A Legislative Council panel failed to proceed with a meeting to deliberate on the government’s controversial co-location scheme for the cross-border Express Rail Link after pro-democracy lawmakers staged a boycott to stop the session.
The Bills Committee on Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (Co-location) Bill was scheduled to enter the stage of clause-by-clause deliberations in its eighth meeting that started at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
However, committee chairman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee announced at 2:15 p.m. that the necessary 21-member quorum was one short and therefore the meeting had to be adjourned, which was the first time it happened to the panel since it began its work in February.
A total of 27 lawmakers had registered with the Legco Secretariat to take part in the meeting beforehand, but only 20 showed up.
Ip later blamed three pro-democracy members－Civic Party’s Tanya Chan Suk-chong, the Neighborhood and Worker’s Service Centre’s Leung Yiu-chung and HK First’s Claudia Mo Man-ching－for causing the lack of quorum by refusing to enter the chamber at the last minute despite their promise to join in the meeting, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The New People’s Party chairwoman, who called the move by the three lawmakers especially regretful, said she had suggested a four-hour additional meeting on Sunday.
Chan, who is also convenor of the “Co-location” Concern Group, said the purpose of boycotting the meeting was to give the government more time to consider how to make the co-location arrangement consistent with the Basic Law. Otherwise, it should be retracted, she said.
The government is aiming to have the co-location bill passed before the Legco’s summer recess begins in July so that the Express Rail Link can begin services in the third quarter this year as planned.
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 Rail Link, which has sparked concern because China will rent part of the terminus where mainland officers will enjoy full criminal jurisdiction on trains and platforms, as well as the border clearance zone.
Pan-democratic lawmakers, who have been questioning the legal basis for the controversial arrangement, urged the government on Tuesday to retract the bill by the committee’s next meeting scheduled for Friday.
They also demanded that Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah show up at Friday’s meeting to respond to the questions posed by the Hong Kong Bar Association on the bill.
The association voiced its strong objection to the bill twice last month, saying it lacks constitutional basis as the resolution made by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in December last year – declaring that the arrangement will be in compliance with the Chinese constitution as well as Hong Kong’s Basic Law – was based on its own interpretation since no provision of the city’s mini-constitution provides the source of authority.
It is therefore impossible for the Legco to pass the bill without contravening Article 11 of the Basic Law under the circumstance, the HKBA said.
As such, Chan said it was absolutely irresponsible of the government to force lawmakers to pass the bill by knowingly violating the Basic law.
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