US suspends Hong Kong extradition treaty as China feud deepens

US says it has suspended treaty over new national security law imposed in Hong Kong

Matt Mathers@MattEm90
Thursday 20 August 2020 13:05
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US-China relations took another blow on Wednesday after Washington suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in protest at Beijing‘s new national security law.

The treaty was one of three the Trump administration said it was halting or axing entirely, in response to China‘s decision to impose on Hong Kong sweeping new reforms that critics say signal an end to the territory’s autonomy.

The measures mean the US will no longer cooperate with China on “the surrender of fugitive offenders, the transfer of sentenced persons and reciprocal tax exemptions on income derived from the international operation of ships”, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

“These steps underscore our deep concern regarding Beijing’s decision to impose the national security law, which has crushed the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong,” Ms Ortagus added.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, widely regarded as president Trump’s China hawk, said the Communist party had “crushed the freedoms” of Hong Kongers.

“Because of the CCP’s actions, we are terminating or suspending three of our bilateral agreements with the territory,” he added in a message posted Twitter.

Tensions have been flaring between the two countries ever since China imposed its national security law on Hong Kong in June, against a backdrop of widespread pro-democracy protests in the former British colony.

The Hong Kong government said Wednesday’s decision shows “disrespect for bilateralism and multilateralism under the current administration and should be condemned by the international community”.

“The HKSAR government strongly objects to and deplores the US action, which is widely seen as a move to create troubles in the China-US relationship, using Hong Kong as a pawn,” it said in a statement, referring to the city by its formal designation as a Special Administrative Region of China.

Trump signed an executive order last month that he said would end preferential economic treatment for the city.

The new national security law punishes anything China considers secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison and has drawn criticism from western countries that worry the law will end the freedoms promised when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Beijing and the Hong Kong government have defended the law as necessary to restore order and preserve prosperity after months of at-times violent anti-government protests last year.

Relations between the two countries were already strained by differences over trade, Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea and its treatment of its Muslim Uighur minority.

US-China ties have deteriorated to their worst level in decades, analysts say.

Washington this month imposed sanctions on Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and other current and former Hong Kong and mainland officials whom Washington accuses of curtailing political freedom in the financial hub.

The US government has also required goods made in Hong Kong for export to the United States to be labelled as made in China after 25 September.

Beijing and Washington are also embroiled in a row over the social media app TikTok, which is owned by Chinese technology firm ByteDance.

US security chiefs say the firm has close links with the Chinese government and that the app is being used for overseas intelligence gathering.

Last week, Mr Trump ordered ByteDance to sell its US business within 90 days or face being shut down. The president has since given tech giant Oracle the green light to buy TikTok’s US operations.

The president said there was “credible evidence” that TikTok was being used by ByteDance to breach US security.

ByteDance has repeatedly denied that it has improperly shared users’ data.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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