New Zealand-Hong Kong relations change amid national security law

Since Hong Kong's new national security law, New Zealand has followed the Five Eye Partners in pushbacks against Beijing.

New Zealand recently banned its extradition agreement with Hong Kong, following Australia, the UK and Canada in doing so. The US continues its lead feud with Beijing, removing Hong Kong’s ‘special status’ including trade privileges and sanctions.

With Hong Kong at the frontline of tensions between Washington and Beijing, New Zealand's relationship with the city is changing.

Last year, pro-democracy protests ensued over concerns regarding the city's limited democracy, sparked by a then stand-alone extradition bill.


A flag with the new national security law on it held up in Hong Kong. Photo: Tommy Walker

Hong Kong was guaranteed 50 years of high autonomy since the UK's handover in 1997, under the ‘one country, two systems’ agreement. The city enjoys a limited democracy model, in contrary to the communist model in mainland China.

On June 30, Beijing enacted a new national security law, prohibiting secession, subversion, terrorism, and foreign collusion. Critics have said it ends Hong Kong’s unique autonomy.

The New Zealand-Hong Kong relationship

US-China spats have been dominating international headlines, but New Zealand’s relations with Hong Kong and China are also intensifying.

On July 28 Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters released a statement cancelling the extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

“Cabinet has decided to suspend New Zealand’s extradition treaty with Hong Kong. New Zealand can no longer trust that Hong Kong’s criminal justice system is sufficiently independent from China. If China shows adherence to the ‘one country, two systems’ framework then we could reconsider this decision,” his statement read.

Further changes such as the export of sensitive goods will now be treated in the same way as mainland China.

China responded with suspending their extradition treaty despite New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs office confirming there is no such agreement.

New Zealanders travelling to Hong Kong

Travel advice for New Zealanders visiting Hong Kong now includes warnings of the potential ramifications of the national security law. Under ‘General travel advice’ the notice now states the legislation can be ‘interpreted broadly’ whilst there ‘is a possibility of being detained and removed to Mainland China for those arrested under the legislation.’

Bizarrely, Article 38 outlines that even non-residents living outside of the city can break the law and face possible prosecution.

This might deter New Zealanders from future visits according to New Zealand-local Professor William Hayward, Dean of Social Sciences of Hong Kong University (HKU).


Hong Kong University. Photo: Tommy Walker

“I think New Zealand will be mindful of Article 38, even if they’re not in Hong Kong or China they can still transgress the law. So if you’re in Auckland, and you post a Hong Kong independence badge on your Facebook page, then that could be seen as contravening aspects of secession”, he said.

“If you’re flying to Hong Kong airport, in theory, you could be arrested under the law and so I think for people who have Hong Kong and China interests in New Zealand, the expansion nature of the law is going to give them pause in the way they express themselves and the willingness to visit freely.

“New Zealand will be mindful of that, and it makes the relationship with China/Hong Kong less smooth”, Hayward added.

Tourism in Hong Kong

Tourism year-on-year has dropped by 99.7% due to the protests and pandemic, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

But according to New Zealander Rory Mackay, who owns Hong Kong adventure tour company Wild Hong Kong, he believes the national security law could act as a good thing for tourism,

“It’s a positive move for us all the way, anything to quell violence and unrest on the streets of Hong Kong. Although international tourism obviously is non-existent right now due to COVID-19, when that obstacle is overcome, the lack of protests will help restore faith in the international community that Hong Kong is more stable to visit as a tourist.”

But Mackay says fellow New Zealanders are showing "concerns for basic freedoms we take for granted in New Zealand."

Changes in the city

Since the rule has come into effect in the city, high profile democracy activists, such as Jimmy Lai and Agnes Chow, have been arrested under the law for alleged secession charges and colluding with foreign forces. The widely popular slogan ‘Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution Of Our Times’ has been banned, whilst insulting China’s national anthem is now a criminal act. Furthermore, pro-democracy books from public libraries have been removed whilst the Hong Kong government have told schools to remove any books breaching the law.

Critics both locally and internationally have condemned the law as eroding freedoms.

The Secretary of Education Kevin Yeung has stated: "no-one in schools should hold any activities to express their political stance."

But Hayward added that there are "some ambiguities because the law isn’t specific."

“At the HKU, we’re in a little bit of a situation because the university is an autonomous institution. For a liberal university, it’s not to tell students how… it’s to challenge their preconceptions. So our intention is to continue what we do as normal. Over time we might find there are areas we’ll have to make adjustments accordingly,” he added.


A plaque on the National Security office in Hong Kong. Photo: Tommy Walker

New Zealand-Hong Kong relationship 'ongoing'

Whilst Hong Kong is going through changes, it remains to be seen how this will affect future New Zealand relations. The Foreign Affairs Office is continuing to review its overall relationship with the city, labelling the review as "ongoing", which was confirmed by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade office.

There are an estimated 5,000 New Zealanders currently in Hong Kong. By the end of June 2020, Hong Kong was New Zealand’s ninth-largest export market worth $1.16 billion. Top trade products include milk/dairy, meat, seafood, live animals, rough wood, and electric machinery.

- Asia Media Centre