Long-term benefits of co-location stressed Govt vows to reflect public opinion in full before signing agreements
The special administrative region government hopes the public will consider “long-term overall social benefits” when discussing the co-location arrangement for the highspeed rail terminus but vowed to reflect public opinion in full before signing agreements with mainland authorities.
It made the observation in a two-hour special meeting on Thursday during the Legislative Council’s summer recess. It featured all three key senior officials responsible — Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan and Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu.
Chan appealed to Hong Kong people to evaluate the long-term benefits of a joint checkpoint and take a broader view.
“The benefits that the highspeed rail will bring to Hong Kong should not be looked at merely by its short-term economic returns but the longterm overall social benefits,” Chan said, “and a co-location arrangement is the best option to maximize its power.”
The improved infrastructure will boost economic development, strengthen Hong Kong’s international aviation-hub status. It will release the potential of the Guangdong-Hong KongMacao Greater Bay Area, Chan said.
He cited statistics from European cities with or without high-speed rail stations — those with high-speed rail achieved economic growth rates 2 to 3 percent higher.
Many infrastructure projects show their full value years after completion, Chan stressed. The MTR’s West Rail Line and the Hong Kong International Airport were both criticized as “white elephant” projects. However, they are now pillars of Hong Kong’s transportation and require expansion.
Thus he hoped the people of Hong Kong could be well aware of the value of the co-location arrangement at the high-speed rail station.
Yuen pledged to continue collecting public opinions and raise them with decision-makers before signing any agreement with mainland authorities.
He said the government will not rule out further communi- cation measures with LegCo and the people of Hong Kong.
Yuen again stressed that the arrangement will strictly comply with the “one country, two systems” policy and Basic Law.
Yuen told lawmakers the government has “no political agenda” in inviting mainland law-enforcement officers to the West Kowloon Station for relevant border-check operations. He reiterated that the arrangements are only to ensure the checks will be “convenient and efficient”.
The co-location plan was welcomed by a majority of the lawmakers but faced opposition from the “pan-democrats” who claim it might breach the Basic Law and called for a “genuine public consultation”.
Financial services sector legislator Christopher Cheung Wah-fung urged opponents to drop “political radicalism”, be pragmatic and focus on economic and social benefits.
According to a recent phone poll by the Liberal Party, among 1,071 Hong Kong residents, 71 percent feel the co-location arrangement “important” for the highspeed rail and 61 percent support inviting mainland lawenforcement officers to the restricted area.