New Zealand to review relationship with Hong Kong after China passes divisive security law

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has announced New Zealand's relationship with Hong Kong will be reviewed after China passed a divisive security law.

"China's decision to pass a new national security law for Hong Kong has fundamentally changed the environment for international engagement there," Peters said on Thursday. "New Zealand remains deeply concerned at the imposition of this legislation on Hong Kong."

It comes after the Australian Government cautioned citizens against travelling to Hong Kong on the Australian Smart Travel website, warning them about new measures in the security law that allows for extradition to mainland China. 

"You may be at increased risk of detention on vaguely defined national security grounds. You could break the law without intending to," the Australian website advised citizens.

Peters said the Government has directed officials to review all of New Zealand's policy settings with respect to Hong Kong to "determine the appropriate nature of our cooperation" going forward.

"This will be a deliberate, considered review across all of our settings, including extradition arrangements, controls on exports of strategic goods, and travel advice.

"New Zealand shares the international community's significant and longstanding stake in Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. We will continue to monitor the law's impact on the people of Hong Kong, with whom we share close links."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last week New Zealand shared the position of its Five Eyes partners, a security alliance that includes the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has held a teleconference about Hong Kong with her counterparts in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance on Wednesday night, Reuters reported

What is the security law?

Beijing passed new legislation on Tuesday last week, bypassing Hong Kong's local Parliament, which Western politicians have suggested breaks the 'one country, two systems' framework Hong Kong has been operating under.

The new law allows extradition to the Chinese mainland for trial. It punishes crimes of separatist activity, state subversion, terrorist activity and collusion with foreign forces, which can be punishable by up to life in prison.

A statement from Peters last week said the Government expressed "deep disappointment" at the passing of the new law by China's National People's Congress Standing Committee.

The Chinese Embassy responded by telling New Zealand to "stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs, and do more to promote the sound and steady development of the China-New Zealand relations".

Hundreds of people have been arrested in Hong Kong as protesters took to the streets in defiance of the law, according to international media reports. Police used pepper spray and fired pellets as crowed chanted "resist 'til the end".

The UK's ambassador to the United Nations Julian Braithwaite has delivered a joint statement on behalf of 27 countries - including Australia and New Zealand - expressing concern over the new law. 

US politicians have been scathing, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who described the new law as "brutal" and said the aim of it is to "frighten, intimidate" and "supress the speech" of the people of Hong Kong.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described it as "draconian".

Hong Kong, officially named the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, was returned to Beijing from Britain in 1997 under the 'one country, two systems' approach.

Peters said New Zealand shared the international community's view in preserving the "high degree of autonomy and freedom" available to Hong Kong and its people under the 'one country, two systems' framework.

But the Chinese Embassy insisted the "legislation for safeguarding national security" in Hong Kong is "purely China's internal affair" and said it "firmly opposes any foreign interference in China's internal affairs and Hong Kong affairs".

The Chinese Embassy said opinion was "drawn extensively" from the people of Hong Kong on the new law, which is said is a "fundamental solution" for the city to restore "order, end chaos and resume stability".