While Hong Kong is undoubtedly a more pleasant place to spend time than an Ecuadorian embassy—let alone a US prison—analysts are baffled by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's decision to take refuge there, as are lawmakers in the largely self-governing Chinese territory. Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the US, though Beijing maintains the right of veto over it, notes the Guardian, calling Snowden's move a "high-stakes gamble" that makes his fate "a matter of political expediency." What's more, CNN adds that hotel costs will soon max out Snowden's limited funds. (And then there's the stir-crazy factor; he has apparently left his room just three times in the last three weeks.)
Snowden—who admits he doesn't expect to see home again—says he chose Hong Kong because they "have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent," though his first choice for asylum would be Iceland, CNN reports. Some Hong Kong politicians say the territory's history of working closely with the US makes it a poor choice for Snowden—though others say they are "flattered." A criminal investigation into the leak has begun and the US is expected to begin extradition proceedings soon; a long legal battle in Hong Kong could ensue before Beijing decides on using its veto, the Wall Street Journal reports. In the meantime, Snowden has gotten his very own White House petition, with some 8,734 people, at the time of this writing, requesting "a full, free, and absolute pardon" for the "national hero."