Refugees who sheltered Snowden now live in fear in Hong Kong

“I (am) very scared, maybe they can arrest me,” said Supun Kellapatha, a Sri Lankan asylum seeker who gave up his family’s bed for Snowden. “I don’t have (a) normal life now.”

For weeks in 2013, the families took turns hiding Snowden in their cramped Hong Kong apartments, when he was trying to evade the authorities after carrying out one of the biggest intelligence thefts in US history. They kept their story secret until going public last year.

Edward Snowden’s Hong Kong lawyer, Robert Tibbo, who also represents the asylum seekers, told a news conference on Thursday that he has received information from “multiple sources” that members of the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department (CID) were in Hong Kong on at least two occasions, in November and December.

On the second visit, Tibbo said at least two suspected Sri Lankan CID members took “active steps” to find the families, who don’t want to return home because they fear being persecuted.

He says this included approaching another member of the Sri Lankan community on the streets of Hong Kong, where they asked for some of the families by name, and carried “photographs and files” about them.

Forced to move

Supun Kellapatha said that after hearing the reports, he felt he wasn’t safe to walk in the streets.

Ajith Puspakumara, another Sri Lankan asylum seeker who helped Snowden, said he is also “very scared,” adding that “this situation is not safe for me here.”

Tibbo says that when he learned about the situation in late December, he immediately moved the families to “safe locations.”

Relatives in Sri Lanka of one of the families had been “questioned, harassed and threatened” by Sri Lankan officials, Tibbo said.

Tibbo called on Hong Kong authorities to protect the families, because he thinks they’re at risk of being “unlawfully renditioned” out of Hong Kong.

“We do not believe that the Hong Kong government has provided the protection that our clients are entitled to receive as asylum seekers in Hong Kong,” Tibbo says.

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