However, the strategy carries considerable risk because the U.S. could simply provide diplomatic assurances that he would not be subject to cruel or humiliating treatment.
"At that point it would be difficult for Hong Kong to resist deporting him," said Patricia Ho, a Hong Kong lawyer who specializes in asylum and refugee claims.
But as things stand now, there is nothing to prevent Snowden from traveling to a destination of his choice -- to one of the handful of nearby jurisdictions or countries that do not have extradition treaties with the United States.
One of the Asian countries without an American treaty is China, though there is no guarantee Beijing would want to risk a confrontation with the United States by taking Snowden in, even if gained a windfall of sensitive American intelligence information in the process. Snowden himself has given no indication that he prepared to cooperate with any foreign intelligence service, including China's.
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China's state media has confined its coverage of the Snowden affair to factual reports, and on online social media, China's relatively unfettered venue for public discourse, comments have been largely muted.
"People in China are used to not having security and privacy on the internet, so this does not come as a big surprise," Peking University journalism professor Hu Yong said in an interview. Official media, Hu said, would "try not to focus too much on how wrong the practice is, or whether the leaker is right or wrong. They will use the news to highlight that China is not the only country with such practices."
Another Asian flight possibility for Snowden is the self-governing island of Taiwan, which split from China in 1949 after a protracted civil war, and since 1979, has not had formal diplomatic relations with the U.S.
In lieu of a formal extradition treaty, American extraction requests to Taiwan are examined on a case by case basis.
An official at the de facto U.S. Embassy in Taipei—the American Institute in Taiwan—said Taiwan has generally been cooperative on the extradition issue.
"Taipei has so far been pretty good on responding to our requests," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Also, any attempt by Snowden to come to Taiwan could prove extremely embarrassing to the government of Ma Ying-jeou, which while doing its best to improve relations with China, also seeks to maintain close ties with the United States, its major security backer. An official at the Justice Ministry said Tuesday there were no indications at all that Snowden would make any attempt to land on the island.
Aside from numerous flights from Hong Kong's busy international airport, Snowden could take an hour-long high speed ferry ride to Macau, also a semiautonomous region of China. From Macau he could hop over to Guangdong province in mainland China.
Beyond Taiwan and China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and North Korea are also theoretical destinations for Snowden, because they lack extradition treaties with the U.S. But the communist or authoritarian systems they share make them unlikely destinations for a man who has gone to considerable lengths to portray his decision to reveal National Security Agency surveillance programs as an act of conscience.
Outside of Asia, Snowden might also consider seeking asylum in countries like Iceland and Russia. According to the Kommersant Daily, Moscow has said it might provide asylum. But Russia is also an authoritarian nation, so there is no guarantee that Snowden would accept any offer that Moscow rendered.