than that.

But former security secretary-turned lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee was even weirder. As if she was still the minister, Ip reminded her Legco peers they weren't supposed to ask for sensitive information.

She also said Snowden basically has three options - seeking a court protection order, political asylum, or judicial review.

It wasn't the first time Ip commented on the case, but she keeps changing her tune. In the beginning, she suggested the whistle-blower should leave Hong Kong. But now she's saying she knows of cases where asylum-seekers remained in the SAR eight years after making their initial claims.

If that timeframe is a valid reference, Ip seemed to be telling Snowden he could be here at least until 2021.

Snowden has become a pawn in the chess game being played by Beijing and Washington. But it's clear China is getting more aggressive by the day.

Yesterday, state media Global Times carried a third commentary, explicitly urging the SAR to take into consideration public opinion that is supportive of Snowden.

It went further to suggest the Hong Kong administration should cast aside concerns over Sino-US ties and consider harboring a man even if he's labelled a traitor by his own government.

If Beijing's mouthpiece, People's Daily, carried a similar commentary, the appeal would have more credibility. But who would expect the influential paper to ask the Hong Kong government to harbor a traitor or criminal? If it did, the SAR would become a haven for fugitives.

The increasing support for Snowden, as demonstrated by the protests outside the US consulate- general on Garden Road, is a continuation of the syndrome that whistle- blowers of government infringement on rights are bound to find support among some sectors - not unlike what's happened with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

However, surrounding the Snowden case is something never before seen in local politics. Not only are the pan- democrat and pro-establishment camps singing off the same song sheet, the pan- democrats and mainland propagandists are humming a similar tune.

Suddenly, the Global Times is looking like a pan-democratic newspaper.

US President Barack Obama has asked his Department of Justice to prepare to seek Snowden's extradition.

It's plausible that diplomatic efforts to secure Snowden's early return has hit a brickwall in Beijing.

The Americans may be growing impatient, but China has all the time in the world.

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