A coalition against the co-location plan for the Express Rail Link is gathering signatures to let the government know of the widespread opposition to the joint border control arrangement at the West Kowloon terminus of the rail system.
The Co-location Concern Group, comprising more than 90 pro-democracy groups, academics, university student unions and community organizations, will ask the government to withdraw the co-location scheme, which, as it is currently formulated, violates the Basic Law and is therefore unconstitutional, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Instead of misleading the public, the government should conduct public consultation on the issue, the group said.
The coalition, which was formed on Wednesday, said it will set up booths across the city during the summer to collect signatures from citizens who oppose the plan, adding that the preliminary goal is to gather at least 300,000 signatures.
Under the co-location arrangement, customs, immigration and quarantine facilities of Hong Kong and mainland China will be located at the West Kowloon terminus of the express link, which is scheduled to begin operations in the third quarter next year.
In an announcement of the finalized framework to implement the scheme on Tuesday last week, the government said that part of the terminus will be leased to the mainland where mainland laws apply.
The concern group said the plan, which will be subject to approval and authorization from the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress based on Article 20 of the Basic law, violates Article 18 and 22 of the law.
Article 18 says national laws shall not be applied in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region except for those listed in Annex III, while Article 22 stipulates no department of the central government may interfere in the affairs that the HKSAR government administers on its own in accordance with the Basic Law.
Barrister Margaret Ng, one of the initiators of the group, said the Basic Law makes it clear that Hong Kong laws are the only ones applicable on its territory and that must be unwaveringly defended.
Johannes Chan, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, described the plan as “ceding land” with Hong Kong giving up its jurisdiction by itself.
Disqualified lawmaker Edward Yiu, another initiator of the group, slammed the government for misleading the public by overestimating the carrying capacity and rate of return of the high-speed rail.
Lawmaker Tanya Chan from the Civic Party, who liaises for the group, said the key period for the public to voice out their opposition to the plan is the next three months since it will be put to vote in the Legislative Council in November, Apple Daily reported.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who is currently in Singapore, said she does not see any alternative arrangement in order to attain the maximum economic and social benefits derived from the high-speed rail.
Lam urged those concerned about the co-location scheme to study it “rationally” and “practically”.
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan and Secretary for Security John Lee are set to be present at the Legco on Thursday to answers lawmakers’ questions about the co-location plan.
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