The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) took the government to task for not telling media in advance about a ceremony marking the commissioning of the Mainland Port Area at the West Kowloon Terminus of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL).
Instead, the government chose to merely issue a press release about the event at six minutes after midnight, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports, citing a statement from the HKJA on Tuesday.
Under the co-location arrangement for the XRL, hundreds of customs, immigration and quarantine officials from mainland China are allowed to be stationed in a designated area in the terminus, the Hong Kong end of the cross-border railway.
The XRL co-location ordinance took effect on Tuesday, meaning the Mainland Port Area was formally passed into the control of China, and the Chinese officials began on the same day to take up duties as they prepare for the Sept. 23 opening of the new rail link.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan and Deputy Secretary-General of the Guangdong Provincial Government Lin Ji jointly officiated the commissioning of the area, according to a statement issued on the same day, without mentioning when.
A source told the HKEJ that the ceremony took place about 15 minutes before midnight Tuesday.
About a hundred people attended the event, but there were no reporters because no media outlet in the city received an invitation or notice beforehand, Apple Daily reported, citing a source.
Expressing its dismay, the HKJA said the public is highly concerned about the co-location arrangement as it will have a profound impact on Hong Kong and therefore it is a must for media representatives to be there to report the event and interview the officials involved.
The association said the government has seriously undermined the people’s right to know by not notifying the media about the event.
In response, a spokesman for the Transport and Housing Bureau explained that the mainland and Hong Kong governments had agreed to carry out the handover work under the co-location arrangement in a modest and simple fashion.
Asked why there were no media invited to the ceremony, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said what happened at the terminus late Monday night was no ceremony but only a working- level handover of the Mainland Port Area.
“There was a little working-level handover procedure in order to indicate this,” Lam told reporters before attending a regular Executive Council meeting on Tuesday morning. She stressed that the handover was not a ceremony per se.
She said an opening ceremony to mark the commissioning of the Hong Kong Section of the XRL will be held at the West Kowloon Station and Guangzhou South Station on the morning of Sept. 22.
The chief executive and Guangdong Governor Ma Xingrui will jointly officiate the event at the West Kowloon terminus, adding that many people, including reporters, will be invited to attend.
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