Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung welcomed the passage by the Legislative Council of a non-binding motion on the co-location arrangement for the express rail link.
Yuen said on Wednesday that putting the co-location plan up for discussion in Legco was a form of public consultation, calling it effective and a way to show respect to citizens, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Yuen’s remarks came after Legco passed a non-binding motion on the plan by a vote of 38-22. No one abstained.
The motion was aimed at highlighting the benefits of the plan through debates before a “three-step process” to materialize the arrangement for the express link, which is expected to begin operations in the third quarter next year.
Democrats tried to stall deliberations with some surprise moves, causing voting to be delayed until Wednesday when amendments proposed by eight democrats for filibustering purposes were vetoed.
According to Legco President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, lawmakers had spent about 26 hours deliberating the motion.
Yuen said the result allows the government to continue its work on the co-location plan, adding the “three-step process” — reaching a co-operation arrangement between Hong Kong and Beijing, which has been completed, gaining approval and endorsement from the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and legislating the proposal in Hong Kong — will go as planned.
Asked by the media about whether the plan can be implemented according to Article 20 of the Basic Law, which allows Hong Kong to enjoy other powers granted to it by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), Yuen only said that the government will keep reviewing the legal basis of the plan.
Li Fei, chairman of the Basic Law Committee and NPCSC deputy secretary general, reportedly told a lawyers group from Hong Kong on Tuesday that whether Article 20 can be applied in Hong Kong remains to be discussed.
Yuen said the co-location plan needs further review and analysis, noting the details of related arrangements will not be made public before approval by the NPCSC.
Yuen also said no formal public consultation on the plan does not mean the government is ignoring people’s opinions.
Lawmaker Tanya Chan Suk-chong from the Civic Party, convenor of the Co-location Concern Group, called authorities irresponsible for dispensing with a public consultation. Chan said she had sent an open letter to Li to demand an explanation on how Beijing and Hong Kong reached consensus on the plan’s legal basis.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan said the link’s Hong Kong section is 97 percent complete and the remaining work will be speeded up.
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