The resumption of the second-reading debate on the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (Co-location) Bill at the Legislative Council is scheduled for Wednesday.
Pan-democrats have tabled as many as 75 amendments in a last-ditch effort to stall the bill, but the pro-establishment camp is quite optimistic that the bill will pass by late June.
As we all know, Beijing has ordered the SAR government to secure the passage of the bill at all costs before Legco takes its summer break in July so that the Express Rail Link (XRL) can enter service in September as scheduled.
Given that, the pro-establishment camp has told Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen that it would only allow three weeks for the debate over the bill, after which it must be put to a vote.
This means the bill is very likely to be put to a final vote by the end of this month.
Members of the pro-establishment camp are confident they can meet the deadline.
Over the months, the pan-dems have been trying to draw public attention and opposition to the bill, but the controversy is centered on constitutional arrangements, which are largely incomprehensible to the average individual.
This explains why the pan-dems have been unable to engage the public on the bill, let alone swing public opinion their way.
However, there is growing concern that the recent scandals involving the MTR (i.e., the derailment of an XRL train during trial runs in April and structural flaws found at the Hung Hom Station of the Shatin-Central link) might add unexpected variables to the outcome of the co-location bill.
As such, the key to a smooth passage of the co-location bill no longer rests on whether Legco can put it to a vote before the deadline, but rather on whether the MTR is going to ensure proper functioning of all things over the next couple of months.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 4
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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