Co-lo­ca­tion op­po­nents ab­hor closer ties be­tween HKSAR and main­land

De­spite the Ex­press Rail Link’s ob­vi­ous ad­van­tages, launch­ing the link on sched­ule is a big test for the city’s new ad­min­is­tra­tion, writes

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

The first thorny is­sue the new ad­min­is­tra­tion has to han­dle is the co-lo­ca­tion ar­range­ment for im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms con­trol at the Ex­press Rail Link’s (XRL) ter­mi­nus in West Kowloon. When the high-speed rail link project was sub­mit­ted to the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil back in 2010, the pro­posed joint check­point ar­range­ment was al­ready re­garded as one of the main ob­sta­cles. I be­lieve the core rea­son for the skep­ti­cism is that some mem­bers of the com­mu­nity op­pose hav­ing closer con­nec­tions with the Chi­nese main­land.

The main­land’s high-speed rail net­work has ex­ceeded 20,000 kilo­me­ters and is still grow­ing. The net­work ranks as No 1 in the world and the coun­try is ex­port­ing the tech­nol­ogy to many over­seas na­tions. Many peo­ple, in­clud­ing my­self, who have tried the ex­press rail on the main­land are deeply im­pressed by its con­ve­nience, punc­tu­al­ity, sta­bil­ity and com­fort. I could not fathom the dam­age to Hong Kong if we did not link our­selves to this great net­work. More­over, it has to be pointed out that the pro­posed joint check­point ar­range­ment is es­sen­tial since it al­lows for the best eco­nomic ef­fi­ciency. It is sim­ply im­prac­ti­cal to re­quire pas­sen­gers to board the train at the West Kowloon Ter­mi­nus and then dis­em­bark at the Shen­zhen Fu­tian Sta­tion 20 min­utes later to go through the main­land’s im­mi­gra­tion pro­ce­dures. This com­pli­cated ar­range­ment would be a huge waste of time and greatly re­duce the at­trac­tive­ness of the XRL.

The ex­ist­ing joint check­point ar­range­ment at the Shen­zhen Bay Port can serve as a good ref­er­ence for the new ter­mi­nus. The only dif­fer­ence is that we now need to set up a Main­land Port Area (MPA) with main­land law-en­force­ment of­fi­cials con­duct­ing ar­rival and The author is an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of the New Peo­ple’s Party and a for­mer civil ser­vant.

de­par­ture clear­ance within a con­fined area in­side the West Kowloon Sta­tion. It is this vari­a­tion that com­pli­cates the mat­ter. The op­po­si­tion has long been try­ing to spread false ru­mors against the pro­posed co-lo­ca­tion ar­range­ment. One tac­tic was to say that set­ting up an MPA is equiv­a­lent to sell­ing out part of Hong Kong. How­ever, Ar­ti­cle 7 of the Ba­sic Law states that the “land and nat­u­ral re­sources within the Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion shall be State prop­erty”, so th­ese ac­cu­sa­tions are base­less. More­over, the main­land au­thor­i­ties would lease the MPA from the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment un­der mu­tu­ally agreed terms.

An­other point of con­tention is that some peo­ple in Hong Kong are un­com­fort­able with hav­ing main­land law en­force­ment of­fi­cials work­ing in the SAR. How­ever, the new ar­range­ment would no doubt clearly stip­u­late that main­land of­fi­cials can only work within the MPA; they can­not work and have no au­thor­ity out­side that area. There­fore, most Hong Kong cit­i­zens will sim­ply never lay eyes on any of the main­land of­fi­cials.

It should be noted that it is cru­cial for main­land au­thor­i­ties to main­tain a com­pre­hen­sive check­point in West Kowloon for both the se­cu­rity of the main­land and Hong Kong. Crim­i­nals, ter­ror­ists, sep­a­ratists and the like sim­ply can­not cir­cum­vent the main­land check­point and eas­ily en­ter Hong Kong. More­over, there have been thou­sands of asy­lum-seek­ers who have suc­cess­fully en­tered into Hong Kong via the main­land. If the West Kowloon ter­mi­nus be­comes a loop­hole in the sys­tem, Hong Kong would face un­nec­es­sary ex­tra pres­sure and se­cu­rity risks.

I am sure main­land and Hong Kong le­gal ex­perts have ad­e­quately stud­ied the le­gal is­sues in­volved. Ar­ti­cle 20 of the Ba­sic Law states that “the Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion may en­joy other pow­ers granted to it by the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress, the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress (NPCSC) or the Cen­tral Peo­ple’s Gov­ern­ment”. There­fore, the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment can seek au­thor­ity from the NPCSC to set up an MPA and re­strict the au­thor­ity of main­land of­fi­cials within that area. Ar­ti­cle 2 of the Ba­sic Law states that “The Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress au­tho­rizes the Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion to ex­er­cise a high de­gree of autonomy and en­joy ex­ec­u­tive, leg­isla­tive and in­de­pen­dent ju­di­cial power, in­clud­ing that of fi­nal ad­ju­di­ca­tion, in ac­cor­dance with the pro­vi­sions of this Law”. In other words, the lo­cal ju­di­cial power comes from the NPC and its fu­ture de­ci­sion on the joint check­point ar­range­ment will en­sure its le­gal­ity. Hence, any at­tempt by the op­po­si­tion to ap­ply for a ju­di­cial re­view in Hong Kong court would have zero chance of suc­cess.

Apart from le­gal is­sues, the mat­ter ul­ti­mately is about po­lit­i­cal mo­bi­liza­tion. The op­po­si­tion will surely spare no ef­fort in com­ing months to stir up dis­trust in the com­mu­nity, mo­bi­lize mass protest and use all sorts of fil­i­bus­ter­ing tac­tics to de­lay the lo­cal leg­isla­tive pro­ce­dure re­quired. It is good to know that the gov­ern­ment also un­der­stands the com­ing chal­lenges clearly and had stepped up its pub­lic­ity cam­paigns. Whether the high-speed rail link can be­gin op­er­a­tion in the third quar­ter of next year as sched­uled is a big test on the new ad­min­is­tra­tion team.

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