NZ-China extradition deal 'not impossible' -- Key

John Key and Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, Beijing (Reuters)
John Key and Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, Beijing (Reuters)

A formal extradition treaty between New Zealand and China could be on the cards, with the issue raised during bilateral talks overnight.

Prime Minister John Key is in China on a week-long trip mostly focused on trade, and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping where the potential agreement was also discussed.

"He said they would value having people return to China they believed were people who inappropriately got funds from the state," Mr Key said.

China is particularly interested in Korean-born New Zealand resident Kyung Yup Kim accused of murder in Shanghai in December 2009.

The Government is currently considering a Law Commission report into New Zealand's extradition laws, which recommended a number of changes.

Mr Key said changes to the Extradition Act would need to be made as well as setting up a formal treaty, "but that's not impossible".

He said China would honour its promise in Kim's case to provide a fair trial and to waive the death penalty if convicted.

The country has a bad record when it comes to human rights, but President Xi "did tell us China had been doing a bit of work on human rights", Mr Key said.

China's push for an extradition agreement is part of a wider campaign to crack down on corruption, especially among economic criminals who leave China with allegedly misappropriated state funds.

"His main message to the Chinese people is he's going to clean up corruption in China, and as part of that if they see people who flee offshore if they believe to be corrupt, then it's part of their overall narrative they want to bring those people back and bring them to account."

Mr Key said it is something President Xi is passionate about and is "very animated" when he talks about it.

But the idea of signing such an agreement has the Green Party saying it should be put on hold, with persistent allegations of torture and corruption in the judicial process.

Global affairs spokesman Kennedy Graham says Mr Key's position on extradition with China had changed.

"This is unsettling because it can only be seen in light of aspirations for a better trade deal.

"The Prime Minister needs to park the extradition issue for a while so the issue of trade does not become reliant on China getting an extradition treaty. The last thing we want is a 'milk for people' situation," he says.

Dr Graham says considerable work is needed before an extradition treaty can go ahead.

There are around 60 Chinese nationals in New Zealand currently wanted by the Chinese Government, and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters wants to know why.

"Clearly we have appallingly inadequate immigration checks if allegedly corrupt Chinese, who are wanted by their own government, have got into New Zealand."

He's criticised Immigration for rubber stamping applications and moving on, and believes it's giving New Zealand a bad name.

"It's the only way they can pretend there is proper processing.

"In China and other countries, word will have circulated that New Zealand's paperwork and verification processes are third world."

Amnesty International is "strongly opposed" to the suggestion of an agreement with China, saying the government still commits many human rights abuses through its justice system.

"Currently, the Chinese justice system has no presumption of innocence in practice. They often used forced labour as a punishment, torture during police investigations and they routinely break many of the rules our own justice system is based on," campaign director Meg De Ronde says.

"The need for a treaty at the moment when we cannot rely on the assurances of the Chinese government that human rights will be respected -- there doesn't seem to be a justification for it." 

The organisation believes the country kills thousands of its citizens each year, though specific numbers are difficult to ascertain because they're considered a state secret.


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