UK will also extend its arms embargo to Hong Kong, stopping the export of equipments such as firearms, smoke grenades and shackles to the region.
London: The UK government on Monday suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong immediately and indefinitely, weeks after China imposed a controversial national security law on the former British colony that gave Beijing sweeping new powers over the Asian business hub.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the House of Commons that the new National Security Law had significantly changed key assumptions underpinning the extradition treaty arrangements with Hong Kong.
He said the UK was particularly concerned about Articles 55 to 59 of the new security law, which gives mainland Chinese authorities the ability to assume jurisdiction over certain cases and try those cases in mainland Chinese courts.
Raab also confirmed the government would extend its arms embargo – which has been in place with China since 1989 – to Hong Kong, stopping the UK exporting equipment, such as firearms, smoke grenades and shackles to the region.
The controversial national security legislation, imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong on 1 July, gives China sweeping new powers over the city. The UK handed Hong Kong back to China on 1 July, 1997 but, as part of an agreement signed at the time, it enjoys some freedoms not seen in the Communist Party-ruled mainland.
“The National Security Law does not provide legal or judicial safeguards in such cases, and I am also concerned about the potential reach of the extra-territorial provisions. So I have consulted with the Home Secretary, the Justice Secretary and the Attorney General, and the government has decided to suspend the extradition treaty immediately and indefinitely,” said Raab in his parliamentary statement.
“I should also tell the House that we would not consider re-activating those arrangements, unless, and until clear and robust safeguards which are able to prevent extradition from the UK being misused under the national security legislation,” he said.
Highlighting the considerable uncertainty about the way in which the new National Security Law will be enforced, the minister struck a cautionary note: “The United Kingdom is watching. And the whole world is watching.”
The latest move follows the UK offering residency rights and a path to UK citizenship to around 3 million Hong Kongers in response to the law’s imposition.
Beijing has insisted it is committed to upholding international law, and has promised a “resolute response” if the UK withdraws from extradition arrangements.
The extradition treaty means that, if someone in Hong Kong is suspected of a crime in the UK, then the British authorities can ask Hong Kong to hand them over to face justice – and vice versa.
The UK fears the arrangement — which has been in place for more than 30 years — could see anyone it extradites to Hong Kong being sent on to China.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earlier confirmed that the UK had “concerns” over the new law, and it had to think about the rights of people in Hong Kong to participate in democratic processes.
“There is a balance here. I’m not going to be pushed into a position of becoming a knee-jerk Sinophobe on every issue, somebody who is automatically anti-China,” he said. “We’ve got to have a calibrated approach. We’re going to be tough on some things, but we’re going to continue to engage,” he said.
Political and economic relations between the UK and China have become strained in recent months since the imposition of the new controversial law.
Foreign Secretary Raab referred to a number of tensions during his speech in the Commons, including the recent decision by the UK government to ban Chinese firm Huawei from the country’s 5G network.
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said Labour “strongly welcomed” the measures, saying they should lead to a “new era” in the two countries’ relationship.
“This must mark the start of a more strategic approach to China based on an ethical approach to foreign policy and an end to the naivety of the ‘golden-era years’,” the Indian-origin leader told MPs.
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