Refugees who sheltered Snowden

Refugees who sheltered Snowden

According to reports on February 23, 2017, two refugees of Sri Lankan (SL) origin in Hong Kong (HK) are being sought by the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The reason is their sheltering of US whistleblower, Mr. Edward Snowden in June 2013, while he was in Hong Kong.

Are they Really Being Sought by Sri Lanka?

According to reports on February 23, 2017, two refugees of Sri Lankan (SL) origin in Hong Kong (HK) are being sought by the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The reason is their sheltering of US whistleblower, Mr. Edward Snowden in June 2013, while he was in Hong Kong. Mr. Robert Tibbo, is the lawyer who represents both the refugees and Mr. Snowden, himself. According to the lawyer, some persons carrying Sri Lankan official identification had approached the local SL community in HK in December 2016 and specifically enquired about the two men.

Thereafter, the two refugees relocated to a safer place and have notified the HK immigration department. They expressed fear of being forcibly taken to SL from HK, where they may face violence and torture. Mr. Tibbo said he intended to report the matter to the HK Police.

Who are the Refugees?

The two SL refugees are asylum seekers in Hong Kong (HK). Their identities were revealed by Mr. Tibbo prior to the premier of the movie, Snowden, in September 2016. He revealed their names as post the film’s release, their identities would have come to light nonetheless. They are two of at least four HK residents, who provided refuge to Mr. Snowden before he fled to Moscow. Mr. Kumara is a SL army-deserter. Whereas Mr. Thilina reportedly fled to HK from politically motivated violence in SL in 2005.

Did the SL CID Execute this?

The SL authorities have denied charges of executing such an operation. Also, no clear evidence has emerged behind SL CID’s interest in it. Carrying out of an arrest on HK soil will be tantamount to ‘extraordinary rendition’ - the illegal transfer of a person from a foreign country for detention and interrogation. Rendition is a violation of international law.

Assessment

There are more than 11,000 asylum seekers in HK and the conversion rate is reportedly less than 1%. This allegation of possible rendition could be a strategy to draw attention to the two refugees; to expedite the asylum process. The veracity of the reports is questionable. 

 

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