Officially, admitted leaker Edward Snowden was able to leave Hong Kong because U.S. authorities made a mistake in their arrest request, but the semiautonomous Chinese city also indicated displeasure over Snowden’s revelation that the former British colony had been a target of American hacking.

Beijing, meanwhile, says it had nothing to do with allowing the former National Security Agency contractor to fly to Russia on Sunday. But analysts believe the move was orchestrated by China to avoid a prolonged diplomatic tussle with the U.S. over his extradition.

Snowden slipped out of Hong Kong on an Aeroflot flight to Moscow and was expected to transit through Cuba and Venezuela en route to possible asylum in Ecuador. His journey illustrates how the United States finds itself with few friends as it tries to apprehend the former CIA technician, who disclosed information on top-secret surveillance programs.

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