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, Mr. Ho said.

Staying cooped up in the cramped Hong Kong home of a local supporter was not bothersome to Mr. Snowden, but the prospect of losing his computer scared him.

“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,” Mr. Ho said. “If you were to deprive him of his computer, that would be totally intolerable.”

The outcome of that meeting, Mr. Ho said, was a decision by Mr. Snowden by Friday morning to have Mr. Ho pose two questions to the Hong Kong government: would he be released on bail if he were detained in Hong Kong at the request of the United States, and would the Hong Kong government interfere if Mr. Snowden tried to go to the airport and leave Hong Kong instead.