No need to panic over co-location of immigration facilities: Tong
The co-location of immigration, customs and quarantine facilities at the West Kowloon Terminus of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) is legally viable, Executive Councilor and Senior Counsel Ronny Tong Ka-wah believes.
The Hong Kong section of the XRL, now more than 90 percent complete, is scheduled to start running in the third quarter of next year. The special administrative region government will soon unveil the plan for co-location of boundary control facilities on the Hong Kong side.
Tong thinks co-location will greatly benefit passengers and boost economic development. He does not think the co-location arrangement will harm “one country, two systems” or violate the Basic Law, brushing aside such panicking comments as “over sensitive”.
In an exclusive interview with China Daily, Tong said the Shenzhen Bay model, where co-location of facilities has been operating for 10 years, with Hong Kong officers executing Hong Kong laws in a designated area on the mainland side of the boundary, can be replicated in the West Kowloon Terminus.
He recalled that the National People’s Congress (NPC) established the Hong Kong SAR in accordance with the country’s Constitution and has the authority to amend the demarcation of the SAR.
In 2006, Hong Kong acquired 41.5 hectares in Shenzhen Bay by way of a leave which will expire on June 30, 2047, with the approval of the State Council. In recent years, Hong Kong and Shenzhen signed a Memorandum of Understanding on jointly developing 87 hectares of land in the Lok Ma Chau Loop along the Shenzhen River, to build the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park.
Through consultation with the Hong Kong and Shenzhen governments, Hong Kong laws are applied in both areas.
“I believe it is constitutionally viable if the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) decides to set up a designated area for mainland use in the West Kowloon Terminus,” the senior counsel noted.
“The area of Hong Kong has increased more than 128 hectares in recent years. Hong Kong people are not against it and are quite happy so a ‘mainland area’ in the terminus is no big deal at all.
“And if a ‘mainland area’ is set up, it is no longer a part of Hong Kong and so the Basic Law and the laws of Hong Kong will not apply. Moreover, it is very normal that passengers are subject to the laws of a country or region once he or she has entered a neighboring place of different jurisdiction, as this happens in many places in the world,” he explained.
“The purpose of co-location arrangement is not political but to benefit the travelers and economic development. Why is it harmful to ‘one country, two systems’? I think such a comment is over sensitive,” he said.
Tong noted that in 2007, the Shenzhen Bay Port Hong Kong Port Area Ordinance was enacted by the Legislative Council. The law specifically states that the Hong Kong Port Area is controlled by Hong Kong and laws of Hong Kong will be applicable.
If the NPCSC consents to co-location of facilities in West Kowloon Terminus, it is necessary for the Hong Kong side to enact a new law to regulate the mainland officers working in the designated area.
Executive Councilor and Barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah says he does not think the co-location arrangement at the West Kowloon Terminus will harm “one country, two systems” or violate the Basic Law.