Co-lo­ca­tion the op­ti­mal choice

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

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.

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