To the point
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.