Where To Go When The U.S. Government Is Chasing You

Hong Kong Skyline

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I hear Namibia is nice this time of year.

The U.S. government hasn’t officially declared its intentions to extradite former CIA employee and PRISM leaker Edward Snowden back to the States, though that certainly doesn’t mean it won’t. Snowden is currently hiding out in Hong Kong, though where in that massive and complex city isn’t clear.

Hong Kong isn’t a great choice if you’re trying to lay low and avoid extradition; it has an extradition law with the United States and is also, despite being technically a part of China, a staunch ally of the United States. The two governments obey a 1996 extradition treaty in which a US citizen residing in Hong Kong can be extradited if that person is suspected of violating both U.S. and Hong Kong law.

There are some exceptions; a fugitive can apply for asylum in Hong Kong to avoid extradition. The Hong Kong government looks kindly on asylum applications in which the applicant is likely to face torture or the death penalty in the US, or in which the crime is perceived as political. But that’s unlikely. The only wild card is that Hong Kong is nominally under Chinese control, and the Chinese do have the authority to step in and prevent Snowden’s extradition if they so desired. China has no extradition treaty with the United States; it’s one of several, but one of only a few nations to lack a US extradition treaty with which the U.S. isn’t openly at war. (Nobody would be surprised to learn that North Korea and Iran do not extradite to the US, either.)

Snowden, though, seems to know that Hong Kong isn’t a U.S. refugee paradise. “People who think I made a mistake in picking HK as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice, I am here to reveal criminality,” he said in a recent interview with the South China Morning Post. He did not say why he picked Hong Kong over, well, anywhere else.

That all said: perhaps the time will come when you want to flee your home nation and not come back. No judgments! I mean, maybe judgments, if you do something that hurts people, but in this hypothetical, let’s just say you are a nonviolent violator of some American law Americans don’t even like very much, and you have to beat it out of dodge. Here’s where you should go instead.

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