Hong Kong will keep the existing border control system even after the territory’s government and Beijing reach an agreement on co-location of checkpoints for people using the upcoming Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Sunday.
Speaking to reporters in Beijing, where he had gone to attend China’s “Two Sessions” political gatherings, Leung stressed that the border control system will remain regardless of co-location arrangements of immigration facilities for the new cross-border rail link.
As the Hong Kong section of the rail link is expected to begin service in the third quarter next year, the government is conducting a feasibility study on 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 high-speed rail network.
There have been worries that the practice will jeopardize the autonomy of Hong Kong, as observers have warned that the arrangement would mean that mainland authorities could enforce their laws in the territory in violation of the Basic Law.
Responding to questions over the matter, Leung promised that both sides will continue to work on the issue and come up with a solution that will serve passengers in the most convenient way, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The remarks came after Wang Mengshu, a top railway construction engineer and a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said earlier on Sunday that he sees no need for border checks in the future once the rail link begins operations, since Hong Kong is part of China.
Wang, who is a member of the National People’s Congress (NPC), also suggested that Beijing was going too easy on Hong Kong and that it should stop doing so.
He pointed out that the cross-border rail had been delayed due to Hong Kong’s failure to surrender the right of design to the central government.
In related news, a Hong Kong lawmaker has urged the Transport and Housing Bureau to explain in detail the proposed co-location facilities at the Hong Kong end of the rail link.
The demand came after a blueprint of the facilities that will be used for co-location of checkpoints at the West Kowloon terminus showed that there will be a holding room for passengers.
Civic Party’s Dennis Kwok, a barrister by profession, said such a room will make Hongkongers worry if mainland officials will use the facilities to question passengers at random, Ming Pao Daily reports.
Michael Tien, who heads a railways subcommittee at the Legislative Council, said the major concern of Hong Kong people should be not the design of the facilities, but how the co-location scheme will be implemented.
The Transport Bureau has claimed that nothing has been finalized and that authorities on both sides are still working on the details.
It assured that it will seek public opinions before final decisions are made.
A spokesman from MTR Corporation, which is responsible for construction work of the rail link, said there is nothing new to add at the moment.
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