China’s top state newspaper praises Edward Snowden for “tearing off Washington’s sanctimonious mask” and denies claims it helped him escape, as the hunt for the US whistleblower continues.
A strongly worded commentary in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily, which reflects the thinking of the Chinese Communist party, said that the US had gone from being a “model of human rights” to an “eavesdropper on personal privacy”.
The article follows Washington’s strong criticism of Beijing for allowing Mr Snowden to flee Hong Kong.
The whereabouts of Mr Snowden, who exposed the so-called NSA files detailing the US and UK governments’ widespread surveillance of internet data, is currently unknown. He is thought to have flown from Hong Kong to Moscow, and was expected to fly from there to Ecuador, where he has applied for political asylum.
The US has gone from a ‘model of human rights’ to ‘an eavesdropper on personal privacy’…and the mad ‘invader’ of other countries’ networks – People’s Daily
But Mr Snowden was not on the flight when it touched down in Cuba.
The exchange between Washington and Beijing mark a deterioration in ties between the two countries just weeks after a successful summit meeting between President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping.
But experts say Washington is unlikely to resort to any punitive action.
The White House said the decision by China was “a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the US/China relationship”.
The People’s Daily said China could not accept “this kind of dissatisfaction and opposition”.
The Chinese government has said it was gravely concerned by Mr Snowden’s allegations that the US had hacked into many networks in Hong and China, including Tsinghua University, which hosts one of the country’s internet hubs, and Chinese mobile network companies. It has said it had taken the issue up with Washington.
“Not only did the US authorities not give us an explanation and apology, it instead expressed dissatisfaction at the Hong Kong special administrative region for handling things in accordance with law,” wrote Wang Xinjun, a researcher at the academy of military science in the People’s Daily commentary.
“In a sense, the United States has gone from a ‘model of human rights’ to ‘an eavesdropper on personal privacy’, the ‘manipulator’ of the centralised power over the international Internet, and the mad ‘invader’ of other countries’ networks,” the People’s Daily said.
“The world will remember Edward Snowden,” the newspaper said. “It was his fearlessness that tore off Washington’s sanctimonious mask.”
In another commentary in the Global Times, owned by the People’s Daily, the newspaper attacked the United States for cornering “a young idealist who has exposed the sinister scandals of the US government”.
“Instead of apologising, Washington is showing off its muscle by attempting to control the whole situation,” the Global Times said.