China calls for New Zealand to 'correct its mistake' after Hong Kong extradition treaty suspension

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has called on New Zealand to "correct its mistake" after Aotearoa suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced on Tuesday that Aotearoa's extradition treaty with Hong Kong would be suspended in light of China's decision to pass a new national security law for the financial hub. It comes after Peters earlier this month ordered a review of New Zealand's relationship with Hong Kong.

The new security law allows for extradition from Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland for trial and targets separatist activity, state subversion, terrorist activity and collusion with foreign forces. It has received widespread condemnation, including from New Zealand, for undermining the 'one country, two systems' framework.

"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," Peters said.

The Chinese Embassy in New Zealand swiftly responded, calling the decision a "serious violation of international law" and "gross interference in China's internal affairs".

China's Foreign Ministry's official spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, has now commented

"New Zealand's comments and measures announced are based entirely on its wrong interpretation of China's Law on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong SAR," he said at his daily press conference, according to a translation on the Foreign Ministry website.

While most of Wang's remarks echo those made by the Chinese Embassy on Tuesday, he also said China urged New Zealand "to immediately correct its mistake and stop interfering in China's Hong Kong affairs to avoid damage to bilateral relations". 

In tit-for-tat retaliation, Wang also announced that China would be halting Hong Kong's extradition agreements with Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Each of those countries have recently decided to suspend their deals with Hong Kong. 

"By wrongfully politicising 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," the spokesperson said.

Wang's comments come after China's state-run Global Times said the country could look to increase imports of meat from New Zealand. It said China's earlier decision to "boycott Australian products" meant the nation needed to find alternative sources.

As well as suspending the extradition treaty, Peters announced New Zealand was changing how we treat the export of sensitive goods to Hong Kong and travel advice.

"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. Secondly, we have updated our travel advice to alert New Zealanders to the risks presented by the National Security Law."

The SafeTravel website highlights the new legislation and how it 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."

Peters reiterated his concern towards the legislation and said the situation in Hong Kong would be monitored.

The Chinese Embassy said on Tuesday that "any attempt to pressure China on the issue of Hong Kong will not succeed".

"Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Hong Kong affairs are entirely China's internal affairs, and allow no foreign interference. The Law on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong SAR is an important step to ensure the steady and sustained implementation of the "one country, two systems" principle".

It's the not the first time in recent weeks that the Chinese Foreign Ministry has commented on New Zealand

Remarks by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last week at the Chinese-New Zealand business community made waves in China, Aotearoa's largest trading partner. Ardern said countries often have different perspectives on some issues. 

"The New Zealand Government takes a stance where as representatives of the New Zealand people we think that the public has a direct and a resounding interest in the outcome," she added. 

"As you know, this has come to the fore recently around developments like Hong Kong's new security law; the situation of the Uighur people in the Xinjiang province; and Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization. 

Wang responded to that by saying China and New Zealand are important partners, however, he stressed that China stood "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."