There are many reasons why NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's decision to come to Hong Kong could be foolish.
Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the United States; its government is weak; its foreign policy is dictated by Beijing — no friend of free speech or internet freedom.
But there is at least one reason it could be incredibly shrewd: Hong Kong's asylum system is currently stuck in a state of limbo that could allow Snowden to exploit a loophole and buy some valuable time.
A former CIA employee working as a contractor with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), Snowden leaked to the UK's Guardian newspaper stunning details of a top-secret U.S. spying program.
(Read More: Competition, (Or Lack, Thereof) Among Spies)
Simon Young, director of the Centre for Comparative and Public Law at the University of Hong Kong, told GlobalPost that a decision delivered by Hong Kong's High Court in March of this year required the government to create a new procedure for reviewing asylum applications.
Until the government does this, he said, asylum seekers are allowed to stay in Hong Kong indefinitely.
"We're still waiting to hear from government how they are going to implement this decision," said Young. "Until that's the case, you can't return anyone until the law's in place."
In other words, should Snowden apply for asylum, then even if the US made a valid extradition request and Hong Kong was willing to comply he could not be deported until the government figured out a new way to review asylum cases — a potentially lengthy process.
(Read More: Bring Snowden to Justice for Intel Leaks: Sen. Thune)
Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch says that any Snowden extradition must be "a long way off" because of this gap in the law.
"If it comes to the point where the U.S. does issue a warrant on Snowden, and then passes it over to the Hong Kong authorities, and he decides to fight it, at this point it would be a court case," he told GlobalPost. "And it can be a long court case, going up to the court of final appeals."