(Adds Hong Kong official comments)
TORONTO, March 10 (Reuters) - Three families who helped
shelter former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward
Snowden in Hong Kong in 2013 after his mass leak of information
about surveillance programs have asked Canada for asylum, their
lawyer said on Friday.
The families - three Sri Lankan adults, a Filipina, and
three stateless children - have had long-pending asylum claims
in Hong Kong that they fear may soon be rejected, lawyer
Marc-Andre Seguin said in a phone interview from Hong Kong.
Seguin said the families had been thrust into the spotlight
after the September release of the Oliver Stone film "Snowden"
which referred to their role in Snowden's flight from the United
States in 2013 and, eventually, to Russia.
Seguin said the families and Hong Kong-based lawyer Robert
Tibbo, who introduced his clients to Snowden, now face
increasingly adverse circumstances in Hong Kong.
They said that they have been "actively sought by Sri Lankan
operatives" in recent months and fear for their safety in Hong
Kong, Seguin said. Reuters could not independently verify their
A spokeswoman for Canada's immigration minister said his
office does not comment on current or possible cases and could
not confirm or deny having received the applications.
Hong Kong authorities have yet to confirm that they are
investigating claims Sri Lankan operatives were working in the
territory, but a Security Bureau spokesman said it was illegal
for foreign agencies to carry out law enforcement action within
"Everyone in Hong Kong is protected by Hong Kong laws
regardless of his or her identity and background," the bureau
Snowden's leaks of classified information about government
surveillance programs caused an international furor over the
reach of U.S. spy operations. His defenders see him as a
whistleblower who exposed the extent of government snooping on
citizens. He has been allowed to remain in Russia for another
three years and will next year qualify to apply for Russian
citizenship, his Russian lawyer was quoted as saying in January.
(Additional reporting by Andrea Hopkins and Greg Torode;
Editing by Frances Kerry and Sam Holmes)