Zhou Ba­jun

Notes that the co-lo­ca­tion ar­range­ment clearly de­fines main­land of­fi­cers’ ju­ris­dic­tion in the ter­mi­nus; fears over Ba­sic Law breaches are ground­less or ob­struc­tive

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

The spe­cial ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gion gov­ern­ment on Tues­day an­nounced the co-lo­ca­tion ar­range­ment to let main­land cus­toms and im­mi­gra­tion de­part­ments op­er­ate ac­cord­ing to main­land law in a leased area in­side the West Kowloon Ter­mi­nus of the GuangzhouShen­zhen-Hong Kong Ex­press Rail Link (XRL) Hong Kong sec­tion. The co-lo­ca­tion ar­range­ments have been a ma­jor con­tro­versy since they were pro­posed when the XRL project started; the main con­cern is that al­low­ing main­land au­thor­i­ties to en­force main­land laws in­side the XRL ter­mi­nus would con­tra­vene Ar­ti­cle 18(2) of the Ba­sic Law of the Hong Kong SAR, which stip­u­lates: “Na­tional laws shall not be ap­plied in the Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion ex­cept for those listed in An­nex III to this Law. The laws listed therein shall be ap­plied lo­cally by way of pro­mul­ga­tion or leg­is­la­tion by the re­gion.”

That con­cern is based on mis­un­der­stand­ing. Ac­cord­ing to the co-lo­ca­tion ar­range­ments, three of the four un­der­ground lev­els of the XRL ter­mi­nus will be leased out as the “Main­land Port Area”, where main­land cus­toms, im­mi­gra­tion and quar­an­tine in­spec­tion of­fi­cers clear pas­sen­gers ac­cord­ing to main­land laws, in­clud­ing crim­i­nal law when ap­pro­pri­ate. The lease con­tract will be signed by the Shen­zhen city gov­ern­ment, which the rel­e­vant main­land law en­force­ment de­part­ments be­long to, and the HKSAR Gov­ern­ment. Main­land per­son­nel work­ing in the three-level Main­land Port Area are not al­lowed to en­ter ar­eas out­side it and must re­turn to Shen­zhen when they fin­ish work ev­ery day.

As such the co-lo­ca­tion ar­range­ments will limit the ap­pli­ca­tion of main­land law to the Main­land Port Area in­side the XRL ter­mi­nus ac­cord­ing to a lease con­tract be­tween two re­spon­si­ble re­gional gov­ern­ments. With­out the con­tract there will be no Main­land Port Area for main­land law en­force­ment op­er­a­tions in the first place. More im­por- The au­thor is a se­nior re­search fel­low of China Ever­bright Hold­ings.

tantly the ar­range­ments will have to be au­tho­rized by the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress Stand­ing Com­mit­tee to com­ply with the Ba­sic Law.

Of course back when the Ba­sic Law of the HKSAR was drafted in the 1980s and pro­mul­gated in 1990 no one could have fore­seen the con­struc­tion of the XRL or that it would ne­ces­si­tate “one lo­ca­tion, two ju­ris­dic­tions” in­side the West Kowloon Ter­mi­nus 28 years later. From this point of view, the con­cern men­tioned in the be­gin­ning of this ar­ti­cle is not hard to un­der­stand. But there is no rea­son to be ob­sessed about it, un­less one has ul­te­rior mo­tives.

All mem­bers of Hong Kong so­ci­ety owe it to them­selves to fully un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate the im­por­tance of the XRL to Hong Kong’s longterm de­vel­op­ment. To un­der­stand it peo­ple need to look back at the de­bate over Hong Kong’s de­vel­op­ment strat­egy in the late 1980s.

At that time much of Hong Kong’s man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try had moved to the Pearl River Delta re­gion in Guang­dong, while those who had not were think­ing about mov­ing too. That is why many peo­ple thought at that time that Hong Kong would fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing var­i­ous ser­vices from then on and let Guang­dong do the man­u­fac­tur­ing. How­ever, some other peo­ple did not agree with this view and in­sisted that Hong Kong should not rely on the ser­vice in­dus­try so much as to over­look the high­tech in­dus­try or a more in­no­va­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor. They be­lieved Hong Kong needed to main­tain a bal­anced in­dus­trial struc­ture. For sake of sim­plic­ity in re­lated de­bates some peo­ple summed up the two views as the “empty shell the­ory” and the “balance the­ory”.

The Bri­tish Hong Kong gov­ern­ment kept quiet through­out that public de­bate. As a mat­ter of fact, with no con­sen­sus reached in the de­bate, mar­ket forces opted for the “empty shell the­ory” for Hong Kong and that’s what hap­pened in the past 30 years.

There is no telling how much the “empty shell the­ory” has cost Hong Kong be­cause the re­al­ity is the city is still pay­ing for fail­ure to build a bal­anced in­dus­trial struc­ture for so long, and now it is much harder to pull off than be­fore, granted there is no way around the path to­ward build­ing a knowl­edge-driven econ­omy.

Since Hong Kong missed the “balance the­ory” boat for the past 30 years, some peo­ple may ask — shouldn’t the city fo­cus on ex­plor­ing its own po­ten­tial right now? Maybe, but it may im­ply Hong Kong could go with­out the XRL to avoid the trou­bles caused by co-lo­ca­tion ar­range­ment.

Were peo­ple to en­ter­tain that idea now they would be wrong again, be­cause they over­looked the fast-chang­ing ex­ter­nal and in­ter­nal con­di­tions.

The mass re­lo­ca­tion of Hong Kong’s man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try to Guang­dong 30 years ago was de­ter­mined by the mar­ket law and no one could ever stop it. That said, Hong Kong does have what it takes to de­velop a high-tech man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try. The ques­tion is how. Thanks to eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion Hong Kong has achieved with Guang­dong and the rest of the coun­try in the past few decades it is no longer pos­si­ble for the city to go about eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment en­tirely on its own.

The XRL is Hong Kong’s ac­cess to the na­tion­wide high-speed rail­way net­work which will put the SAR in sync with the na­tion’s de­vel­op­ment and en­hance its own eco­nomic ef­fi­ciency, not to men­tion eas­ier per­son­nel ex­changes and more vis­i­tors. On top of all that con­ve­nience is the prospect of Hong Kong play­ing the lead role in de­vel­op­ment of the Guang­dong-Hong Kong-Ma­cao Greater Bay Area city clus­ter if only it em­braces broader eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion. To do so the XRL is a very im­por­tant step, or there is no telling when an­other op­por­tu­nity will pre­sent it­self.

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