On Tuesday, China announced it would suspend Hong Kong’s extradition treaties with the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
In what has been labelled a “tit-for-tat” move, this comes on the back of the three Five Eyes nation’s decisions to suspend their own extradition treaties with Hong Kong following Beijing’s enactment of their national security law for the city.
In a press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin accused the countries of “gross interference in China’s internal affairs and grave violation of international law.”
“By wrongfully politicizing judicial cooperation with Hong Kong, the three countries have seriously damaged the foundation for such cooperation and deviated from its purpose of upholding justice and rule of law,” Wang said.
“Therefore, China has decided that the Hong Kong SAR [Special Administrative Region] will suspend its agreements on surrendering fugitive offenders with Canada, Australia and the UK.”
In addition to suspending Hong Kong’s extradition treaties with these countries, Wang stated that China would also suspend “agreements on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters,” and as such would no longer supply evidence or documents to support criminal investigations for those countries.
Hong Kong government backs suspensions
The Hong Kong government also issued a similarly-worded statement, denouncing the UK, Australia and Canada’s decisions to suspend extradition, saying such, “smacks of political manipulation and double standards.”
China and Hong Kong’s announcements come just a day after New Zealand – also a member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance – decided to suspend extradition with Hong Kong and restrict sensitive goods into the city.
Speaking on New Zealand’s actions, Wang urged it to “immediately correct its mistake and stop interfering in China’s Hong Kong affairs to avoid damage to bilateral relations,” before adding that Beijing “reserves the right to make further reactions.”
Wang continued to say that New Zealand’s measures against its national security law for Hong Kong are “based entirely on its wrong interpretation of China’s Law on Safeguarding National Security.”
This latest tit-for-tat comes amid growing criticism of Beijing from the West over the sweeping national security law for Hong Kong criminalizing acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. It has been argued that this new law infringes the civil liberties and human rights guaranteed to Hong Kong under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which underlined the terms of Hong Kong’s handover to China from British colonial rule.
Will the US be next?
Even as four members of the Five Eyes alliance have suspended their extradition treaties with Hong Kong, the final member, the United States, has hinted its intention to do the same.
The US has arguably been the most vocal opponent of China, rescinding Hong Kong’s preferential treatment and imposing sanctions on individuals and companies who are deemed responsible for encroaching on the city’s freedoms.
In the fallout, Bernard Chan, a top adviser to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, confirmed that his account at an unnamed US bank was closed because he was found to be a “politically exposed person.”
Many analysts say, however, that the biggest loser in the US-China battle is Hong Kong as international moves to condemn the national security law eat away at the city’s relations with other countries.
The European Union (EU) announced its decision last week to limit sensitive exports to Hong Kong, as well as to review visa agreements and impose sanctions on the city in response to the security law.
Hong Kong Bar Association Chairman Philip Dykes said that the latest developments indicated the dwindling international confidence in Hong Kong’s legal system.
“These are major jurisdictions to lose … Major common law players to suspend surrender agreements is obviously no vote of confidence in [Hong Kong’s] legal regime,” he said.
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