Former NSA contractor and employee at Booz Allen who is behind the alleged NSA leaks is now in China. The US has begun preparations for his prosecution and possible extradition. Until now, the Chinese government has been tight lipped about the fate of Snowden. China has given out mixed messages indicating a possible extradition,but also keeping the option open for him to stay in China.
The Hongkong police has made clear that any arrest of Snowden in Hongkong would have to be made solely by the Hongkong police. Some politicians in China have taken to the air waves to support Snowden. They say extraditing Snowden would scare all others with information that might be helpful to China from coming to China.
China has several options at its disposal to prevent the extradition of Snowden. It could slow the extradition process by grinding it to a halt to the extent that the US would give up. Although, Hongkong and the Chinese government have often cooperated strongly on issues like terrorism, money laundering and drug trafficking, the issue of Snowden might appear a to be a hard pill to swallow for China in order for it to cooperate meaningfully with the US.
China is perhaps looking at the situation more closely to see if it can find something more favourable to itself. Snowden is reported to have told the South China morning that the US government regularly hacks into Chinese government computers and the personal computers of some Chinese officials to glean critical information.
Such information would be very useful to Chinese intelligence agencies who would like to know how the US government intercepts and tracks information. Snowden appears to be the go to guy and the pawn most suitable for this situation. One influential Chinese national paper published an editorial in which it strongly made the case against extraditing Snowden. It said Snowden is the card China hoped to get and China is not used to playing. He is a gift China must welcome and make use of. The paper goes further to say Hongkong natives should treat Snowden with care and respect.
At the moment it is still early and premature to guess what China would do when it comes to Snowden's fate. It is anyone's guess, but like every government that works in its own selfish interest China is still assessing its options and what extent of greed it can accommodate.
The Chinese could use Snowden as a bait for the US government in order to obtain more concessions. If they succeed in getting the concessions, Snowden could be extradited. If not, they could decide it would be in their best interest to keep Snowden so future leakers would consider China a save haven.