Beijing, Jul 28 (efe-epa).- Hong Kong will suspend its extradition treaties and judicial cooperation agreements with the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, in response to similar measures taken by them, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press conference that this decision was taken because “Canada, Australia and the UK, citing the national security law for Hong Kong as an excuse, have suspended their agreements for the surrender of fugitive offenders.”
“Such actions constitute gross interference in China’s internal affairs and in violation of international law,” Wang stressed.
London, Ottawa and Canberra recently decided to suspend their extradition agreements with Hong Kong following Beijing’s adoption of a controversial national security law that – in the opinion of lawyers, activists and a broad segment of civil society – will restrict the freedoms enjoyed so far by the special administrative region.
Earlier on Tuesday, New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the UK, Canada and its neighbor Australia, and suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong over this same law.
New Zealand’s Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said in a statement that the security law “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.”
He added that it was important that the country responded “proportionately and deliberately” to the passing of the security law, and as part of that, “Cabinet has decided to suspend New Zealand’s extradition treaty with Hong Kong.”
In response, Wang said that New Zealand’s action arose from an incorrect interpretation of national security law and that China reserved the right to respond to that decision.
The new, contentious security legislation for Hong Kong came into force last month and punishes acts of secession, subversion against the state – a charge often used to target government critics -, terrorist acts and foreign collusion with up to life in prison.
The new national security law in Hong Kong was implemented after a year of mass protests in the city, which were triggered by a since-shelved extradition bill that critics said would have allowed China to target dissidents and bring them to the mainland for trial.
The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which articulated Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese hands in 1997, established a legally binding treaty whereby Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy had to be safeguarded for at least 50 years from that date.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said on numerous occasions that the clauses of the treaty were fulfilled at the time. EFE-EPA