Canada’s decision to suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong is a political move overriding the rule of law, the city’s senior officials say. They added that such a decision was an attempt to interfere in China’s internal affairs after the city’s promulgation of the national security law . The criticisms came as Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah also said on Saturday that offenders under the new law could be disqualified for life from running for local elections. Meanwhile, in a statement delivered at an online forum held by the University of Hong Kong, Wang Zhenmin, former legal affairs director of Beijing’s liaison office in the city, said the national security legislation was drafted in such a way as to respect the local common law system “as much as possible”, although some scholars flagged concerns about its sweeping power and vague terms. Beijing on Tuesday imposed the legislation on Hong Kong that prohibits acts of succession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne announced on Friday that his country would suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong. The government will also halt the export of any sensitive military items to the city. Hong Kong national security law: What is it about? Read the full text Hong Kong security minister John Lee Ka-chiu expressed his disappointment over the move on a radio programme on Saturday. “If the Canadian administration allows politics to overrule the rule of law, it must also explain to the world on what grounds could they allow fugitives to go scot-free,” he said. He said one or two fugitives were transferred between the two places every year and all of them were involved in serious crimes. It is unreasonable if there is no law to punish foreigners for doing things that endanger the national security of a country Teresa Cheng, justice minister Justice minister Cheng also accused the Canadian administration of violating the international law that promotes equality among countries. “If Ottawa was hoping to affect China’s national security law or system, that is an attempt to interfere in the country’s internal affairs. It is an inappropriate act and would strike a blow to the rule of law,” she said. Immigration firms report rush of Hong Kong BN(O) renewal interest While some local legal critics, including Bar Association vice-chairman Anita Yip Hau-ki, cited the new law’s Article 38, which covers offences committed by non-permanent residents of Hong Kong, as a factor that might have prompted Canada to respond with a countermove, Cheng dismissed such speculation by citing examples of similar legal provisions in many countries. “Many other countries, such as the US, have similar or even stricter laws. The US also has long-arm sanctions … which can cover foreigners and carry extraterritorial jurisdiction,” she said. “It is unreasonable if there is no law to punish foreigners for doing things that endanger the national security of a country.” Opposition lawmaker James To Kun-sun said the Canadian government’s decision underlined that the new law had threatened the city’s judicial independence. “The suspension is a very clear signal to the Hong Kong government that our legal system – the independence of our judiciary – is voted upon with no confidence by at least one government, the Canadian government. This is a very serious matter,” he said. US warning on sale of sensitive technology to Hong Kong a signal of hurdles, red tape ahead Wang, who now heads the Centre for Hong Kong and Macau Studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing, was due to share his thoughts on the law at the HKU web-based legal forum but was unable to do so because of technical difficulties. Instead, the university’s law dean Fu Huailing read out a summarised statement from Wang. In the statement, Wang said the law was drafted out of necessity for Beijing to restore Hong Kong’s stability and not intended to change the city’s way of life. Wang also said lawmakers had been “extremely cautious” in crafting only three scenarios under which the mainland would assume full jurisdiction, so as to respect the city’s common law system. The justice secretary also warned Hongkongers on Saturday not to test the law by continuing to chant the protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times”. But she stopped short of saying whether those who chanted the slogan would be banned from running for public office. The government issued a statement on Thursday, saying the slogan, which was common during last year’s anti-government protests , suggested Hong Kong independence. “It will be for the court to make a decision as to whether the overall actions, not just the words, of a defendant amount to an offence under the relevant sections of the national security law,” Cheng said. But HKU legal scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun told the legal forum that “waving a poster, singing a song or chanting a slogan” should not amount to secessionist acts because they were so distant from immediate action that would cause secession. Cheng also confirmed for the first time that offenders under the new law could be disqualified for life from running for local elections. Hong Kong national security law official English version: “That particular article [of the law] does not set a time limit which means they would be disqualified for life, as all these offences are of very serious nature,” she said. While local media figures and scholars have raised concerns over whether the new law poses a threat to press freedom in the city, both Cheng and Lee urged them not to be too worried. “As long as you are doing your normal job and not reporting fake news that threatens national security, why do you have to worry?” the justice minister said. “Sometimes when I attend a radio programme, I might mention ‘Hong Kong independence’ as well, but that does not mean I have violated the law.” But HKU associate law professor Cora Chan Sau-wai warned that under the new law, any policy formulated by the new national security committee, chaired by the city’s leader, would enjoy unfettered power that could not be challenged by judicial review. She said the committee, for instance, could require academics to submit their work for review but the move would be not judicially reviewable.