HONG KONG – The Sri Lankan families who sheltered former CIA technician Edward Snowden in Hong Kong in 2013 have sought asylum in Canada after complaining publicly of being harassed by their country’s police, their lawyers said Thursday.
Three Canadian attorneys representing the families said at a press conference that Canada started processing the asylum request a few weeks ago and that they hoped the country’s immigration ministry would expedite the applications.
“It is very clear to us that our clients are not safe here, the urgent need to relocate them is a matter of life or death for them,” said Canadian lawyer Marc-Andre Seguin at the press conference that was also attended by the three families.
The families had provided shelter to Snowden for close to two weeks in late 2013 when the American whistleblower was fleeing authorities in the United States.
The poor living conditions of the refugees in the city and the threat to their security after their identities were made public led the Canadian lawyers to set up an organization “For the Refugees” to collect donations to help them.
The asylum seekers, who include a Sri Lankan family with two children and a former Sri Lankan soldier, had said on Feb. 23 they feared staying on in Hong Kong.
At the time their lawyer in Hong Kong, Robert Tibbo, had said there was enough evidence to prove that Sri Lankan police officers had visited the city at the end of 2016 to try to locate the refugees.
The lawyer, who hinted that this action could have been at the behest of the US government, added that government officials visited relatives of the refugees in Sri Lanka to try to find out their whereabouts.
Tibbo also accused the Chinese city of treating refugees like illegal immigrants and denying them a large part of the financial aid planned for those seeking asylum in Hong Kong.