Flat White New Zealand

New Zealand 'trusts' China on extradition

24 April 2022

4:00 AM

24 April 2022

4:00 AM

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, under Ardern’s Labour government, has set another scary precedent in relation to China.

‘I don’t think the Foreign Minister has a clue what she is doing!’

This is a recent comment I heard from a fellow New Zealand citizen during a long-awaited post-pandemic trip home. Whilst these words were perhaps not suitable to be spoken in Parliament, they struck a chord, especially in the context of New Zealand’s latest venture to extradite Chinese citizens. 

The words ‘naive’ and ‘idealistic’ unfortunately come to mind when visiting the topic of foreign policy in Aotearoa.

Last week, the New Zealand High Court allowed one of its permanent residents, Kyung Yup Kim, to be extradited to China for a murder trial, which Chinese authorities have been requesting since 2011. The alleged murder took place in Shanghai in 2009 and the Chinese government certainly did not give up on their request. Ardern’s government, predictably, gave in.

Nanaia Mahuta, New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, appeared enthusiastic about sending Kim back to his homeland, believing the High Court ruling was somehow a step in the right direction for her country. 

Leaving aside the question of Kim’s guilt or innocence, the precedent of extradition holds broader implications. Nanaia Mahuta stated that the trial in China would be fair, as the case was ‘non-political’ and therefore apparently unlikely to be subject to any political partiality or bias. However, this is extremely unlikely given China condemns 99 per cent of individuals tried for murder.

There is no such thing as a fair trial in a totalitarian state where all trials are politically orientated. The two concepts are mutually exclusive, similar to the concepts of free speech and censorship.

Moving Kim’s trial to China is a political action and sets a precedent which opens the door to further extraditions creating a slippery slope which New Zealand would be better off avoiding. In countries such as China, an individual is considered to be a cog in a machine similar to the hell of Orwell’s 1984. The form of pacifism that New Zealand and the Labour Government have adopted has turned out to be deleterious to the future of the country. 

New Zealand, sadly, is setting a dangerous precedent in its foreign policy, and not for the first time in recent years. We only have to look at Jacinda’s late renouncement of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine or her unwillingness to work with the Five Eyes for other examples. New Zealand has gotten itself in a muddle with its trade dependency on China and needs to find the courage to look elsewhere to sustain its economy. 

Understanding the nature of unfamiliar political systems that govern major trading partners is crucial to successfully running a country. China’s politics couldn’t be further from Jacinda’s version of left-wing so perhaps she is confused by thinking her socialist leanings align with the CCP. It will be impossible for her to forge sustainable relations with a country in which transparency is banned outright. Jacinda ought to redirect her focus on economic growth within her country, rather than depending on it from outside.

When it comes to the little land of the long white cloud, let’s not see it unwittingly fall under the arm of China’s expansion policy, simply as a result of poor choices made by its Prime Minister and her Cabinet, ironically in the name of international relations.

Natasha Poole BA & MA Hons Litterae Humaniores, University of Oxford, UK

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