China on Thursday announced it had suspended a Mutual Legal Assistance agreement between Hong Kong and the U.S., after Washington earlier announced it had suspended three agreements with the territory covering extradition and tax exemptions.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the Hong Kong-U.S. Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement on Criminal Justice would no longer be in force, condemning “interference in China’s internal affairs.”

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Mutual legal assistance treaties are agreements between countries to gather and exchange information in order to enforce civil or criminal law, often used to interrogate suspects residing in a foreign country.

Zhao also echoed sentiment from an earlier statement by the Hong Kong government, accusing the U.S. of using Hong Kong as a pawn in its disputes with China and showing “disrespect for bilateralism and multilateralism.”

Following earlier announcements from Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, all so-called Five Eyes nations have now suspended their extradition deals with Hong Kong.

France and Germany have also suspended their agreements.

The slew of suspended treaties come in response to Beijing’s imposition of a new national security law for Hong Kong in June, seen as an attack on the former British colony’s freedoms.

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Report says the law imposes sentences of up to life imprisonment for subversion, succession, foreign collusion, and terrorism, which it broadens to include common protest tactics.

Those accused of violating the law are to be investigated by a secretive new police division, prosecuted by a special unit of the justice department, and tried by judges hand-picked by the city’s Beijing-backed leader.

Suspects can also be tried in mainland China, where Communist Party-controlled courts with 99 per cent conviction rates also employ the death penalty.


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