HONG KONG – Refugees and social activists in Hong Kong took to the streets on Saturday for a rally in support of U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden amid a global campaign urging a presidential pardon for the former intelligence analyst.
The supporters marched to the U.S. Consulate General with banners proclaiming their solidarity with Snowden, who gained global attention in June 2013 when he leaked classified information from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) indicating that Washington was monitoring the telephone and online communications of millions of people around the world.
The analyst flew to Hong Kong in May 2013 shortly before his disclosures and was sheltered by refugee families during his first days in the city, before he fled to Russia, where he has been granted asylum.
“Three years ago, these brave families protected me in Hong Kong’s underground,” he recently said in a tweet. “They are still waiting for asylum.”
March organizers Socialist Action and League of Social Democrats said they had held the rally to “show appreciation for Snowden’s expressions of solidarity with the plight of refugees in Hong Kong.”
There are an estimated 11,000 refugees in Hong Kong, which has an asylum approval rate of just 0.5 percent – one of the lowest in the world, they added.
Snowden has been charged in the U.S. with theft of government property and violating the 1917 Espionage Act, and faces up to 30 years in prison.
On Sept. 14, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union launched a joint campaign urging U.S. President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden before he leaves office in January.
Under American law, the president can issue a pardon even before its beneficiary has been convicted of a crime.