A media manhunt began in Hong Kong early today as reporters awoke to discover the man claiming responsibility for a series of sensational leaks about U.S. spying programs last week was hiding in a local luxury hotel.
The U.S. Consulate in the city referred questions back to the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington.
The Hong Kong government also had no immediate comment, and Iceland’s honorary consul could not be immediately reached.
Despite close ties between Hong Kong and the U.S., the Hong Kong government is not expected to take action against Edward Snowden. “I think they won’t do anything if he’s here legally and lawfully,” said Steve Vickers, a former head of criminal intelligence for the Hong Kong police who is now an intelligence and security consultant. “I’m sure they will monitor the situation closely.”
Vickers said Hong Kong would be inclined to act if an arrest warrant is issued for a charge that is also a crime in Hong Kong or if the U.S. makes a request through Interpol, the global organization for law enforcement cooperation.
He did not expect Washington to pursue either option, and Interpol explicitly stays away from political and military cases. While the Chinese government would have an interest in talking to Snowden, Vickers said the matter was now too high profile for Beijing to reach out to him.