China asks for U.S. explanation on NSA surveillance

June 17, 2013 08:13 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:19 pm IST - BEIJING

China on Monday called on the United States to address the international community’s concerns in the wake of the revelations over the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities.

The Chinese government also hit out at suggestions from U.S. politicians that the former CIA employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden may have had ties to Beijing, describing the allegations as “sheer nonsense”.

Mr. Snowden, who is still thought to be in a “safe house” in Hong Kong after he left Hawaii on May 20, last week provided fresh details about the NSA targeting servers in Hong Kong and China, prompting the Chinese government and State media here to hit out at American “double standards”. Washington has recently stepped up pressure on Beijing on cyber security, citing hacking attacks from China directed at U.S. enterprises.

“We believe the United States should pay attention to the international community’s concerns and demands, and give the international community the necessary explanation,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Monday.

Asked about comments from U.S. politicians, including former Vice-President Dick Cheney, suggesting Mr. Snowden may have been spying for the Chinese, Ms. Hua responded, “This is sheer nonsense”.

On Saturday, Hong Kong activists carried out a rally calling on the government to support Mr. Snowden. Hong Kong has, in the past, worked closely with the U.S. on criminal cases, leaving some lawyers surprised that the former CIA employee chose to flee to the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR).

The Communist Party-run Global Times in an editorial on Monday said Hong Kong — and Beijing — would be wrong to extradite Mr. Snowden, describing such a move as a “face-losing outcome for both the Hong Kong SAR government and the Chinese Central government”.

“Snowden believes in the democracy and freedom of Hong Kong. His whistle-blowing is in the global public interest. Therefore, extraditing Snowden back to the U.S. would not only be a betrayal of Snowden's trust, but a disappointment for expectations around the world. The image of Hong Kong would be forever tarnished,” the newspaper said.

While the editorial acknowledged that the case would “cast a shadow” over the new type of relationship that China and the U.S. have pledged to establish, it said China “has no responsibility to help the U.S. quench the fire”.

“Washington must be grinding its teeth because Snowden’s revelations have almost overturned the image of the U.S. as the defender of a free Internet,” the editorial said.

“The ‘no comment’ attitude of the Chinese Central government and the ambiguous statements from the Hong Kong administration are the proper responses. China should follow public opinion and safeguard its interests.”

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