Hong Kong Media Scrambles To Find Edward Snowden, NSA Whistleblower

Journalists in Hong Kong are scrambling to find Edward Snowden after the NSA whistleblower revealed that he has taken refuge there.

Snowden revealed his identity in a Guardian piece published on Sunday. After approaching the media with bombshell revelations about the NSA's secret programs, he left the United States for Hong Kong and holed himself up in a hotel room for three weeks.

The Washington Post reported that a guest by the name of Edward Snowden had been staying at the Mira Hotel, but checked out Monday. It is unclear whether Snowden is still in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong-based correspondents have been trying to hunt him down, staking out a number of hotels that matched the description Snowden gave to the Guardian. The Guardian's Ewen MacAskill reported that "media scrums" were forming at hotels in the city, while USA Today described the search as a "media manhunt."

Snowden told the Guardian that he chose Hong Kong as a refuge for its "spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent." In an interview with the Associated Press, The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald said that Snowden fled to Hong Kong because he "doesn't really trust the judicial system in the United States to give him a fair trial." The revelation, however, has sparked speculation about whether his choice was a wise one.

The current treaty between Hong Kong and the U.S. guarantees extradition unless China believes that doing so would hurt "defense, foreign affairs or essential public interest or policy" — an exception that some experts say is rare. The New York Times reported Monday that the government is "seen as likely to extradite" Snowden if the U.S. requests it to do so, while New York magazine's Joe Coscarelli predicted that China will do what is necessary to avoid a "diplomatic crisis."

The New Yorker's Evan Osnos also questioned Snowden's choice, writing that "going to Hong Kong out of devotion to free speech is a bit like going to Tibet out of a devotion to Buddhism; the people love it, though they live under authorities who intervene when they choose."

Other experts imagined some scenarios where Snowden might be granted asylum. The Global Post's Benjamin Carlson also reported that Hong Kong is currently changing its procedure for reviewing applications for asylum, which might work in Snowden's favor if asylum seekers are allowed to stay in the city until a new procedure is put in place.

Ironically, a full-page ad in Monday's New York Times touted "the Hong Kong advantage" when it comes to business opportunities in the city. ABC News editor Jon Williams tweeted a picture, writing, "Ed Snowden hoping so."