Former justice secretary Elsie Leung Oi-sie called for an end to the debate over proposed joint border control at a rail terminus that would serve a cross-border high-speed rail link, stressing that that the so-called co-location arrangements are a must.
The West Kowloon terminus being built to cater to the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link would be a total waste if the joint checkpoint arrangements are not put in place, she said.
The high-speed rail link would be meaningless without the arrangement, Leung said in a radio interview on Sunday.
Col-location is a scheme in which the customs, immigration and quarantine facilities of both mainland and Hong Kong authorities are conducted at the terminus with an aim to facilitate travel within the Pearl River Delta region.
But critics say such arrangement would mean mainland authorities could enforce their laws in Hong Kong in violation of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
The Hong Kong government is still trying to reach an agreement with Beijing over how the scheme, among other operational details, should be implemented, although the Hong Kong section of the Express Rail Link is expected to be commissioned by the third quarter of next year.
In a radio interview on Sunday, Leung, who is deputy director of the NPC Standing Committee’s Basic Law Committee, stressed that co-location arrangement is a must for the Express Rail Link.
The law should be used to serve the public instead of obstructing development, she said, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
As long as an agreement on co-location is reached and passed by both the National People’s Congress and Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, the Department of Justice can find a way to make sure related rules are in conformity with the Basic Law, according to Leung.
If there is no joint border control, the whole project will be pointless and the government might as well tear down the West Kowloon terminus and build a new structure, she said.
If that happens, the lawmakers who have been objecting to the scheme will owe an explanation to the public as to why an investment worth tens of billions of Hong Kong dollars ended up going in waste, Leung said.
She pointed out that co-location has been conducted at the border control point of Shenzhen Bay Port for more than 10 years and the same mechanism can be applied at the West Kowloon terminus.
Leung accused some people of using the cross-border law enforcement issue as an excuse to impede the development of Hong Kong.
In response, Civic Party legislator Dennis Kwok, a barrister by profession, said Leung’s comments were nothing but circumventing the core problem as she failed to explain how co-location can avoid contradicting with the Article 18 of the Basic Law, which specifies national laws shall not be applied in Hong Kong except for those listed in the Annex III.
Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai claimed the government had said co-location is not the only option and that separate border control could also be considered.
Hong Kong authorities are believed to be preparing to present their proposal to Beijing by the end of the month regarding the co-location arrangements.
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