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New Zealand suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong

In this Oct. 4, 2019, file photo, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters listens during a press conference with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne following the Australia-New Zealand Foreign Minister Consultations in Sydney. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- New Zealand announced Tuesday it will follow the lead of its intelligence allies by suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

    The move comes in response to China passing a sweeping new security law for the semi-autonomous territory.

    New Zealand is the final member of the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing alliance to take such action after the U.S., Australia, Canada and the U.K. previously announced similar measures.

    New Zealand relies on China as its largest trading partner and in the past has often tried to avoid direct political confrontation. China each year buys billions of dollars worth of New Zealand's agricultural goods, including its lucrative milk powder which is used in infant formula.

    But Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the new law went against commitments China had made to the international community.

    "New Zealand can no longer trust that Hong Kong's criminal justice system is sufficiently independent from China," Peters said in a statement.

    He said there would be other changes to the relationship. New Zealand would now treat military and technology exports to Hong Kong in the same way as it treats such exports to China, he said, and had updated its travel advice to warn New Zealanders about the risks they faced under the new law.

    "New Zealand remains deeply concerned at the imposition of this legislation, and we will continue to monitor the situation in Hong Kong as the law is applied," Peters said. "As a result, the review of our cooperation settings with Hong Kong will be ongoing."

    China says the new security law is needed to combat terrorism and separatism and prevent Hong Kong from becoming a base for undermining Chinese state power. In general, cases would be tried in Hong Kong, but the law allows for mainland jurisdiction in some circumstances.

    China's embassy in Wellington, led by ambassador Wu Xi, said Tuesday it was preparing a response to the announcement. Earlier this month, as New Zealand considered such a move, the embassy put out a statement urging the nation to "stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs, and refrain from going any further down the wrong path."

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