While the gloves are off between the pan-democrats and the government over the proposed arrangements for co-location of customs and immigration facilities at the Hong Kong terminal of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, the opposition groups are now believed to be planning a two-pronged approach in dealing with the issue.
Under their war plan, the pan-democrats will on one hand try their best to mobilize public opinion behind them and oppose the proposal with all their means. At the same time, they will approach Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and urge her to provide more solid reassurances on protecting the civil rights of Hong Kong citizens under the co-location arrangement.
According to some in the pan-democratic camp, their ultimate goal is not to block the bill, which is basically impossible anyway given the majority of seats held by the pro-Beijing camp, but rather, to talk the government into fine-tuning the final proposal so that it would be more in the interest of the people of Hong Kong.
However, it appears the pan-democrats’ campaign against the co-location arrangement has got off to quite an unpromising start, as only a hundred or so citizens turned up at a recent rally held in Admiralty against the co-location arrangement, a far cry from the massive protests that we saw against the national education curriculum proposal back in 2012.
Some pan-democrats conceded that they are having difficulty playing up the issue and raising public awareness about the threat posed by the co-location arrangement to “One Country Two Systems”. The reason, they said, is because the issue is not as black-and-white, straightforward and comprehensible as the national education curriculum.
Yet they said they would stay the course and continue with their fight, such as drawing up a petition to protest the government proposal, which they hope could draw at least 300,000 signatures from members of the public.
In the meantime, they are also planning a counter-propaganda campaign in an attempt to debunk the government argument that the co-location will benefit Hong Kong without compromising the city’s autonomy.
As far as approaching Chief Executive Lam is concerned, they said they would prefer to keep a low profile in order to leave more room for maneuver.
In fact some pan-democrats have suggested an even more outrageous idea: why not simply amend the Basic Law and make it inapplicable to the mainland immigration areas inside the West Kowloon terminal in order to avoid all the legal controversies?
However, many within the group itself have dismissed the idea as “pure fantasy”, pointing out that it might turn out to be even more difficult to achieve than blocking the co-location arrangement bill in Legco.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 4
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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