4 Aug 2020

Hong Kong extradition suspension: China and New Zealand diplomatic escalation unlikely - academic

10:04 am on 4 August 2020

China's suspension of Hong Kong's extradition agreement with New Zealand is unlikely to have major economic consequences for this country, says an academic.

Riot police hold up a warning flag during a demonstration in a mall in Hong Kong on July 6, 2020, in response to a new national security law.

Riot police hold up a warning flag during a demonstration in a mall in Hong Kong on July 6, 2020, in response to a new national security law. Photo: AFP

The suspension comes a week after New Zealand suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, in response to new national security laws that NZ's government said undermined the 1997 'one country, two systems' agreement.

Beijing introduced the security law at the end of June, creating new offences which could see Hong Kong residents sent to mainland China for trial.

Professor of international relations Robert Patman of Otago University told Morning Report that while there was a chance retaliation could escalate, China was too reliant on the rest of the world to completely severe economic ties with those it disagreed with.

"Although China's our biggest trading partner, they're not the only show in town. China's economic success has been based on access to overseas and often Western markets," Prof Patman said.

"So if they start taking full-blooded economic retaliation or even sanctions against countries like New Zealand or other members of the Five Eyes, that could quickly escalate and rebound against them," he said.

"Let's be quite clear about this, China's ascent to great power status is based on their economic performance. If they take political actions which undermine their ability to operate effectively economically that would actually undermine the legitimacy of the Communist Party in China."

All Five Eyes nations have suspended their extradition agreements with Hong Kong in light of the controversial new legislation, however, New Zealand was one of the last to take this action. And the Auckland office of China's Consulate General had released a statement to the NZ Herald previously, warning countries against being a pawn in Washington's play.

However, Prof Patman said that description was frustrating because New Zealand's foreign policy and decision-making was independent of its Five Eyes partners.

"It's very important that we try to send the message to the Chinese authorities in a way that they do not see that we're acting as a lackey of the United States."

Being one of the last to take the suspension measure showed the country was different in upholding the international rules system, he said.

"We have been more measured compared with the other Five Eyes [nations], I think NZ shares the same view of most of the Five Eyes countries on China but sometimes it differs in the ways it tries to communicate that message.

"That's why we're the last country of the five to formally suspend the extradition treaty with Hong Kong."

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