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‘Betray Snowden, betray freedom’: Hong Kong, Washington rallies embrace NSA leaker

‘Betray Snowden, betray freedom’: Hong Kong, Washington rallies embrace NSA leaker
Hundreds marched in Hong Kong to demand protection for Edward Snowden, who leaked revelations of US electronic surveillance and is now believed to be holed up in the city. The demonstration came hours after a similar action was staged in Washington, DC.

Chinese protesters, made up of 27 civil society organizations, marched to the American consulate, holding banners bearing Snowden's image and reading “Betray Snowden, betray freedom”,Safeguard freedom of speech, protect Snowden”, and "No Extradition" in both Chinese and English. 

The protesters handed over a letter addressed to US Consul General Steve Young slamming the violation of human rights exposed by the ex-NSA officer.

Protesters hold placards as they march to the US consulate in support of Edward Snowden from the US in Hong Kong on June 15, 2013. (AFP Photo/Philippe Lopez)

“For many years, the US State Department has publicly supported the cause of internet freedom and criticized other governments for conducting cyber-attacks, surveillance and censorship,” the statement says. “We now understand, through recent revelations, that the US government has been operating their own blanket surveillance systems and allegedly conducting cyber warfare against Hong Kong. This is a violation of Human Rights of people of Hong Kong and around the world.”

In an interview with Hong Kong's main English-language newspaper the South China Morning Post on Wednesday, Snowden maintained that among the 61,000 targets hacked by the NSA there were hundreds in Hong Kong and mainland China.

One of the organizers of the protest a democratic legislator Claudia Mo told AP that "His war is essentially one of security versus privacy and freedom and that governments must draw a line of how far they could go. They can't claim national security as the umbrella excuse, the umbrella reason and authoritarian governments can just do anything they want to in the cyberspace.”

Protesters hold placards as they march along the US consulate in support of former US spy Edward Snowden in Hong Kong on June 15, 2013. (AFP Photo/Philippe Lopez)

There were American citizens who joined protests in China. Like Drew Gibson, a protester from New York.

"Snowden did absolutely the right thing,” Gibson said. “He had insider knowledge of these surveillance programs, and I think at a great personal risk he was willing to expose this to the world. I don't think he would benefit from this in any way.”

"Today we all blow the whistle," shouted Tom Grundy, a British blogger and activist who lives in Hong Kong, France 24 reports.

Kwazi Nkrumah speaks while joining protesters rallying outside the U.S. Capitol against the NSA's recently detailed surveillance programs June 13, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

Earlier, outrage has been building in the opposite part of the world. Outside Capitol Hill in Washington, a couple of dozens of protesters were warned that their gathering had not been authorized and therefore was unlawful, so all those rallying without a permit would be subject to arrest.

Protesters in Washington voiced their concern about unchecked government powers.

“We’re supposed to address our grievances to our government, this is one of the biggest scandals ever – and we’re not allowed to do that – what does that say?” one of the protesters told RT.

“I think these discussions about Snowden are really a distraction. What we need to be focusing on isn’t what he did was lawful. It is whether or not what the agency did was lawful,” one woman said.

“What we do or don’t do as a society about this massive accumulation of power through the control of information about people’s personal and social lives, gathered on every digital electronic device marketed to us,” a man addressing the meeting said. 

Protesters rally outside the U.S. Capitol against the NSA's recently detailed surveillance programs June 13, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

The cyber stand-off between the US and China has heating up over the last months amid accusations made by Washington of Chinese hackers stealing vital information from American companies. It turned out, though, that it was Washington that organized a total surveillance programs enabling the US administration to gather information on any living human being, be it an American or a Chinese citizen.

A former contract employee at the National Security Agency, Snowden revealed to The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers confidential information on secret US surveillance programs that gathers any digital data, from phone calls to file storage, on practically any person living on our planet. Snowden, 29, was last time seen in Hong Kong.

The US authorities have launched a criminal investigation into Snowden’s actions and he is being currently sought by both the NSA and CIA, most likely to be charged with treason.