New border checkpoint in the bag, just ask Shenzhen

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2008, 12:00am

'A working group formed under the joint taskforce on boundary district development will carry out preliminary studies on the implications of a new eastern border checkpoint which is expected to be completed in 2016.'

SCMP, March 11

So they are to be preliminary studies only, are they? And only on the implications? Why then do we already have a completion date for this checkpoint?

I think you recognise the wheeze. By the time these people get around to specifying how much concrete they want to pour, and you start wanting to ask a few questions, you'll be told that you already had plenty of opportunity to speak up and, if you didn't take the opportunity when you were given it, well, that's your fault.

There won't be much talk of 'preliminary' and 'implications' then any longer.

Here is the story. Shenzhen, being an irresponsible ramshackle place with a city government to match, has never bothered much to plan for through traffic from Hong Kong to other destinations in Guangdong and now has traffic snarls at all the major crossing points.

This is becoming a serious problem. What to do, oh, what to do?

Simple, says the Shenzhen ruling clique. We shall blame everyone but ourselves and then announce that it is Hong Kong's responsibility to make up for our lack of foresight. We'll tell the Hongkies that they owe it to the Pan Pearl River Delta and that they'll be left behind if they don't integrate with us.

This is obviously how it has worked out. We in Hong Kong are being told that we must build another major new vehicle crossing on the eastern side of the border near Sha Tau Kok. Shenzhen says we must and our bureaucrats have therefore complied. The tail wags the dog once again.

For a pointer on why this is immediate tomfoolery, look at the first chart. Despite a boom in foreign trade, the tonnage of cargo being loaded on or discharged from road vehicles in Hong Kong has been in decline for the last three years. River vessels have proved a better way of shipping goods and are in the ascendancy. There is no pressing need for more roads.

The second chart shows you why it is also long-term tomfoolery. Our port is losing out to ports across the border and there is no stopping the trend. It simply doesn't make sense any longer to locate a port in an urban district at the end of long traffic clogged roadway when much more convenient alternatives are at hand, which they are.

The most obvious of these alternatives will be only too visible to any container truck driver who approaches Sha Tau Kok. All he need do there is turn left and he will be in the Yantian container port. Why then should anyone require him to pay border fees and struggle against traffic all the way to Kwai Chung?

Bear in mind that we are not talking here only of a border crossing. A new road system will also be needed on the Hong Kong side, four lanes at a minimum and probably six all the way to Tai Po at least. It will cost more billions that we cannot spare for the old age allowance.

Shenzhen will need some new roads, too, of course, but these will all lead past the Yantian container port and will be built anyway, regardless of what we do.

Here is the real stinger of an affront to us, however. Shenzhen officials have apparently said that they do not have enough room on their side of the border to build a customs post for this crossing and would like to build it on our side. They have been seen off on this insult but just think of their gall in even suggesting it.

I have said it before and I shall say it again. Shenzhen is a nasty, dirty, dangerous place that exists only as a parasite on the Hong Kong economy and could never stand on its own.

Why does our government allow itself to be held to ransom by a bunch of cowboys like this?