Hong Kong’s Justice Secretary said the US confused Snowden’s middle name, lacked his passport number in a request for his arrest and failed to provide evidence for charges, preventing HK officials from detaining the leaker before he left the territory.
The Hong Kong government did not assist Edward Snowden, the man
who revealed the top-secret NSA surveillance program PRISM, in
leaving the territory, but incomplete paperwork prevented
officials from issuing a provisional arrest warrant, Hong Kong
Justice secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said on Tuesday,
according to the South China Morning Post.
The US referred to the former CIA employee and NSA contractor’s
middle name as ‘James’, however the Hong Kong Immigration
Department had the name ‘Joseph’, Yuen said. The
application also lacked Snowden’s passport number, so there was
‘no legal basis’ to prevent him from leaving Hong Kong.
“Therefore, it was impossible and there was no legal basis
under Hong Kong law for the Department of Justice to ask a Hong
Kong judge to sign off on a provisional arrest warrant,” Yuen
said adding “[Thus] there then was no legal basis to
restrict or ban Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman told reporters Hong Kong
officials claimed to be confused on a point of Snowden’s middle
name, using that as a pretext for failing to act on the US
The US said Sunday it was “disappointed” by Hong Kong’s
“troubling” failure to detain the man responsible
for the biggest leak of US intelligence in history, before he
fled the territory on Saturday. The White House has insisted that
the personal information in the paperwork of the leaker the US
submitted to Hong Kong was correct.
The Hong Kong government on June 15 received the US request to
detain Snowden, who also revealed US cyber spying on China. It
named three charges including unauthorized disclosure of national
defense information, unauthorized disclosure of intelligence and
stealing state property.
Yuen said that the US failed to clarify the first two charges and
did not provide any evidence for the arrest, rejecting
suggestions that Hong Kong had been deliberately stalling for
“We had not been deliberately delaying the process. All along, we have acted in full accordance with the law,” Yuen said.
According to the extradition treaty between the two countries,
the HK officials had no authority to honor the USA’s extradition
request due to lack of evidence under the first two charges.
The justice secretary noted that he had requested information
from the US on Thursday and the US government has not responded
to the request.
"Until the minute of Snowden's departure, the US government
had not yet replied to our requests for clarification," he
noted. "Any suggestion that we have been deliberately letting
Mr Snowden go away or to do any other things to obstruct the
normal operation is totally untrue."
Hong Kong had not yet received a reply from the US to this
request, as of Tuesday, said the South China Morning Post.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden is reportedly in the transit zone of
Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow.