New Zealand Suspends Hong Kong Extradition Treaty
(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong, falling into step with its Western allies after China passed a national security law for the financial hub.
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said in a statement Tuesday that New Zealand could “no longer trust that Hong Kong’s criminal justice system is sufficiently independent from China.” The statement drew an angry rebuke from China, which also announced the suspension of Hong Kong’s extradition cooperation with Australia, Canada and the U.K. -- three countries that had already frozen their law enforcement pacts.
“China’s passage of its new national security legislation has eroded rule-of-law principles, undermined the ‘one country, two systems’ framework that underpins Hong Kong’s unique status, and gone against commitments China made to the international community,” Peters said in Wellington.
The Chinese Embassy in Wellington called the move a “gross interference in China’s internal affairs” that could damage ties between the two countries. “The New Zealand government’s decision is a serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations. The Chinese side has lodged its grave concern and strong opposition,” the embassy said in a statement its website.
China’s decision last month to impose the sweeping national security legislation on Hong Kong has been condemned by the U.S. and its allies as a violation of Beijing’s promise to rule the former British colony under a “one country, two systems” framework. New Zealand follows Australia, Canada and the U.K. in suspending its extradition treaty over concerns the law could be used to prosecute a wide range of activities, including some non-violent protest tactics.
China said later Tuesday that it would halt Hong Kong’s extradition cooperation with Australia, Canada and the U.K., a largely symbolic gesture, since those three countries had already suspended the deals. “China has decided that the Hong Kong SAR will suspend its agreements on surrendering fugitive offenders and on mutual assistance in criminal matters with Canada, Australia and the U.K.,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a briefing in Beijing.
Wang left New Zealand off the retaliation list for now, only reiterating earlier remarks from the Chinese embassy in Wellington.
A travel alert posted on a New Zealand government website warned prosecutions under the new law “may not be limited to activity in Hong Kong” and that “there is a possibility of being detained and removed to mainland China for those who are arrested under the legislation.”
In addition to the travel warning, New Zealand said it will treat military and technology exports to Hong Kong in the same way it treats those exports to China, and noted a review of its overall relationship with Hong Kong is ongoing.
“New Zealand remains deeply concerned at the imposition of this legislation, and we will continue to monitor the situation in Hong Kong as the law is applied,” Peters said. “If China in future shows adherence to the ‘one country, two systems’ framework then we could reconsider this decision.”
The move is likely to strain relations with China, New Zealand’s largest trading partner, and comes as tensions between China and the U.S. escalate. New Zealand is part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance with the U.S., Australia, Canada and the U.K.
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