Hong Kong Will Decide My Fate, Edward Snowden Tells South China Morning Post

In an interview, Edward Snowden said he is leaving the "courts and people of Hong Kong to decide" his fate.

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Photos of Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), and U.S. President Barack Obama are printed on the front pages of local English and Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong in this illustration photo, June 11, 2013.

In an exclusive interview with The South China Morning Post, Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old government contractor who leaked secret NSA documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post, said he is leaving the “courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate.”

While his exact whereabouts have been unknown since he checked out of a Hong Kong hotel Monday, Snowden confirmed to the Hong Kong English daily that he is still in the region and is there to stay:

“People who think I made a mistake in picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality. I have had many opportunities to flee HK, but I would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong’s rule of law. My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate.”

(MORE: Viewpoint: Our Antiquated Laws Can’t Cope With National Security Leaks)

Charges against Snowden may be imminent, as a Justice Department official revealed Tuesday that charges of “treason” and “aiding the enemy” are “under discussion.” There’s an extradition treaty between Hong Kong and Washington, but the U.S. has not made an extradition request yet. However, Snowden claimed in the new interview that the U.S. is “bullying” Hong Kong’s government into extraditing him as quickly as possible so that he doesn’t reveal more secrets about the NSA’s surveillance programs in Hong Kong and China. “The US government will do anything to prevent me from getting this into the public eye, which is why they are pushing so hard for extradition,” he told The South China Morning Post.

According to TIME.com’s rundown of Hong Kong’s complicated legal system, Hong Kong “can only ‘surrender’ Snowden, because ‘extradition’ takes place between sovereign states (like the People’s Republic of China). Surrender requests are made through diplomatic channels to Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, who could then ask a magistrate to issue an arrest warrant.”

MORE: In Hong Kong Hideout, Snowden Faces Complex Legal System