Fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden was protected by asylum seekers in Tai Kok Tsui, Sham Shui Po and Kennedy Town during his stay in Hong Kong, according to an exclusive report in Canada’s National Post.

Asylum seekers offered the American “support, assistance and protection” between June 10 to June 23, 2013 according to the lawyer who assisted him, Robert Tibbo.

At the time, he was being sought by US authorities after leaking details of National Security Agency programmes to journalists at Tsim Sha Tsui’s Mira Hotel. It was from there that he was transported under the cover of night to an apartment in Lai Chi Kok where he was protected by asylum seekers named Nadeeka and Supun.

snowden in hong kong
Photo: Wikicommons.

Jonathan Man, a human rights lawyer who also supported Snowden, told the National Post that they knew asylum seekers would assist him as the legal team had helped them on their own immigration cases.

After around a week, Snowden was moved to Sham Shui Po where he stayed for four days with a former domestic worker named Vanessa who was also claiming asylum.

snowden protest
A Snowden protest in 2013. Photo: HKFP/Sissi Bonvini.

According to the newspaper, Snowden mostly remained inside each flat and worked on his computer. He ate McDonald’s food, spaghetti and burgers and would occasionally venture outdoors during the night. He used throwaway phones and encryption software to communicate when in-person meetings were not possible. He gave the couple in Lai Chi Kok and Vanessa US$200 as he left.

“They had a hundred chances to betray me while I was amongst them, and no one could have blamed them, given their precarious situations. But they never did,” Snowden told the National Post.

Gov’t allowed Snowden to leave

Before escaping to Moscow with the assistance of British Wikileaks staffer Sarah Harrison, Snowden spent a night in Kennedy Town with another asylum seeker named Ajith who was assisting him.

Harrison purchased a dozen plane tickets out of Hong Kong in order to confuse any local or foreign officials monitoring the airport. Snowden left after a “neutral to a green-light” was received from the government for him to depart, the National Post reports.

Although headed to Latin America, Snowden’s passport was cancelled whilst he was on board his Aeroflot flight to a Moscow transit point, meaning he was grounded in the airport for a month.

He was granted temporary asylum by Russia, where he remains now.

Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.