Handelsblatt Exclusive

Edward Snowden's Guardian Angels

Ajith, Vanessa, Nadeeka and Supun l-r photographer Jayne Russell
Six refugees who sheltered NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 in Hong Kong, before he fled to Moscow. They wanted to be identified only by first names. From left to right: Ajith, a former soldier from Sri Lanka; Vanessa, a domestic helper from the Philippines and her daugher, Keana; Nadeeka, a refugee from Sri Lanka with her husband, Supun, and their daughter, Sethumdi.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Refugees sheltered Edward Snowden for two weeks in Hong Kong slums when he became the target of an international manhunt in June 2013 before fleeing to Moscow, Handelsblatt has learned.

  • Facts


    • NSA contractor Edward Snowden went underground for two weeks in Hong Kong in 2013 after disclosing his employer’s secrets, hidden by refugees on behalf of a human rights lawyer.
    • Mr. Snowden remained in Kowloon and other neighborhoods at a series of safe houses until fleeing escaping to Moscow, where he remains in exile, a fugitive from U.S. justice.
    • Mr. Snowden and his Hong Kong lawyer are telling the story of his first two weeks on the run to highlight the plight of refugees in Hong Kong, one of Asia’s wealthiest cities which grants asylum to only 0.3 percent of applicants. “Snowden,” a film by U.S. director Oliver Stone, opens this month in Germany and around the world.
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Edward Snowden doesn’t like vegetables. Nadeeka* smiled at this as she washed the dishes in her small kitchen. The guest who had slept in her room for the last three days may have been the world’s most-wanted man, but when it came to his eating habits, he strongly resembled her daughter, Sethumdi. The meat disappeared, the side dish stayed on the plate. Now, on this hot summer day in 2013, Mr. Snowden and Sethumdi were playing in the hallway. Times like these, the American acted normal.

Nadeeka, a petite woman with jet-black hair, finished the dishes and went into the hallway. Her guest had withdrawn to his room again. She knocked on the door, opened it and found him bent over his laptop, as usual. Nadeeka told him she was going shopping. She felt sorry for the young American for having to spend so much time in the stuffy room. He looked at her for a moment, without moving. Then he said: “Nadeeka, I’m alive in this room. I’m dead outside.”

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