Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has acknowledged leaking numerous documents about American surveillance operations around the world, planned his escape from Hong Kong over a surreptitious dinner of pizza, fried chicken and sausages, washed down with Pepsi.
It was a cloak-and-dagger affair. Mr. Snowden wore a cap and sunglasses and insisted that the assembled lawyers hide their cellphones in the refrigerator of the home where he was staying, to block any eavesdropping. Then began a two-hour conversation during which Mr. Snowden was deeply dismayed to learn that he could spend years in prison without access to a computer during litigation over whether he would be granted asylum here or surrendered to the United States.
Staying cooped up in the cramped Hong Kong home of a local supporter was less bothersome to Mr. Snowden than the prospect of losing his computer.
"He didn't go out, he spent all his time inside a tiny space, but he said it was O.K. because he had his computer," said Albert Ho, one of Mr. Snowden's lawyers. "If you were to deprive him of his computer, that would be totally intolerable."
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After the meeting, Mr. Ho was sent to ask the Hong Kong government if Mr. Snowden would be released on bail if he were arrested or whether he would be allowed to leave the country.
A person with detailed knowledge of the Hong Kong government's deliberations said that the government had been delighted to receive the questions. Leung Chun-ying, the chief executive, and his top advisers had been struggling through numerous meetings for days, canceling or postponing other meetings, while trying to decide what to do in response to an American request for Mr. Snowden's detention, even as public opinion in Hong Kong seemed to favor protecting the fugitive.
But Mr. Snowden's choice of Mr. Ho to represent him raised a problem, said the person with knowledge of the government's deliberations, who insisted on anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivities in the case. Mr. Ho, a member of the territory's legislature for nearly 20 years, is a former chairman of the Democratic Party and a longtime campaigner for full democracy here, to the irritation of government leaders of the territory, which was returned by Britain to China in 1997.
"The Hong Kong government doesn't trust him," the person said, adding that the government also did not want to be involved in any direct negotiations with Mr. Snowden. So it found an intermediary, someone with longstanding connections to the local government but not in office, to bypass Mr. Ho and contact Mr. Snowden.