The government this afternoon announced the finalized plan for joint local and mainland immigration, customs and security check facilities at the West Kowloon Terminus, which is slated to open along with the express rail link to Guangzhou by the third quarter of next year.
As revealed in a press conference by Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan and Secretary for Security John Lee, the controversial co-location arrangement will effectively turn a portion of the terminus housing the mainland facilities into mainland territory where all mainland laws will be observed.
Since the facilities are considered as part of the mainland territory, the arrangement does not violate the Basic Law, the government said in a bid to refute critics’ accusations.
According to the plan, mainland staff will be stationed in designated areas on three of the five floors at the station, namely the entire B4, the platform level where passengers embark and disembark trains, and parts of the exit/arrival halls on B3 and B4.
A departing passenger will first pass Hong Kong immigration checks on B3, and proceed to the mainland side on the same level.
He will be seen legally as under the mainland jurisdiction after going through the mainland checkpoint. He can then rest in the waiting lounge and go down to B4 to board his train to his destination north of the border.
An arriving passenger will take escalators from B4 to B2 and first be screened by mainland staff, before going to the Hong Kong side on the same level for arrival clearance.
All walkways, lifts, escalators connecting B4 to B2 and B3 as well as trains during their service hours will fall within the scope of the mainland’s jurisdiction.
Up to four departments from the mainland side responsible for immigration, customs, quarantine and public security will enforce respective mainland laws in these areas, and there will also be a mainland port administrative office to coordinate these various agencies.
All mainland staff, along with their authority, will be strictly confined within the mainland port area. They must go through immigration procedures like all passengers should they wish to step outside their area of work.
Because the area will legally be under mainland control, the SAR government said various Basic Law articles that explicitly bar mainland officials from interfering in local affairs or enforcing national laws will simply not apply.
Some Hong Kong laws, however, will be made applicable to the areas leased to the mainland, mainly concerning building and fire safety, insurance, tax, railway operation, etc. Hong Kong courts will also adjudicate civil lawsuits within these areas.
The SAR government has stressed both sides won’t aim to interpret the Basic Law for the sake of such co-location arrangement, but rather, before the rail link can be up and running, a consent will be sought from the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, for its implementation, and, locally, a related bill will be tabled and must be passed by the Legislative Council, provided that there won’t be any delay caused by the opposition’s filibustering.
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