Hong Kong: US suspends extradition treaty over national security law

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An American Flag is seen waving during a Rally in Hong Kong, China, October 14, 2019.Image source, Getty Images
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The US has suspended an extradition treaty with Hong Kong in an effort to pressure Beijing

The US has halted its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, the latest move to pressure Beijing after it imposed a controversial national security law on the former British territory.

It is one of three bilateral treaties suspended on Wednesday.

The US State Department said the security law had "crushed the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong".

Last month President Donald Trump also ended Hong Kong's preferential trade and diplomatic status with the US.

"The Chinese Communist Party chose to crush the freedoms and autonomy of the people of Hong Kong," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted.

The move was expected as the US imposed a raft of punitive measures in the wake of the new law.

The Hong Kong government later responded saying it "strongly objects to and deplores" the action by the US "which is widely seen as a move to create troubles in China-US relationship, using Hong Kong as a pawn".

What are the latest measures?

They cover "the surrender of fugitive offenders, the transfer of sentenced persons and reciprocal tax exemptions on income derived from the international operation of ships", State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus in a statement.

The suspension of the reciprocal tax exemptions is likely to take a significant hit on Hong Kong companies - many of these companies had relied on such exemptions for relief.

Other nations, such as the UK, Germany and Australia have also suspended extradition treaties in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam and 10 other top officials from Hong Kong and mainland China.

Also on Wednesday, Mr Trump praised Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai, who was detained last week under the law.

In words bound to anger China, he called 71-year-old Mr Lai - a prominent pro-democracy voice and a supporter of protests that erupted last year in Hong Kong - "a brave man".

What does the security law mean for Hong Kong?

The US sees the security law as a threat to the freedoms Hong Kong was guaranteed under the handover agreement.

Its special status was agreed between China and Hong Kong's former colonial power, the UK, before sovereignty was returned to Beijing in 1997.

The law - which outlaws criticism of China's government - is the most sweeping change to the political landscape of Hong Kong since then.

Critics say it effectively curtails protest and freedom of speech. But China has said the new law will return stability to the territory after a year of unrest.