Adding to the string of embarrassing revelations of US government's Security Intelligence strategies, whistleblower Edward Snowden has come in the spotlight once again making claims that the US government has been hacking into the computer networks of China for years.
The 29-year-old, ex-CIA employee recently claimed to be behind the exposure of the top-secret US surveillance program known as PRISM that has apparently "unfettered" access to phone call records and internet communication data of virtually every American citizen. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, he said that the National Security Agency's (NSA) controversial PRISM program extends to people and institutions in Hong Kong and mainland China.
Speaking from an unknown location in the city, which he claims "will protect him from the US", Snowden revealed that the US has started exerting "bullying" powers on Hong Kong to extradite him.
The revelation came in the wake of both the PRISM scandal and the recent summit between US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jingping, in which the former was to press for China's supposed role in a series of cyber espionage targeting US intelligence. Snowden told the newspaper that among 61,000 NSA hacking operations globally, hundreds of them were targeted at Hong Kong and the mainland since 2009.
Saying that he was revealing the classified information "in good faith" to demonstrate "the hypocrisy of the US government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure unlike its adversaries", he claimed to be neither traitor nor hero but only an American.
"I believe in freedom of expression. I acted in good faith but it is only right that the public form its own opinion," he told the English language news agency that operates from Hong Kong.
As the Obama Administration appeared to exert pressure on the Chinese president days ago on the cyber attacks emanating from China which Obama described as "direct theft of United States Property", Snowden's accusations gave weight to the counter-allegations of some Chinese government officials that the country has been victim of similar cyber attacks from the US.
The scandal broke out in the middle of the summit between the two leaders, making some analysts sceptical if Obama's confrontation with his counterpart would be as effective as it would otherwise be, had the news never broken out. While Obama himself was on the defensive side justifying his government's actions, the situation gave political advantage to Chinese diplomacy. Xi knew that the "pot wouldn't call kettle black" as one analyst told the CNN during the summit.
Going by the events that have unfolded in succession, it is unlikely that the scandals were mere coincidences. The fact that the revelations were made during the exact time of the Chinese Leader's visit to the US and that Snowden made himself visible from a Chinese territory of all places on Earth seemed to benefit China as much as they harmed US government's image in global geo-politics.
Importantly, why does Snowden believe so vehemently that the Hong Kong government will save him from the US?
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