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Should China Consider Giving Snowden Asylum?

As Snowden considers asylum offers from Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, and perhaps mulls a second application to Russia (Putin had earlier said if Snowden wanted to apply asylum there, he’d have to stop releasing NSA leaks), should China Consider Giving Snowden Asylum?

By the answers, I am hoping to gauge people’s attitude toward Snowden.  For me, I am neutral.  I personally have nothing against government “snooping.”  I have nothing to hide in general.  As long as they don’t pick on me for little trivial things (I trust governments generally enough that they wouldn’t), I have nothing against government tapping, government cameras, government sucking of emails, etc.  So what Snowden has revealed does not hit me in the stomach on that level.

However, I believe what Snowden has revealed is important in a geopolitical context.  Previously, we thought of the Internet as “free” – run by innovative Stalwart companies devoted to freedom, free from government interference.  Now we know the vastness of what we consider to be “free internet” is merely a very nationalized network space that is compatible with one specific set of values and that is at the core of 21st century geopolitical competition.

That’s an important insight for humanity to know.

So – should China…?

As Snowden weighs his not very stellar asylum choices, should China give asylum if given a chance?

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[Editor’s Note: clarification added 2013-07-09]: From the above write-up about “geopolitical context,” one might misunderstand me as saying that what Snowden has to say has no relevance to Americans and relevance only to the rest of the world.  That’s not what I meant.  To the extent Americans are world citizens, they should care.  They should understand so they understand why the information they get online in the so-called free internet (and also why the information they get in the so-called free media, why their very perspective about the world, about history) may be so biased and American (or Western)-centric.  And then perhaps they may understand why so many things they had taken to be Universal may just be American (or Western)-centric.  What Snowden revealed, and he may not even understand it, is to change the paradigm by which we view the world by revealing a blindspot we had universally taken for granted.  Others have noted the dangers of relying on “google” for all information on the net – because that essentially allows one entity – which is not beholden to the “people” per se – to define our knowledge, our worldview, our identity…  It is equally dangerous to rely on the falsehood of a universal, free internet for our information because there is no such thing as a universal internet.  Language and cultural barriers would have fragmented it fr0m the start – though now we see politics from the U.S. already set it up to fragment from the very beginning, too.

  1. Zack
    July 9th, 2013 at 04:57 | #1

    i voted maybe because the timing of Snowden’s whistleblowing came at both an opportune and inopportune moment for Sin-US relations.
    First of all, Snowden’s revelations about American NSA hacking into Hong Kong and Chinese universities and network backbones revealed the duplicity of the American government’s policy of pressuring China to ‘stop hacking/cyberespioange’ with the ultimate goal of crippling China’s cyber defence capabilities with legislation allowing it to go after Chinese hackers. Snowden’s revelations allowed Beijing to maintain autonomous use of its internet and even further, revealed to the world, the hypocrisy of the US. For his service and for all the other tech intel, Snowden may be able to divulge, of course Snowden should’ve been able to find asylum in China proper.

    However, concurrently China needs the US’ help in reining in a right wing nationalistic Abe led Japan, as well as the desire by most people in the world for these two nations to cooperate and work together. It was possibly for these reasons of realpolitik that Beijing probably advised Snowden to leave HK before they were compelled to arrest him at Washington’s behest.
    It’s for the latter reason that i voted ‘maybe’.

    It’s also a good thing that unlike India or Poland who have deferred to the US and rejected Snowden’s pleas for asylum, that China has declined to comment in that respect. China is still developing and it still needs markets in the US and EU (which have proven themselves to be US vassals) to transition to first world status by 2020;

  2. N.M.Cheung
    July 9th, 2013 at 05:32 | #2

    I voted maybe, although I consider Snowden as an American hero, a Luke Skywalker battling the evil empire and Obama/Darth Vader, I don’t think he meshes with Chinese objective and worth unnecessarily antagonize U.S. where most Americans are shallow and reflectively shouts U.S.A. and consider him a traitor. At present he will have a difficult time to travel to Latin American to fine his refugee. I do have a suggestion if Venezuela grant him citizen status that either Beijing University or Tsinghua University hire him as a professor. China will then be just hiring someone from Venezuela.

  3. Black Pheonix
    July 9th, 2013 at 07:20 | #3

    I voted “yes”.

    I acknowledge that there are many practical issues and problems that will be created for China, if China grants Snowden asylum. I also recognize that it will be somewhat of a political philosophical duplicity/ irony / hypocrisy for China to grant safe haven to a government secret leaker like Snowden.

    However, I note that it’s not like US ever had a problem with public hypocrisies of monumental scale.

    I also note that it’s not like Snowden or Assange are completely devoid of hypocrisies themselves. (for that matter, any would be “human rights” advocates).

    So, why should China pretend that it should keep its hands clean of hypocrisies in this matter? It’s not like the hypocrites of the other side would ever respect China for it. (They as usual continue to pile hypocritical accusations at China shamelessly).

    I think China should grant Snowden asylum, to give him a measure of “freedom” in China, which he would not have in the West.

    Snowden is no fool, he knows that he will sacrifice some freedom for asylum. That is a given.

    Undoubtedly, whereever he goes into asylum, he will have to be protected by a government. And that means, he won’t be completely free to roam around unwatched.

    * the practical result is, we are in a new age of Cold War of BS hypocrisies. And we don’t have much of a choice.

    China should be a safe haven for those who run away from the persecution of the hypocrisies of the West.

    Not as an ideological statement, but to simply offer an alternative / sanctuary.

  4. Black Pheonix
    July 9th, 2013 at 08:49 | #4

    Also, I don’t think Latin American nations can offer long term asylum to Snowden. Which means, it’s likely that Snowden will need a more permanent asylum in a larger nation like China, where he can enjoy a bit more freedom and security from the threats of US.

    Again, I don’t think China should care the apparent contradiction of public image, since most of that contradiction is just Western PR.

    The irony would be more apparent, as it was for some, that Snowden chose to run to Chinese HK 1st, to seek safety from US.

    Thus, it would be equally ironic that if Snowden ultimately does end up in asylum in mainland China.

    *Again, China should not try to make any public statement via this kind of gestures, but China should offer what humanity it has the power to give to someone who needs it. (Snowden in this case).

    China should not pass judgment on what Snowden did.

    ***Snowden, as an American citizen, acted according to his own beliefs of American and Western values. Thus, China should not judge him according to Chinese laws or Chinese values. By his own conscience, Snowden did nothing wrong. By the consequences, there is no apparent damage to his country or his people, other than to the embarrassment of his government.

    As such, Snowden is not a risky criminal element.

    Yet, the persecution he is suffering from US is grave and risky to his life, far more and disproportional to the unsubstantiated damages his disclosure has caused.

    For humane treatment of such an individual, China should grant him asylum.

  5. Black Pheonix
    July 9th, 2013 at 10:16 | #5

    Before some HH naysayers begin to make ridiculous generalizations about China’s “asylum” policies, it may be interesting to illustrate China’s historical patterns in asylum laws.

    Historically, China has an unclear tradition on asylum, as traditionally, the Chinese view is that foreign citizens are subject to Chinese laws only when they are in China, but they are also subject to the laws of their own land, and thus Chinese laws cannot protect them against their own laws.

    *The break of that traditional occurred slightly, when China was forced open by foreign powers who opened economic concessions in various parts of China. Many stateless refugees came into China to escape from reaches of their own laws. Generally, China accepted these refugees by turning blind eyes to them. However, China also generally did not refuse any extradition requests at that time.

    For example, 10,000’s Czarist Russians settled in China after the October Revolution in Russia. Soviets did not actively seek their repatriation, but later placed them in labor camps when the Soviets occupied Harbin China, and in 1954 repatriated a wave of the Czarist Russians.

    As such, China historically has been a place of mere temporary refuge for asylees. But nevertheless, the recognition of asylum in Chinese laws has increased in recent decades.


    China is a signatory party to 2 international treaties on refugees, and a new Exit and Entry Administration Law passed in 2012 came into effect on July 1, 2013 (1 week ago), to formalize the process of asylum and refugee applications under Chinese domestic laws.

    Snowden is perhaps an opportunity for China to demonstrate the working of the new law, to demonstrate that China can offer mercy of humanitarian legal protection in her boundary.

  6. Panthera Tigris Amoyensis
    July 10th, 2013 at 08:01 | #6

    It seems Evan Osnos is leaving China with a blot on his New Yorker record over this. Basically, he reported untrue statements. Read this exerpt from the London Guardian Newspaper: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/10/snowden-denies-information-russia-china

    “NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, in an interview on Saturday and then again Tuesday afternoon, vehemently denied media claims that he gave classified information to the governments of China or Russia. He also denied assertions that one or both governments had succeeded in “draining the contents of his laptops”. “I never gave any information to either government, and they never took anything from my laptops,” he said.

    The extraordinary claim that China had drained the contents of Snowden’s laptops first appeared in the New York Times in a June 24 article. The paper published the claim with no evidence and without any attribution to any identified sources.

    In lieu of any evidence, the NYT circulated this obviously significant assertion by quoting what it called “two Western intelligence experts” who “worked for major government spy agencies”. Those “experts” were not identified. The article then stated that these experts “said they believed that the Chinese government had managed to drain the contents of the four laptops that Mr. Snowden said he brought to Hong Kong” (emphasis added).

    So that’s how this “China-drained-his-laptops” claim was created: by the New York Times citing two anonymous sources saying they “believed” this happened. From there, it predictably spread everywhere as truth.

    Shortly thereafter, the New Yorker – under the headline “Why China Let Snowden Go”
    told its readers: “His usefulness was almost exhausted. Intelligence experts cited by the Times believed that the Chinese government ‘had managed to drain the contents of the four laptops that Mr. Snowden said he brought to Hong Kong, and that he said were with him during his stay at a Hong Kong hotel.'” It was then repeatedly cited to demonize Snowden in venues such as DC gossip sheets, right-wing outlets, and diaries at Democratic Party sites.”

    Naughty naughty Evan. Been exposed to too many Jeremy Goldkorn’s, Richard Burgers, Dan Harris’s, Anthony Tao’s, and Gilman Grundy’s have we?
    The New Yorker is cool. But that reporting is based on lies.

  7. pug_ster
    July 10th, 2013 at 10:04 | #7


    Despite the best efforts by the Western Propaganda to censor the name ‘whistleblower’ when it comes with snowden, I find it funny that 55% of the Americans believe that Snowden is a whistleblower. This is the kind of fake democracy and fake media America is. You would think that these corrupt politicians and fake media would have some kind of consensus of what Americans think but they really belong to the 1%.

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