(HONG KONG) — Protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong on Saturday to show their support for NSA leaker Edward Snowden and demand a “thorough explanation” of the secret surveillance program he exposed.
Roughly 200 people braved the rain to march to the U.S. consulate, chanting “Free Snowden” and “Arrest Obama.” Others carried large posters with pictures under the headline “Big brother is watching you.”
Outside the U.S. consulate, demonstrators blew their whistles saying they “were all whistle-blowers today,” then handed over a letter to Consul General Steve Young, demanding an end to all surveillance of “innocent internet users” under the NSA program.
“The idea of mass surveillance not only violates the right to privacy and human dignity, but threatens the very fundamental human rights of freedom of thought, opinion, expression and association,” the letter said.
Crowds at the rally were significantly smaller than the 1,000 people organizers expected, but Snowden has slowly been gaining public support since he flew to Hong Kong and exposed himself as the whistle-blower behind one of the biggest intelligence leaks in U.S. history.
Earlier this week, he told the South China Morning Post that the NSA had been hacking Chinese and Hong Kong computers since 2009, specifically targeting Chinese University, public officials, and students.
The interview raised alarm, and appears to have rallied support behind Snowden who called the surveillance program proof of “hypocrisy of the U.S. government.”
A poll released by the same newspaper Saturday, showed one in two Hong Kongers believed their government should resist handing over Snowden, if Washington requested extradition.
“We demand the whole truth be disclosed by the U.S administration, and we demand an unconditional apology by Mr. Obama,” said Albert Ho, a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong.
Snowden has said he fled to this city, because of its strong tradition of free speech, and its reputation for independence from western countries.
But the high-profile case comes amid increasing anxiety of Beijing’s influence in Hong Kong’s government. The city has its own rule of law and political system, but residents worry that independence is fading.
Demonstrator Chikwan Ho said the Snowden case would be a major test of Hong Kong’s own freedoms.
“By standing up for Snowden, I also want to send a message that we need that kind of citizen in Hong Kong,” demonstrator Chikwan Ho said. “Somebody who is watching our government to see if they are abusing power to control our lives.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
Greg Botelho, CNN Newswire