New Zealand has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in protest against a “deeply concerning” national security law that China imposed on the semiautonomous city.
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said on Tuesday that “New Zealand can no longer trust that Hong Kong’s criminal justice system is sufficiently independent from China.”
“If China in future shows adherence to the ‘one country, two systems’ framework then we could reconsider this decision,” he said in a statement.
New Zealand is the latest member to take action among the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance. Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom have already suspended their extradition treaties and the United States has signalled it is preparing to do the same.
US President Donald Trump has ended preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong and signed a law penalising banks doing business with Chinese officials who enact the draconian national security law in the city.
The legislation – which came into effect ahead of July 1, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997 – punishes what Beijing terms secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference with up to life in prison.
China says the legislation is needed to restore order after months of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year.
Critics describe the law – which allows mainland jurisdiction in some cases – as an assault on Hong Kong’s autonomy, freedoms and judicial independence. But China has condemned the censure as “gross interference” in its internal affairs and vowed to take retaliatory action over the suspension of extradition treaties and other punishing measures.
New Zealand said a review of its overall relationship with Hong Kong was ongoing and Peters said the country will treat military and dual-use goods and technology exports to Hong Kong in the same way as it treats such exports to China.
He added that travel advice has been updated to alert New Zealanders to the risks presented by the new security law.
China’s embassy in Wellington said it was preparing a response to the announcement. Earlier this month, as New Zealand considered such a move, the embassy put out a statement urging the nation to “stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs, and refrain from going any further down the wrong path”.
China is New Zealand’s largest trading partner with annual two-way trade recently exceeding 32 billion New Zealand dollars ($21bn). Ties between the two nations have frayed recently after New Zealand backed Taiwan’s participation at the World Health Organization (WHO).