Co-location ‘reflects high degree of autonomy’
The co-location arrangement for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) embodies the high degree of autonomy Hong Kong enjoys, as it is the special administrative region government’s decision to establish a joint customs and immigration checkpoint, Hong Kong SAR Basic Law Committee member Albert Chen Hung-yee said on Monday.
Chen, who is a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, added that the co-location arrangement also shows Hong Kong has been given more power. This is because the city is granted authority to arrange a one-stop immigration and customs clearance service on its soil, which it didn’t enjoy before.
Such authorization is not a constitutional obligation which the government has to undertake. Hong Kong still enjoys the right to decide whether or not to use the authority, explained Chen. He added that this shows the central government’s respect for Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.
The SAR government earlier announced a three-step procedure to implement co-location at the XRL’s West Kowloon Terminus, which includes seeking approval and ratification from the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, before local legislation.
Article 20 of the Basic Law stipulates that the Hong Kong SAR “may enjoy other powers granted to it by the National People’s Congress, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress or the Central People’s Government”.
Describing the co-location arrangement as “law-based, innovative and flexible”, Chen dismissed the misconception that the arrangement would cause mainland laws to be enforced in other parts of Hong Kong.
According to the plan, onefourth of the West Kowloon Terminus will be designated as the Mainland Port Area, where mainland laws will be applied.
Chen referred to the Shenzhen Bay Control Point model, where co-location has been implemented since 2007. The Hong Kong government rents part of the checkpoint located in Shekou, Shenzhen and places it within Hong Kong’s jurisdiction to enforce border clearance.
“So does that mean more and more places on the mainland now are placed under Hong Kong’s jurisdiction?” Chen asked.
On a separate occasion, MTR Corporation Chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang echoed Chen’s remarks, saying people, especially those in business and trade, would all benefit from the XRL arrangement.