Co-location proposal soon to be revealed
Hong Kong’s Executive Council, the core policymaking organ of the special administrative region government, conducted a two-hour discussion on Monday over the long-awaited co-location proposal for customs and immigration control at Hong Kong’s high-speed rail terminus in West Kowloon, ExCo member Ip Kwok-him said.
The final deal will be unveiled to the public “very soon”, he said.
No more information is available under a principle of confidentiality but the proposal is reportedly to be released as soon as today (Tuesday) and follows the “precedent” of co-location at the Shenzhen Bay Port.
The plan will have mainland immigration officials working at the terminus, which is expected to enhance the efficiency of the HK$84 billion cross-boundary rail link.
The Shenzhen Bay Control Point model, where co-location arrangements have been implemented since 2007, is reportedly the most probable proposal.
Following a National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) decision in 2006, the Hong Kong government now rents an area at the control point — for an initial period until June 30, 2047 — and places it within Hong Kong’s jurisdiction to enforce border clearance. As such, Hong Kong laws apply in the specific area. Rent is 6.23 million yuan, or HK$7.18 million a year.
The arrangement allows passenger and vehicle departure and arrival clearance in close proximity.
The rented area and surface of the connecting bridge are under Hong Kong juris- diction, according to official documents. Hong Kong laws apply within the area. Surrounding areas are all under mainland jurisdiction.
So far there have been no reports of major incidents in implementing the co-location arrangement at Shenzhen Bay.
After announcing the railway terminus plan the government will solicit public opinion and submit it to the Legislative Council for approval, in the form of a bill.
The presentation to LegCo is expected in October after the legislature resumes sitting after its summer recess. However, the government has to work quickly as the railway is scheduled to start operating by the third quarter of next year.
Earlier, the city’s transport chief Frank Chan Fan said the co-location arrangement was the “only plan” for boundary control at the West Kowloon Terminus.
“There is no plan B,” he said. “Only by implementing joint boundary controls can the rail link maximize its power.”
He revealed that the plan complied with the “one country, two systems” principle and safeguarded the city’s high degree of autonomy.
The plan has been a controversial issue in the city as the Article 22 of the Basic Law stipulates that no department or authorities in the mainland may interfere in the affairs which the SAR administers on its own in accordance with this Law.
Opponents argue that this article prohibits any mainland law enforcement officers carrying out duties in Hong Kong.
However, a number of legal professionals said that if the officers work in a restricted area at the terminus, they should not be deemed as “interfering Hong Kong affairs”.