The Executive Council on Tuesday morning approved the proposed arrangements for customs and immigration clearance operations by both Hong Kong and mainland law-enforcement departments inside the West Kowloon Terminus of the GuangzhouShenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL), known in short as the co-location arrangements. Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung told reporters in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that mainland customs and immigration authorities will clear passengers according to mainland law in a leased area inside the West Kowloon Terminus before boarding high-speed trains for mainland destinations. The co-location arrangements will be ready for implementation after necessary local legislation.
The arrangements are the results of long and careful discussions between relevant departments of the special administrative region government and mainland authorities with full consideration on all matters of common concern, especially those related to public interest and rule of law. As Yuen noted at the press conference, there will be no transfer of land ownership as a result of co-location arrangements and Hong Kong laws are applicable in the leased area under certain conditions.
Co-location arrangements are a key feature in the XRL project. Without it passengers headed for mainland destinations will have to go through customs and immigration clearance in Hong Kong before boarding and again when they arrive at destinations on the mainland. That will defeat the original purpose of constructing the XRL. The opposition parties have been making various unfounded accusations against the co-location arrangements all along, even though they did not know the details. Their only goal is to derail the XRL project by any means they can find regardless of the tremendous harm it will cause public interest.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told reporters before Tuesday’s ExCo meeting that arrangements will fully comply with the Basic Law and the “one country, two systems” principle. She also ruled out the possibility co-location arrangements might compromise the rule of law and “one country, two systems” principle in order to achieve the convenience of high-speed rail. According to Yuen’s explanation the whole process sounds very similar to the Shenzhen Bay Port, which was set up in 2007 and has been effective for 10 years with impressive results.
If Hong Kong law enforcement authorities can do their jobs according to Hong Kong law in a leased space in Shenzhen without contradicting the Basic Law or “one country, two systems”, so can mainland authorities according to mainland law in a similar leased area in the SAR. As long as all parties concerned faithfully observe their agreement as well as relevant laws on operating inside the port area nothing will be compromised in order to achieve the original purpose of the XRL — to enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness and promote economic development. In the past 20 years the central authorities have done everything to ensure the complete and precise implementation of the “one country, two systems” principle. It simply makes no sense whatsoever to suggest the central authorities will authorize anything inconsistent with existing law and the “one country, two systems” principle.