Chinese state media labels New Zealand as 'chess piece' playing 'little trick' with extradition treaty move

China's state-run media has called New Zealand a chess piece playing a "little trick" with its decision to suspend an extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters' announced on Tuesday that New Zealand was halting its extradition agreement with Hong Kong due to the new national security law passed by China.

That sparked a quick response from the Middle Kingdom, with our local Chinese Embassy accusing Aotearoa of "gross interference in China's internal affairs" and China's Foreign Ministry saying New Zealand must "immediately correct its mistake" and stop interfering "to avoid damage to bilateral relations".

But New Zealand is just the latest nation to suspend its extradition deal with Hong Kong. 

Five Eyes' partners Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom have all halted their agreements in response to the new widely-condemned legislation, which allows for extradition to the Chinese mainland from Hong Kong and provides Beijing with a greater role in Hong Kong's judicial system. 

State-run media outlet Global Times published an article on Wednesday morning about Beijing ending its Hong Kong extradition deals with Australia, Canada and the UK. The piece also mentioned New Zealand's decision to halt its treaty.

"New Zealand's cabinet decided to suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, becoming the fourth country in the Five Eyes to do so by either yielding to the pressure of the US or dancing to the tune of Americans, experts said," the piece said.

Among the "experts" referenced in the article is Cui Hongjian director of EU studies at the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) in Beijing. The CIIS says on its website that it is the "think tank of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs". 

The Global Times reported that China "did not include New Zealand into the latest extradition treaty suspensions, leaving room for the country to correct its little trick of trying to strike a balance between keeping close ties with China and aligning with the US, they noted".

It quotes Cui as saying that decision showed "Chinese authorities understand the China-New Zealand relationship is different from that with Australia or with the US".

"We can't take the toughest strike against the one who keeps a softened tone on China-related matters," Cui was cited as saying. 

The Global Times goes on to say that Washington was "re-moulding" the Five Eyes alliance "in its devious campaign against China" and that members of this alliance were being "manipulated as chess pieces". 

"Suspending the treaty is a low-cost move for New Zealand to show its loyalty to the Five Eyes alliance, but it is daydreaming to play petty tricks of pleasing the anti-China coalition without damaging its relationship with China, analysts said."

Peters said in his announcement on Tuesday that the new 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."

"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."

New Zealand is also changing how the export of sensitive goods to Hong Kong is dealt with and changing our 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."