On August 3rd, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) announced that Hong Kong would suspend its extradition treaty with New Zealand. This move came in response to New Zealand’s announcement on July 27th that it would suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, following numerous other Western countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Germany. The series of moves comes after China passed a new national security law on June 30th, which critics say bans many of Hong Kong’s democratic freedoms, including freedom of speech.
In a statement regarding the extradition treaty’s suspension, New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, said 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. [sic]” In response, spokesman Wang claimed that “New Zealand’s practices grossly interfere in China’s internal affairs.” A representative of the Chinese embassy in New Zealand said in a statement that “the Chinese side has lodged its grave concern and strong opposition” to New Zealand’s cancellation of the extradition treaty.
China is New Zealand’s largest trade partner, with annual trade recently exceeding NZ $32 billion ($21 billion), but according to Reuters, New Zealand’s ties with China have frayed after China passed its new national security law. The relationship further soured after New Zealand backed Taiwan’s participation in a recent World Health Organization meeting. In response to the increasing tension, New Zealand has tightened its restrictions on military and dual-use exports to Hong Kong, according to the Guardian. Reuters adds that military and dual-use goods will be treated the same way as exports to mainland China. New Zealand has also updated its travel alerts to explain the risks the new national security law may present to New Zealanders. All of these moves are part of what the Guardian recognizes as a wide backlash from Western countries against China’s national security law.
Critics of the national security law, like Amnesty International, say that the law’s wording is very vague, meaning that it can be used widely and often to oppress Hongkongers’ freedom of expression. The law prohibits “secession,” “subversion,” “terrorism,” and “collusion with foreign forces,” all of which could be loosely interpreted in many different ways. Amnesty International adds that the security law has been quickly and harshly put into effect, with hundreds of protesters already arrested.
China’s attempt to prevent Taiwan from attending a World Health Organization meeting has also drawn critical attention. According to Reuters, China threatened to disallow Taiwan from attending the meeting unless Taiwan admitted that it was part of China. Taiwan rejected the condition. Critics noted that Taiwan has had one of the most effective coronavirus responses in the world, making its presence at the W.H.O. meeting very valuable. Thus, China is arguably doing the world a disservice by preventing Taiwan from sharing its effective pandemic response measures.
New Zealand and much of the Western world have criticized China for its actions. New Zealand is one of many countries to cancel its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and to change its trade status with the city. As Foreign Affairs Minister Peters said, however, if China were to adhere to the “one country, two systems” framework, then New Zealand could reverse its decision. The Western world will wait to see whether China follows the framework.