Here’s Ai Weiwei writing in the Guardian on Tuesday:
Intrusions can completely ruin a person’s life, and I don’t think that could happen in western nations.
But still, if we talk about abusive interference in individuals’ rights, Prism does the same. It puts individuals in a very vulnerable position. Privacy is a basic human right, one of the very core values. There is no guarantee that China, the US or any other government will not use the information falsely or wrongly. I think especially that a nation like the US, which is technically advanced, should not take advantage of its power. It encourages other nations.
To limit power is to protect society. It is not only about protecting individuals’ rights but making power healthier.
Chinese netizens seem to be somewhat ambivalent about Edward Snowden, who may or may not be still hiding out in Hong Kong. The Wall Street Journal says he’s been given a “hero’s welcome” on the Internet:
“This is the definition of heroism,” wrote one particularly enthusiastic microblogger. “Doing this proves he genuinely cares about this country and about his country’s citizens. All countries need someone like him!”
While SCMP says netizens are either only mildly interested or confused:
Besides wondering why this is news at all, more bloggers seemed confused why Snowden, 29, had fled to China.
“Kid, we have a much more powerful surveillance system in China,” one wrote. “Coming here is suicide.”
“I strongly demand China grant him asylum,” wrote another micoblogger who hailed Snowden as a hero. “It’s time for our country to share the responsibilities of a super power.”
Evan Osnos of the New Yorker weighed in as well about “the sheer cosmic strangeness of the state of affairs in which an American whistleblower feels that he should flee to Chinese territory to avoid the power of the U.S. government.”
Mainland China, which now controls Snowden’s fate to some degree, is that kind of society, with an added twist: in the U.S. there may be an increasingly powerful, overweening state, but in China’s clamorous ecology of money and force, the state is just one invasive entity among many. Over lunch in Beijing not long ago, a friend of mine who works for a private corporate investigator told me offhand that, with one phone call, he could get me a transcript of every text message I had ever sent over the past eight years.