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Wednesday 23 August 2017

Hong Kong rejects asylum for refugees who sheltered Snowden

The asylum seekers pose outside the building of Hong Kong's immigration department. (AP/Vincent Yu)
The asylum seekers pose outside the building of Hong Kong's immigration department. (AP/Vincent Yu)

A group of refugees who sheltered former NSA contractor Edward Snowden four years ago have seen their asylum requests rejected by Hong Kong, according to their lawyer.

Robert Tibbo said immigration officials denied the applications by the four adults and three children, in what he said is retaliation for helping Mr Snowden.

The applicants are from the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

Mr Snowden hid out in Hong Kong for two weeks in June 2013 after he leaked documents revealing extensive US government surveillance.

His whereabouts were a mystery during that time.

It was not until last year that the role Mr Tibbo and his clients played in sheltering Mr Snowden was revealed.

Mr Tibbo said his clients will appeal against the ruling.

They have also applied for refugee status in Canada.

He said he represents 50 to 60 other clients who are applying for asylum in Hong Kong, where cases typically take years to be processed.

But so far, only these cases have received a decision from immigration officials - issued last Thursday - in a sign they have been targeted by authorities, Mr Tibbo said.

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

"For example, about how long had Mr Snowden been staying with them, what was Mr Snowden's movement in the territory, which is irrelevant to the (asylum) claims," he said.

The group includes Ajith Pushpakumara, a former Sri Lankan soldier; Vanessa Mae Rodel, who is from the Philippines and has a five-year-old daughter; and a Sri Lankan couple, Supun Thilina Kellapatha and Nadeeka Dilrukshi Nonis, and their two children.

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