Over eight days in 2013, Edward Snowden leaked NSA documents from a five-star hotel in Hong Kong. But he spent the remainder of his days there, before appearing in Russia, in places far less glamorous. Revealing the path to Snowden's escape for the first time, refugees tell the National Post and New York Times that they took Snowden into their squalid apartments where "open garbage rots in stairwells" in some of Hong Kong's poorest neighborhoods between June 10 and 21, on the request of his lawyer, Robert Tibbo. While applying for refugee status, "we put him in a place where no one would look," like a 150-square-foot apartment home to three others, says Tibbo, who was also helping the refugees at the time.
Disguised, Snowden moved between safe houses at night. He "stayed in the room all the time," says a Sri Lankan refugee who housed him, adding he mostly ate McDonald's and cakes, delivered by lawyers, with USBs hidden inside, allowing Snowden to communicate. He "was using his computer all day, all night," adds a Filipino refugee who only realized she was housing "the most wanted man in the world" when she saw his photo on the front page of a newspaper. "They had a hundred chances to betray me while I was amongst them, and no one could have blamed them, given their precarious situations. But they never did," Snowden, who paid his saviors $1,200, tells the Post. "If not for their compassion, my story could have ended differently."