Arrangement between US and Canada may work at rail terminus

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 December, 2015, 4:37pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 December, 2015, 4:37pm

With the current means of transport available, much inconvenience would be caused to Hongkongers who wish to travel on the express rail link on the mainland, as online purchases would need to be made up to three weeks in advance.

Furthermore, considering the rapidly-built integrated transportation network on the mainland, Hong Kong could be geographically – and commercially – marginalised if we aren’t included in this far-reaching network.

A co-location boundary control arrangement is necessary for the express rail link, because while airline travellers departing from Hong Kong are required to go through the customs, immigration and quarantine system, such a system is not practised on the mainland, and it would be unfair to require the entire country to adopt this system only for the convenience of passengers from one city.

For too long now, debate has been bogged down in considering the legal implications of a joint immigration checkpoint.

However, as Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung has pointed out, co-location arrangements between Canada and the United States, and the United Kingdom and France are being studied by the government.

But such an arrangement might not be the most efficient option for the high-speed rail link, as that would mean that passengers will still need to clear both Hong Kong and mainland Chinese inspections, which is time-consuming. William Passo, of Harvard Law School, wrote a rather insightful paper on pre-clearance and co-location in Hong Kong.

He suggested that, instead of a co-location arrangement, perhaps what the Hong Kong government should be considering is a pre-clearance arrangement similar to the one adopted by Canada and the US.

Airline passengers flying to the US can go through American immigration and customs in Canada, and the US Customs and Border Protection administers inspections under the supervision of Canadian officials at designated pre-clearance areas inside the airport.

With such an arrangement, passengers can exit the airport directly from the domestic terminals upon landing in the US, without having to go through another round of customs checkpoints.

Careful decisions regarding co-location arrangements for the express rail link are necessary, to avoid time being needlessly wasted and higher operation costs.

Dr Chow Pak-chin, vice -chairman, Wisdom Hong Kong