New Delhi: The United Kingdom on Monday withdrew itself from the extradition treaty signed with Hong Kong ‘immediately and infinitely’ as a mark of protest after China imposed the controversial National Security Law on the former British colony. Also Read - Brucellosis Outbreak in China Affects Over 3000 People: Know All About This Highly Contagious Disease
“The United Kingdom is watching. And the whole world is watching,” wrote Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab as he expressed to the House of Commons how the freedom-restricting national security law significantly changed key assumptions underpinning the extradition treaty arrangements with Hong Kong, which has been in place for more than 30 years. Also Read - Amid Border Tensions, Chinese Vessels Spotted in Indian Waters Last Month; Indian Navy on Constant Watch
The UK government was particularly concerned about Articles 55 to 59 of the new security law, that gives mainland Chinese authorities the ability to assume jurisdiction over certain cases and try them in mainland Chinese courts. This, the UK feared, meant that anyone it extradites could end up in China instead of Hong Kong. Also Read - 'Don't Like it,' Says Trump on TikTok Announcing US Deal With Oracle to Quash Security Fears
“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.
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.
Earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had shown “concerns” over the contentious law, and said it had to think about the rights of people in Hong Kong to participate in democratic processes.
“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.
The UK handed Hong Kong back to China on July 1, 1997, but, as part of an agreement signed at the time, it enjoys some freedoms not seen in the Communist Party-ruled mainland.
With PTI inputs