Hong Kong rejects asylum applications for refugees who harbored Edward Snowden

The seven people - four adults and their three children - allegedly helped hide Snowden when the fugitive was in the region in 2013 after he leaked documents revealing extensive US government surveillance.

He said there was a risk his clients could be detained and their children placed in government custody.

Hong Kong authorities have rejected asylum requests from refugees who harbored whistleblower and former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.

Stories and photographs of the asylum-seekers have been published worldwide, including in Sri Lanka and the Philippines, where they fear persecution.

He brought him to their homes in 2013 just after the former National Security Agency contractor revealed he had leaked classified information to the press revealing widespread United States government surveillance. They were introduced to Snowden by their lawyer, Robert Tribbo - who also represents Snowden. "With Mr. Snowden moving on from Hong Kong it is my view my clients shouldn't be left behind".

His whereabouts were a mystery during that time and it was not until past year that the role Tibbo and his clients played in sheltering Snowden was revealed. Earlier reports had said the Sri Lankans in the group had complained they were being hunted down by the Sri Lankan police, who had pursued them in Hong Kong in 2016, and could not return to their country.

It also denied that the government has singled the families out for expedited screening, saying the accusation is "unfounded and not true".

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The impoverished Philippine and Sri Lankan refugees helped the former National Security Agency contractor evade authorities in 2013 by hiding him in their cramped homes after he initiated one of the largest data leaks in United States history.

It was not until previous year that the role Tibbo and his clients played in sheltering Snowden was revealed. They have two weeks to appeal, BBC reported on Monday. "I don't want to be tortured".

Lawyers for the three families who assisted Edward Snowden are asking the government of Canada to fast-track their applications for asylum in this country.

But with fewer than one percent of cases successfully substantiated by city authorities, most refugees live in fear of deportation.

The Hong Kong government "has repeatedly tried to question the four adults about their involvement with Mr. Snowden", Tibbo said.

Hong Kong's 11,000 marginalized refugees spend years in limbo, hoping the government will eventually support their claims.

The refugees faced "dire risk if sent back to their countries", said Dinah PoKempner, general counsel at the rights group.

  • Megan Austin