Date
23 March 2017
Lawyer Robert Tibbo (extreme left, in picture on right) suspects that Sri Lankan authorities are pursuing the asylum-seekers who sheltered US whistleblower Edward Snowden (L) in Hong Kong in 2013. Photos: Reuters, HKEJ
Lawyer Robert Tibbo (extreme left, in picture on right) suspects that Sri Lankan authorities are pursuing the asylum-seekers who sheltered US whistleblower Edward Snowden (L) in Hong Kong in 2013. Photos: Reuters, HKEJ

Sri Lanka said to be on hunt for HK refugees who aided Snowden

Sri Lankan asylum-seekers who sheltered US whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong in 2013 are fearing for their safety as they believe authorities from their home country are looking for them.

Barrister Robert Tibbo, who represents the three families that sheltered Snowden, said he was told by asylum-seekers residing in Hong Kong that at least two officers from the Sri Lankan Police have made trips to Hong Kong, looking for people involved in the Snowden saga.

The officers, from the police’s criminal investigation division, were said to have visited Hong Kong in November and December last year, carrying photos and personal details of the members of the Sri Lankan families which helped Snowden.

Tibbo said he has reasons to suspect that it was a case of attempted cross-border law enforcement.

The Sri Lankan police have denied that they are seeking to question their citizens involved in the Snowden affair.  

The claims have been met with skepticism, with Tibbo saying that the Sri Lankan families have now been moved to a safe location, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

According to Tibbo, the relatives of one of the families were interrogated by authorities in Sri Lanka and were pressured into disclosing the contact details of their family members living in Hong Kong.

The identities of seven Sri Lankans from three families that sheltered Snowden were exposed following the Oliver Stone-directed movie “Snowden”, which was released in September last year.

It was reported that Snowden stayed at the homes of Sri Lankan refugees Supun and Nadeeka, and also spent some time at the home of another asylum-seeker named Ajith.

Apart from the Sri Lankans, a Filipino refugee identified as Vanessa, was also said to have provided help to the US whistleblower.

Snowden spent two weeks in hiding in Hong Kong after he fled the US following leak of classified information that detailed mass-surveillance activities by American spy agencies.

He subsequently left for Moscow.

Tibbo said it was not the first time Sri Lankans law enforcement officers entered Hong Kong to look for their targets.

He added that Snowden is very concerned about the safety of the three families which had helped him during his stay in Hong Kong.

The former US National Security Agency sub-contractor is said to be raising funds for the families in order to help them start a new life in Canada.

Lawmaker Charles Mok said the Hong Kong government must not turn a blind eye to cross-border law enforcement as such moves can endanger the safety of asylum-seekers and also pose a threat to local citizens.

He is demanding an explanation from the government on the reported Sri Lankan police visits.

The Security Bureau, meanwhile, said the reported incidents have not been verified or investigated by local law enforcement agencies.

If anyone has information on illegal activities, the matter should be reported to the police as soon as possible, it said.

The Bureau reiterated that under the Basic Law foreign law enforcement agencies are not allowed to carry out their duties in Hong Kong.

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