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Opposition to joint checkpoint is about discrediting Carrie Lam

Pan-democrats denounce the plan for a a joint customs and immigration checkpoint at the West Kowloon terminus of the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou, yet their motive is not to safeguard city’s high degree of autonomy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 2:06am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 12:36pm

As the opposition tells it, the plan for a joint customs and immigration checkpoint at the West Kowloon terminus of the cross-border, high-speed railway line will be the end of Hong Kong. Or, at the very least, it will spell the end of “one country, two systems” under the Basic Law as we know it.

They are setting it up as the biggest battle for the soul of Hong Kong, yet they will be fighting from a weaker position than they have in years. I am not sure whether this is nobility, or just MAD (mutually assured destruction). If nothing else, they can go a long way towards discrediting the new administration of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who is still on a political honeymoon with the public.

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Pan-democratic heavyweights have come out in unison to denounce the plan. Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee has called it “a smokescreen” in order to allow mainland security agents to operate in Hong Kong. Martin Lee Chu-ming said the effect of this so-called co-location arrangement on Hong Kong’s autonomy would be worse than an interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. It would mean “the disappearance of the Basic Law”, he said.

Other opposition figures have used even stronger language, such as “auto-castration” and “self-partition”. Essentially, they are setting up the proposed co-location arrangement as an existential crisis for Hong Kong.

Reasonable people may agree or disagree with them. But just how do they plan to win a battle they claim to be so important when they are weaker than ever?

One station, two systems: how joint checkpoint for rail line will work

Six opposition lawmakers have been disqualified, and more may face the same fate. The government-friendly camp has therefore gained a super-majority in the functional and geographical constituencies in the legislature. And, instead of fighting the highly unpopular former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, they are facing the far more people-friendly Lam.

But there is logic to their all-out opposition. Instead of arguing for better safeguards and improving the cross-border arrangements, they will portray co-location in the worst possible light. The point is not to make it work, but to use it to discredit Lam.