Cheers as PLA border list withdrawn
MAY SIN-MI HON
There was cheering in the normally sombre Legislative Council yesterday when Customs officers withdrew a list of PLA vehicles allowed easier crossing of the border.
Deputy Secretary for Security Carrie Yau Tsang Ka-lai assured legislators no guidelines had been issued giving the People's Liberation Army special privileges.
But she admitted a list of 29 PLA vehicles with closed-road permits had been given to border Customs officers 'to avoid misunderstandings'.
The move was sparked by an incident involving the head of the PLA handover advance party, Major-General Zhou Borong, and border Customs officers when the general was asked for a closed-road permit after returning from Shenzhen.
News that a list existed angered members of Legco's security panel.
Frontier legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing claimed it created a privileged group.
'The vehicles should produce the permits themselves. There should only be one rule,' she said.
She was supported by the Liberal Party's Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee and Yum Sin-ling of the 123 Alliance, who said the list would increase public concerns, not lessen them.
It was then that the jeers turned to cheers.
Acting Customs Commissioner Raymond Li Wai-man said officials had now explained border crossing procedures to the PLA and the list was no longer needed. 'I will withdraw it,' he said.
Ms Yau also said the PLA had asked why permits had to be shown twice - the problem that led to the row involving General Zhou.
She said laws governing the PLA would be different to those for the British Garrison and talks were being held with the Chinese side on how to implement them.
PLA staff, vehicles, vessels and aircraft would be free from searches by local law enforcement bodies after the handover, she said.
One of the ways being considered to promulgate the PLA Garrison Law was to include it in an annexe to the Basic Law as national legislation to be applicable in Hong Kong, Ms Yau said.