The Government decision to end the extradition treaty with Hong Kong places at risk the possibility of New Zealand increasing its beef sales to China.
And Foreign Minister Winston Peters implied yesterday that New Zealand may yet impose further sanctions on China as a consequence of the passage of the Hong Kong Security Law.
“We will continue to monitor the situation in Hong Kong as the law is applied,” he said.
“As a result, the review of our cooperation settings with Hong Kong will be ongoing.”.
But the move has drawn a sharp rebuke from the Chinese Ambassador and comes at a time when there are suggestions in China that it prefer New Zealand over Australia for meat and other imports.
Peters said that China’s passage of its new national security legislation had eroded rule-of-law principles, undermined the ‘one country, two systems’ framework that underpinned Hong Kong’s unique status, and gone against commitments China made to the international community.
“In light of this, it is important that New Zealand responds proportionately and deliberately to the passage of the national security law.
“As part of that response, Cabinet has decided to suspend New Zealand’s extradition treaty with Hong Kong.
“New Zealand can no longer trust that Hong Kong’s criminal justice system is sufficiently independent from China.
Peters statement drew a quick and sharp response from China’s Ambassador in Wellington, Wu Xi.
“The New Zealand government’s decision is a serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations,” she said in a statement.
“It is a gross interference in China’s internal affairs.
“The Chinese side has lodged its grave concern and strong opposition.”
That response comes only a week after China’s official Foreign Ministry spokesperson had quoted approvingly from the Prime Minister’s speech to the China Business Summit in Auckland.
“We appreciate the remarks which show that the New Zealand government attaches importance to developing relations with China. China and New Zealand are each other’s important partners for cooperation,” said spokesperson, Wang Wenbin.
“Sound and steady development of bilateral relations serves the fundamental interests of both countries and peoples.
“Under current circumstances, China stands ready to work together with New Zealand under the principle of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit to strengthen mutual trust and cooperation, contribute to global efforts to fight the pandemic and promote economic recovery, and realize new progress in our comprehensive strategic partnership.”
But he added a warning.
“I need to stress that we stand firmly against foreign interference in China’s domestic affairs under the pretext of Hong Kong, Xinjiang or human rights.
“China is resolutely determined to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests.”
And that was echoed in Mme Wu’s statement in Wellington yesterday.
“Any attempt to pressure China on the issue of Hong Kong will not succeed,” she said.
“The Chinese side urges the New Zealand side to abide by the international law and the basic norms governing international relations, immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs in any forms to avoid further harm to China-New Zealand relations.”
Peters decision comes at a time when Chinese state media were suggesting that China might replace purchases of Australian beef with products from New Zealand.
Wang Jiazheng, the chief representative of the Guangdong Economic and Trade Representative Office in New Zealand (GETRONZ), said that under the situation of closer ties between China and New Zealand and with an upgraded free trade agreement as well as tension between China and Australia, New Zealand’s agricultural exports to China would increase by a large margin.
That would now seem unlikely.
However, Peters did offer some hope that yesterday’s decision was not permanent.
“If China in future shows adherence to the ‘one country, two systems’ framework, then we could reconsider this decision.”
But he also said New Zealand would change how it treated the export of sensitive goods to Hong Kong.
“ From now on, we will treat military and dual-use goods and technology exports to Hong Kong in the same way as we treat those exports to China. S
“Secondly, we have updated our travel advice to alert New Zealanders to the risks presented by the National Security Law.”
New Zealand has followed its Five Eyes partners, the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia in suspending the extradition treaty.
China has already reacted against other Five Eyes members suspending extradition treaties and the state newspaper, “The Global Times” warned last week that the UK would pay the price for its moves against China, and the Chinese government would soon take countermeasures in response to the UK’s latest move,
New Zealand. However, has not yet gone as far as Britain and Australia in offering visas to Hong Kong residents who wish to leave the territory.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has called for the other Five Eyes members to share the burden if Hong Kong residents wish to leave; that number could be in the millions.
New Zealand has not officially responded to that.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade “Safe Travel” website has been updated with a travel warning for Hong Kong.
“National security legislation for Hong Kong came into effect on 1 July 2020,” it says.
“This legislation could be interpreted broadly, leading to increased risk of arrest and prosecution on national security grounds for a wide range of activity, including protest activity, which may not be limited to activity in Hong Kong.
“There is a possibility of being detained and removed to mainland China for those who are arrested under the legislation.
“The maximum penalty under this law in Hong Kong is life imprisonment.”