The government is set to finalize details of the planned joint customs and immigration facilities for the cross-border high-speed rail and make an official announcement as early as Tuesday.
Executive Council (ExCo) members, who were briefed on Monday about the final structure of the so-called co-location arrangement, are expected to pass the proposal today, sources told the Hong Kong Economic Journal.
After endorsement from the ExCo, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan and Secretary for Security John Lee could hold a joint press conference in the afternoon to reveal details of the plan.
The officials will continue a public relations campaign, explaining the government’s point of view regarding the controversial scheme, by participating in radio talk shows on Wednesday.
Co-location refers to a plan under which customs, immigration and quarantine facilities of both China and Hong Kong will be located at the West Kowloon terminus of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, which is scheduled to begin operations in the third quarter next year.
Sources say the scheme is designed to be similar to that used for the Shenzhen Bay port, where Hong Kong rents an area for enforcing border clearance.
For the new cross-border express rail link, China will rent part of the floors at the West Kowloon terminus, where mainland officers will enjoy full criminal jurisdiction on trains and platforms, as well as the border clearance zone.
While some of the mainland law enforcement officers stationed at the terminus, whose number in total will be around 200 at the maximum, will be allowed to carry guns, all of them will be restricted to performing duties only within a zone that may occupy part of the B2 and B3 floors, plus trains and platforms on B4, according to the sources.
The lease arrangements will not expire before 2047.
If the Chinese officers want to leave the special zone and travel freely in Hong Kong after work, they will be required to apply for entry, like other mainland residents.
Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit said allowing mainland officers to enforce law at the terminus will set a bad precedent. Once arrangements are in place for the rail link, there is a risk that more special zones could be carved in the city out for Chinese officials, he said.
The Standing Committee of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, will review the co-location scheme and approve related authorizations at the end of August, sources told HKEJ.
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