By Yang Jingjie|
China's foreign ministry Monday slammed claims by US politicians that controversial whistle-blower Edward Snowden was a spy for China.
At a regular press briefing on Monday, ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said it was "sheer nonsense," while commenting on the allegation that Snowden may have been cooperating with China.
Snowden himself has made comments in line with this stance. In a live blog with the UK-based Guardian newspaper, Snowden responded to these kinds of claims himself by saying that he had not had any contact with the Chinese government, and had only spoken with journalists. He also asked "if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace."
He pointed out that he had considered Iceland as an alternative haven, but was worried about being "interdicted en route" and that Hong Kong was an easier location to choose without advance booking.
Snowden is now hiding in Hong Kong after exposing the US National Security Agency (NSA)'s controversial PRISM program.
In an interview with Fox News Sunday, former US vice president Dick Cheney called the 29-year-old former NSA contractor "a traitor" and said that he is "deeply suspicious," when asked whether he thinks Snowden is a spy for the Chinese. China may be willing to provide protection for Snowden in exchange for more secrets, he said on the show.
US congressman Peter King Friday also told MSNBC that Snowden may have been working with China, citing the fact that Snowden studied Chinese and the timing of the revelations, which happened on the same weekend when Chinese President Xi Jinping met US President Barack Obama.
Yuan Zheng, a research fellow with the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday that there is very little chance that Snowden cooperated with China.
"The Americans were anxious about the embarrassing exposure, and desperately pointed fingers [at China]," Yuan said.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post last week, Snowden said the US has been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland since 2009.
The PRISM program also caused a backlash among Washington's allies, including the EU and Japan. Obama is expected to be confronted over the issue at the ongoing G8 summit in Northern Ireland.
"The US should pay attention to the concerns and demands raised by the international community and deliver a necessary explanation to the global community," Hua demanded on Monday.
The PLA Daily, a flagship paper of the Chinese military, Sunday carried an opinion piece accusing US intelligence departments of "willfully collecting intelligence under the banner of anti-terrorism."
Shen Dingli, an associate dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, said Monday that Snowden's taking refuge in Hong Kong will help China fend off US cyber attacks.
The incident is expected to shape the atmosphere of next month's working group meeting on cyber security under a bilateral strategic security dialogue.
"Although China wouldn't make full use of the issue, it is expected to demand an explanation. The US is expected to restrain its aggressive manner during the talk. Therefore, it will create a friendly atmosphere for the dialogue," Yuan said.
Separately, a Guardian report revealed that foreign politicians who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts.
The Guardian named the Turkish finance minister as one of Britain's targets and revealed an attempt by the NSA to eavesdrop on former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev at the summit, noting evidence contained in documents uncovered by Snowden.
In comments reported Monday in Chinese state media, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying reiterated that Hong Kong authorities would only comment on the matter when the case was at the appropriate stage.
In the Guardian live blog, Snowden also singled out the US government for mistreating previous whistle-blowers, including Bradley Manning, who was charged for revealing military secrets to whistle-blowing website Wikileaks. In regard to the claims he is working with Beijing, he said that US media often has a knee-jerk reaction to China.