Politicized cancellation of Hong Kong extradition treaties
Tom Fowdy
Hong Kong Special Administration Region. /VCG

Hong Kong Special Administration Region. /VCG

Editor's note: Tom Fowdy is a British political and international relations analyst and a graduate of Durham and Oxford universities. He writes on topics pertaining to China, the DPRK, Britain, and the U.S. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Since the implementation of the national security law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), there has been a coordinated effort across the Five Eyes or "Anglosphere" countries to cancel their extradition treaties with the city, with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom having taken some steps, with the United States likely to follow.

The countries have stated in their reasoning that the city is no longer perceived in their eyes as having an independent legal system from that of the Chinese mainland or one governed by the rule of law, as well as aiming to undercut the influence of the national security law and stifle the city's ability to successfully prosecute those overseas who may be in violation of it, something they have repeatedly represented as oppression.

On such a context, it is quite obvious that the concerted cancellation of extradition arrangements with the city is political, based on the already established premise that these countries do not respect the provision of national security in the city as legitimate.

While they will say in suspending such treaties that they are "protecting human rights"- such countries were irrespective never obligated to hand over people for reasons that were dubious or that were not crimes under their own respective laws or against given rules on individual rights. They would rather undermine the law in the premise that the HKSAR must remain an extension of their own interests than attempt to reason with it and the country it belongs to.

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as they take part in a session on reforming the United Nations at the UN headquarters in New York, U.S., September 18, 2017. /Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as they take part in a session on reforming the United Nations at the UN headquarters in New York, U.S., September 18, 2017. /Reuters

Owing to its history as a British colony, the "Anglosphere" has developed a close relationship to Hong Kong and despite the handover, sought to sustain the city's existence and strategic importance as an extension of their own interests above that of the country which it actually belongs to, hence how such extradition treaties historically developed in the first place.

These countries conceived Hong Kong as a platform, insurance and hub for dealing with and changing China to their own visions. In their mind, Beijing ought not to have say or influence in the region, but the city itself ought to be a vehicle for the transformation of China and the advocating of their objectives.

As a result, when the national security law was implemented, legal loopholes were shut down which prohibited the city from being utilized against the interests of the country as a hole. This led the aforementioned five countries to declare what they argued to be the demise of the "One Country, Two Systems" and a violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, claiming that the law in turn violated the independence of Hong Kong's judicial system and therefore made it unreliable.

Therefore, the countries subsequently began cancelling their extradition agreements on the grounds that it represented an infringement on individual rights.

This is however, more about denouncing the legitimacy of the law than judging it by the merit of its content. Extradition is not an automatic process, but one subject to a judicial process which carefully analyzes the rights of the accused, the relevance of the crime under their own laws and the consequences they would face in the target country.

Herein lies the problem, in cancelling such treaties, these "Five Eyes" nations are promoting the idea that every single request for extradition from the Hong Kong authorities under the national security law would somehow be morally and legally unjust, but this is false.

For example, on the day the law was implemented a young man stabbed a police officer in Hong Kong and attempted to flee to the United Kingdom. He was caught on the plane, and arrested under the national security law. If he had arrived in Britain, the argument would be now that he should never have to return to face his crime because it violates his human rights, his extradition would be immoral. Is that fair?

Binning these treaties does not give any merit to the fact that those prosecuted under the law under provisions such as blatant terrorism or other violent actors (these own countries have strict anti-terror laws) is a fair call, and therefore it is subsequently fair game for some to commit egregious crimes, flee the city and not face justice.

An extradition agreement does not mean every single Hong Konger accused of anything has to be extradited, for as stated this would be on the merits and evidence of each case via their own legal systems.

Therefore, the coordinated scrapping of such treaties is being done to reflect a political statement which seeks to denounce the national law and its legitimacy in its entirety, based on the premise that the city ought only to exist on their interests and political terms, one which they assume the country it is a part of has no right to or say in its governance.

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