Co-location the optimal choice
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuetngor said at a media luncheon on Thursday that the special administrative region government hopes to present a draft proposal for public consultation regarding the co-location arrangement at the Guangzhou-ShenzhenHong Kong Express Rail Link’s West Kowloon Terminus later this month at the earliest. Most Hong Kong residents look forward to traveling to the mainland by high-speed train as soon as possible and do not want to see any more delays of the Express Rail Link opening. That is why they expect the Legislative Council to pass the co-location arrangement bill when the SAR government submits it.
The Express Rail Link is a key segment of the nationwide high-speed railway network and element of the “one-hour travel zone” encompassing the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. It will greatly reduce the time people living in this region will spend traveling by train from one city to another, or any other mainland city further away when it begins operation, hopefully next year. Currently construction of the Hong Kong terminus of the rail link in West Kowloon is almost complete and the MTR Corporation expects the facility to begin operations in the third quarter of next year. If things go as planned from now on the last “hurdle” the Express Rail Link needs to surmount before opening would be the co-location arrangement.
It should be noted that co-location of cus- toms and immigration clearance operations by local and mainland authorities in the same building in Hong Kong is only meant for the convenience of passengers leaving Hong Kong for mainland destinations, and will not in any way impede enforcement of Hong Kong law. Some opposition LegCo members have been using the Basic Law as an excuse to block the co-location arrangement, by assuming immigration and customs clearance by mainland authorities in Hong Kong would constitute breach of the Basic Law on matters concerning Hong Kong’s jurisdiction. Basically they would rather the passengers who board bullet trains in Hong Kong spend more time going through customs and immigration on the mainland side of the boundary than letting them enjoy the ride all the way to their destinations.
To be sure, mainland authorities can conduct customs and immigration clearance operations in cities along the high-speed railway lines but that would mean passengers from Hong Kong will have to spend time waiting for their turn in mainland railway stations and defeat the purpose of the Express Rail Link. That time can be saved by clearing customs and immigration checks before boarding here in Hong Kong, which is what co-location arrangements are for in the first place. The opposition lawmakers who insist on no co-location of immigration and customs clearance operations in Hong Kong need to hear what members of the public have to say about that.