US Warns China and Russia over Snowden

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Snowden's flight from Hong Kong to Russia took place despite an official American request for his extradition. Secretary of State John Kerry said today that it would be deeply troubling if authorities in Hong Kong had ignored those requests. Kerry also warned of consequences for U.S., China relations. But according to The World's Mary Kay Magistad in Beijing, it's not clear who gave the go ahead for Snowden to travel.

Mary Kay Magistad: There's been a lot of speculation that the Chinese leadership must have been involved, they must have sent a signal, but thus far there's been no absolute confirmation that the okay came from Beijing. There is officially one country, two systems, and the Hong Kong judicial system functions semi-independently.
The Hong Kong officials say we didn't have sufficient information to make a decision that we would extradite him. The U.S. obviously is very unhappy with that, strongly disagrees. Hong Kong could come back and say, you know, an entity, a country or a territory gets to decide whether they want to extradite.
As a case in point, Canada held Li Chun Sing, a billionaire who was wanted by China for corruption. For years they allowed him to live there before they finally extradited him back. So it's not unprecedented that just because someone gets an extradition request they wouldn't necessarily fulfill it immediately.

Werman: Now, John Kerry said that it was deeply troubling that the extradition requests by the U.S. were ignored. What do you think is the most troubling part of this for the U.S.?

Magistad: For those who want to see Snowden prosecuted it's that it's not going to be as straightforward as they might have thought it was going to be in making the request to Hong Kong. But, I mean, the information is out. A conversation or debate has been started in the United States about this and now elsewhere as well.
I mean, certainly one lasting ramification of this is that the Chinese government, which has been somewhat restrained in its public rhetoric around this issues, actually, very interestingly, has nonetheless made the point of, you know, we've been saying all along that we're a victim of this as much as anything else and that we don't support surveillance. Which of course, you know, I mean, the Chinese are known to do surveillance themselves, but this has been the official line. And they've said as their official statement, you know, we would like to have a discussion on this issue and try to be more constructive in how we deal with each other on the way forward.

Werman: And what do Chinese have to say about this? I mean, I saw one legislator in Hong Kong who was singing Snowden's praises. Is that echoed across society?

Magistad: Snowden is considered a hero in much of China, and actually in much of Hong Kong. There have been people on China's version of Twitter, called Weibo, who have been comparing the help that he received to get from Hawaii to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Russia, as being like operation yellow bird.
Now operation yellow bird was the operation that helped Tiananmen pro-democracy protesters escape China after the military crackdown in 1989. And this is appearing on China's Weibo, China's version of Twitter, inside China, and the comments are not being taken down.

Werman: The World's Mary Kay Magistad, speaking with us from Beijing. Thank you.

Magistad: Thanks Marco.