World News

Hong Kong suspends pacts with Ireland, Netherlands as diplomatic row escalates

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong said on Tuesday it is suspending extradition agreements and pacts on mutual legal assistance with the Netherlands and Ireland, escalating a diplomatic spat in the wake of Beijing’s new national security law for the city.

The news comes weeks after the Netherlands and Ireland joined Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Finland in suspending extradition treaties with Hong Kong following the implementation of the legislation.

Critics of the law, which punishes what Beijing broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, fear it will be used to trample freedoms in the former British colony.

Critics have also expressed concern that those who fall foul of the law could face trial in mainland China where courts are tightly controlled by the Communist Party.

In a statement, the Hong Kong government said the moves by the Netherlands and Ireland to suspend extradition treaties with the semi-autonomous city “are open interference in China’s internal affairs and a violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations.”

Authorities in Beijing and the financial centre have said the law is necessary to ensure Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity after a year of anti-government protests that plunged the Chinese-ruled city into its biggest crisis in decades.

On Monday, the United States imposed sanctions on four more Chinese officials in Hong Kong’s governing and security establishment over their alleged role in crushing dissent in the global financial hub.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the sanctions were for their role in implementing the national security law, which came into force on June 30.

Reporting By Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Bernadette Baum