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New Zealand is under international pressure for allowing residents to be extradited to China.

New Zealand is under international pressure for allowing residents to be extradited to China.

New Zealand is under international pressure for allowing residents to be extradited to China.

New Zealand is under international pressure for allowing residents to be extradited to China.

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After a landmark supreme court judgement allowing the government to transfer a man suspected of murder to Shanghai for prosecution, New Zealand is facing international pressure to reject the extradition of a resident to China.

 

The decision overturned prior court findings that had barred extradition on the basis that the accused, Kyung Yup Kim, might face torture or an unfair trial.

 

Now, lawmakers and members of parliament from around the world, including the United Kingdom, Australia, and Europe, have written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Justice Minister Kris Faafoi, warning that the case could create a “dangerous precedent” and lead to more extraditions. If Kim’s case goes forward, it will be the first time New Zealand has sent a resident to face trial in china

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Extraditing Kim set “a dangerous precedent, whereby the Chinese government’s guarantees are taken at face value, putting the wellbeing of our citizens and residents in jeopardy – a precedent that may have far-reaching and worrying implications for human rights beyond New Zealand’s borders,” according to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), a cross-party international group of MPs. It was signed by 22 current legislators.

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“This issue has piqued our interest as legislators from democratic countries around the world, and we stand ready to speak on their behalf.”

Kim, a Korean-born New Zealand permanent citizen, is suspected of murdering a young woman in Shanghai in 2009. He rejects the charge. New Zealand’s courts have previously denied his extradition, citing the risk of torture and a lack of a fair trial in China’s legal system. The top court, however, concluded in April that the government could reasonably believe Chinese official assurances that Kim would not be tortured or subjected to an unfair trial.

 

Human rights organisations and academics were alarmed by the court’s decision. The verdict, said to Human Rights Watch China director Sophie Richardson, was “oblivious to reality” and set a “very worrying precedent.”

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Dr. Anna High, co-director of Otago University’s institute for law and society, said the ruling had left her “very disturbed.”

 

“China’s criminal justice system has serious and well-documented flaws — the idea that a diplomatic commitment is a sufficient foundation for surrendering someone to that system appears, at best, exceedingly stupid.”

 

New Zealand’s decision had been met with “great surprise” by international lawmakers, according to MP Simon O’Connor, a member of the alliance from New Zealand. “I’m sure my MPs and senators colleagues around the world are astonished that New Zealand has any faith in the Chinese legal system,” he said. If the extradition goes ahead, O’Connor says New Zealand will be “out of line with other countries, other allies.”

The question of whether New Zealand’s trade reliance on China hinders its ability to make diplomatic decisions that irritate Beijing has been debated for the past year – a tension that the New Zealand administration has argued has no influence on its decisions on concerns of principle or human rights.

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In court documents, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta stated that the extradition would be a “test case” for China, which the world community would be keenly watching. Beijing has a “strong interest” in being able to extradite people to face criminal charges, according to her. It is now up to Faafoi to decide whether or not to extradite him. The minister remained silent in response to IPAC’s letter.

“We have no faith in the Chinese Communist Party’s judicial system,” O’Connor said. “One only needs to look at the two Canadian Michaels [Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor] and how they were treated, or think about the show trials that are currently taking place in Hong Kong to show that we should not have faith in the judicial system with China.”

 

Canadian diplomats were refused access to the closed-door trials of Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a Canadian businessman, both of whom had been jailed for nearly two years. In May 2021, Yang Hengjun, an Australian citizen and writer facing espionage allegations in China, stated that he had been subjected to over 300 interrogations, including prolonged durations of torture.Australia’s ambassador to China, Graham Fletcher, was excluded from the courtroom during Yang’s single-day trial.

The ruling, according to O’Connor, “is sending a rather disturbing message to the Chinese diaspora – whether in New Zealand or elsewhere – that China can reach out through extradition… and target anti-CCP [Chinese Communist Party] dissidents, or that this could be a possibility.”

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