China has demanded that the U.S. be held accountable for spying on its citizens.
This marks the first time China -- not a bastion of free and unrestricted media and Internet access -- has spoken out about the controversial NSA program PRISM since whistleblower Edwards Snowden revealed its existence. The reason China has chosen to speak out now is that Snowden claims that the U.S. spied not only U.S. citizens, but has been doing it to Chinese citizens as well since 2009, the Financial Times reports.
"We believe the United States should pay attention to the international community's concerns and demands and give the international community the necessary explanation," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Monday. China asserts that it is one of the world's biggest victims of hacking attacks, Reuters reports.
Hua also categorically denied that Snowden was a spy for China, calling the rumor “sheer nonsense,” although Snowden is still allegedly hiding out in Hong Kong, and the Beijing central government will ultimately decide whether Snowden will be extradited, if Washington were to request such a move.
As it stands, the most vocal Chinese voices on the Snowden extradition issue have been in favor of keeping him in Hong Kong. Much political hay has been made in the Western press out of a poll in the Global Times, a tabloid owned and operated by the government, which revealed 98 percent of respondents to the poll favor refusing to send Snowden back.
“Unlike a common criminal, Snowden did not hurt anybody. His 'crime' is that he blew the whistle on the U.S. government's violation of civil rights,” read the accompanying editorial, as translated by Reuters. “His whistle-blowing is in the global public interest. Therefore, extraditing Snowden back to the U.S. would not only be a betrayal of Snowden's trust, but a disappointment for expectations around the world. The image of Hong Kong would be forever tarnished.”
On Sunday, hundreds of people took part in a rally in Hong Kong in support of Snowden and his actions, Voice of America reports.
Maya covers the U.N., Europe, and the Middle East for IBTimes. She joined the company in July 2012 after having previously worked with DNAinfo.com and Gawker.