A mainland law expert said the “co-location” issue involving the Express Rail Link is not complicated and all it needs is an agreement between Beijing and Hong Kong, Ming Pao Daily reports.
The Hong Kong government is still conducting a feasibility study on the implementation of a scheme in which the customs, immigration and quarantine facilities of both mainland and Hong Kong authorities are co-located at the West Kowloon terminus of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou high-speed rail network.
While the scheme is intended to facilitate travel within the Pearl River Delta region, it has also raised deep concern in Hong Kong because such an arrangement would mean mainland authorities could enforce their laws in the territory in violation of the Basic Law, critics said.
However, Rao Geping, a member of the Hong Kong Basic Law Committee and a law professor at Peking University, said a co-location arrangement is not the same as full implementation of Chinese laws in Hong Kong but only concerns immigration and customs matters.
As such, the issue can be easily resolved as long as Beijing and Hong Kong reach an agreement, which should mainly involve technical problems, before submitting it to the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress for approval, Rao said.
He stressed that the approval does not mean the Standing Committee has power over the Basic Law.
An agreement on the implementation of the co-location scheme violates neither the Basic Law (Appendix III) nor the “one country, two systems” principle, Rao said, citing the current operation at Shenzhen Bay Port checkpoint as an example of cross-border law enforcement.
Asked which side is responsible for in-car law enforcement, he suggested mainland authorities take care of southbound trains while more discussions may be needed for northbound trains.
In response to Rao’s remarks, the Department of Justice said the government has been heeding different views and his suggestions would also be considered. It stressed that the issue is still being studied.
But most critics are suspicious of the co-location scheme. Reacting to Rao’s comments, Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit said the agreement being suggested by Rao will open the door for mainland authorities to enforce their laws in Hong Kong and result in a total change of the current system.
Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, deputy chairman of the New People’s Party, said he is worried that separating mainland laws related to co-location arrangements from the Appendix III of the Basic Law could lead to a decision by the Court of Final Appeal that doing so is against the Basic Law if a judicial review is sought.
Zhou Bo, deputy director of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, said authorities from both sides are studying the issues related to the co-location arrangement with the aim of reaching a consensus as soon as possible.
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