June 4, 2021: New Zealand’s supreme court has reopened the door for a murder suspect’s potential extradition to China, in a landmark new ruling released on Friday. If it goes ahead, the extradition would be the first time New Zealand has sent a resident to China to face trial.
The case comes in a period of intense scrutiny of the New Zealand-China relationship, and after New Zealand has issued several statements raising “grave concerns” over potential human rights breaches by China, including abuses of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang and the crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
It also follows months of discussion over whether New Zealand’s trade reliance on China could hamper its ability to make diplomatic calls that anger Beijing – a tension that the New Zealand government has said has absolutely no bearing on its decisions over matters of principle or human rights.
New Zealand, like a number of western countries, does not have an extradition treaty with China. The 150-page ruling released by the supreme court on Friday does not make a final ruling on extradition – it adjourns the appeal until new assurances and submissions can be filed in July.
It does, however, broadly conclude that the minister could reasonably approve the extradition if the government received several more assurances from the Chinese government around conducting a fair trial and ensuring Kim was not subject to torture. Crucially, the supreme court accepted that such assurances could be made by China and trusted by New Zealand.