The SCMP piece highlights the options China has over Snowden and without saying it, the limited options for Snowden.
Basically, China doesn’t want to be seen “as directly meddling in the affair” while extracting as much information from Snowden as possible.
The nub of it is this…
“The most effective way is through Hong Kong because this will avoid Beijing being seen as directly meddling in the affair, which would upset the US,” said Professor He Qisong , a defence policy analyst at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.
Beijing would prefer to extract as much information from Snowden as it could, as early as possible, and then leave the matter to be settled through Hong Kong’s judicial system, He said. Peking University international relations professor Jia Qingguo said Beijing would prefer that Snowden stay in Hong Kong for the time being, so that it could verify his intelligence and determine whether it posed a threat to China’s national security.
As Hong Kong is part of China (albiet with a separate government), I’m not sure what bargaining power Snowden has. He is essentially a guest of Hong Kong. What this means is that if Snowden does get extradited to the US (and I’m still not convinced he won’t just stay abroad), he will have a difficult time shaking the “defector/traitor” label. And yes, it’s possible to be an idealist, who does a service for his country, while also betraying it.
I note the article ends a Renmin University professor predicting that China now has the upper hand on the US concerning cyber security discussions to begin next month.