To the point

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - S TA F F W R I T E R

Al­bert Chen Hung-yee, a mem­ber of the Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion Ba­sic Law Com­mit­tee, told a ra­dio pro­gram on Mon­day that the SAR gov­ern­ment’s plan to seek autho­riza­tion from the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress Stand­ing Com­mit­tee (NPCSC) un­der Ar­ti­cle 20 of the Ba­sic Law to lease out some space at the West Kowloon Ter­mi­nus of the Guangzhou-Shen­zhen-Hong Kong Ex­press Rail Link (XRL) to let main­land au­thor­i­ties carry out im­mi­gra­tion con­trol and other ac­tiv­i­ties is con­sis­tent with the Ba­sic Law.

The Ba­sic Law ex­pert jus­ti­fied his ar­gu­ment from the an­gle of tele­ol­ogy. This tele­o­log­i­cal ar­gu­ment is log­i­cally sound and de­fen­si­ble. It is not a lan­guage for the lay­man. But Sec­re­tary for Jus­tice Rim­sky Yuen Kwok-ke­ung’s anal­ogy — there is no prob­lem with a land­lord rent­ing back a room from his ten­ant — to de­scribe the co-lo­ca­tion ar­range­ment could help peo­ple more read­ily un­der­stand the un­der­ly­ing logic.

Ar­ti­cle 7 of the Ba­sic Law stip­u­lates that the SAR gov­ern­ment is re­spon­si­ble for the man­age­ment, use and lease of the land and nat­u­ral re­sources within the SAR, which are all State prop­erty. To max­i­mize the ben­e­fits th­ese re­sources can po­ten­tially gen­er­ate, the SAR gov­ern­ment has every rea­son to put them to good use. And leas­ing out some con­fined spa­ces in the West Kowloon Ter­mi­nus to the main­land au­thor­i­ties to set up the pro­posed joint check­point is in no doubt tremen­dously ben­e­fi­cial to Hong Kong.

Few can ar­gue that the joint check­point ar­range­ment will greatly boost the ef­fi­ciency of pas­sen­ger and freight trans­port to and from the main­land. This will help con­sol­i­date Hong Kong’s po­si­tion as a re­gional trans­port hub and strengthen the city’s com­pet­i­tive­ness. Ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates, as re­vised in 2015, the XRL project will gen­er­ate an in­vest­ment re­turn of about 4 per­cent. This is apart from the huge in­di­rect and in­duced ben­e­fits that are hard to ac­cu­rately quan­tify but imag­in­able by mere com­mon sense.

Those huge ben­e­fits will be greatly dis­counted if a joint check­point is not in­stalled in the West Kowloon Ter­mi­nus. But by seek­ing autho­riza­tion from cen­tral gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties un­der Ar­ti­cle 20 of the Ba­sic Law to fa­cil­i­tate the co-lo­ca­tion ar­range­ment, the SAR will reap all those ben­e­fits in full. This is per­fectly con­sis­tent with the leg­isla­tive in­tent of Ar­ti­cle 20, which states that the SAR may en­joy other pow­ers granted to it by the NPC, the NPCSC or the Cen­tral Peo­ple’s Gov­ern­ment, as Hong Kong gains great ben­e­fits from the move. Af­ter all, the ul­ti­mate pur­pose of get­ting more pow­ers is to ben­e­fit from them. It takes wil­ful blind­ness for op­po­nents of the joint check­point plan — specif­i­cally rad­i­cal mem­bers from the op­po­si­tion camp — not to see this plain fact and straight logic when they ar­gue that in­vok­ing Ar­ti­cle 20 for the joint check­point ar­range­ment works against Hong Kong’s in­ter­ests by re­duc­ing the SAR’s ex­ist­ing pow­ers.

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