(WASHINGTON) — NSA leaker Edward Snowden has acheived hero status for many Chinese Internet users. His Chinese fans on Sina Weibo, a Chinese social network similar to Twitter, have posted Snowden’s old modeling photos and “Snowden Handsome” is the first result to come back when his last name is entered as a search term.
A Weibo survey found that 78 percent of respondents regarded Snowden as a freedom fighter who is protecting civil liberties. As for how the Chinese government should handle the case, 81 percent supported giving Snowden asylum with the aim of either protecting him or extracting more information from him – or both. Only 3 percent supported surrendering him to the United States.
Snowden, a former consultant for the National Security Agency, is hiding out in Hong Kong since releasing details about the NSA’s vast program to collect data on Americans’ phone calls and emails.
He has also released information that supposedly shows U.S. efforts to hack Chinese correspondence. That revelation came after the U.S. had complained about Chinese hacking of U.S. computers. The complaint was followed by a casual California summit between President Obama the China’s President Xi Jinping.
Outrage over the perceived U.S. double standard has also been aired online. A popular comment on Weibo said, “If Edward Snowden was Chinese and worked for the Chinese National Security Agency, Obama probably would already have had him to dinner at the White House and nominated him for the next Nobel Peace Prize.”
The Chinese government has not reined in the online or on air commentary. On Thursday, CCTV evening news ran a segment on Snowden and his claims of the U.S. invading and hacking China and Hong Kong through the Internet.
Major Chinese news websites ran special “front page” sections on Snowden. Xinhua’s special page on Snowden touted how he “exposed the truth” about America being the “Hacker Empire”
So far Beijing has kept a low-profile on Snowden, and the Hong Kong government did not make any statements Friday.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Stephanie Halasz, Jason Hanna and Livia Borghese, CNN
Mohammed Tawfeeq and Gul Tuysuz, CNN
Madison Park and Steve Almasy, CNN
Kareem Khadder, CNN