Hong Kong lawmaker urges government to come clean on joint immigration arrangements at rail terminus

Pan-democrat Eddie Chu writes to Legislative Council panel requesting a special meeting to scrutinise layout plans for co-located facility in West Kowloon

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 7:18pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 March, 2017, 3:45am

Pressure is mounting on the Hong Kong government to reveal its planned arrangement for setting up a joint immigration facility at the West Kowloon terminus of the HK$84.4 billion express rail link to Guangzhou.

The issue is controversial as mainland Chinese officers would be stationed at the terminus to enforce national laws on Hong Kong soil. Pan-democratic legislators say this would violate the Basic Law.

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Lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick said he had written to the Legislative Council’s transport panel requesting a special meeting to scrutinise the layout plans of the joint immigration facility.

“I demand the government give us a full account on all station designs and projects that are aimed to cater to the joint immigration checkpoint. I also ask the government to arrange site visits as soon as possible,” he said.

He made the appeal on Monday as Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao published what it said were two revised layout plans for a mainland customs, immigration and quarantine office at the terminus. It includes detention facilities.

The plan needs Legco’s approval because it involves the enactment of local legislation.

The government has so far failed to come up with a proposal for the joint facility, but says negotiations with Beijing have reached a critical stage and it will reveal arrangements before its term ends in late June.

The two layout plans, dated November 2015 and February last year, were said to have been submitted by the MTR Corporation and its consultant to the government’s safety and security coordinating committee for scrutiny.

Under the plans, two floors occupying 92,000 sq ft at the terminus building would be allocated for setting up an office for mainland customs, immigration and quarantine facilities, including a detention centre.

Democratic Party legislator Lam Cheuk-ting said he thought the Hong Kong and mainland authorities had already struck a deal under the table on the co-location of a joint checkpoint at the terminus.

He expressed concern that the co-location arrangement would hurt the “one country, two systems” principle and law and order in Hong Kong. “Given such detailed plans, the government should have consulted the public on whether it welcomed mainland officers exercising law enforcement powers in Hong Kong,” he said.

Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun of the New People’s Party said he believed the detention facilities would be used for detaining people only and would not involve arrests.

Tien, also a local National People’s Congress deputy, has submitted his own co-location proposal to the NPC Standing Committee in Beijing.

He proposed that a “mainland immigration zone” be set up at the terminus where mainland officers were allowed to enforce some specific mainland laws under certain parameters agreed to by the Hong Kong and mainland governments in a bilateral agreement.

“Then Hong Kong can proceed to enact local legislation to define mainland powers and the limit of their law enforcement,” he said, adding that the NPC Standing Committee could then add the proposal to the list of national laws applicable to Hong Kong in Annex III of the Basic Law.

A spokeswoman for the Transport and Housing Bureau said the two layout plans were not the updated versions, but she admitted the government had reserved space at the terminus for the joint immigration facility.

“It has been our goal to implement the co-location of checkpoints at the West Kowloon terminus to achieve the ­maximum cost-efficiency of the express rail link,” she said.

An MTR spokeswoman said the mainland immigration facility was 89 per cent complete at the end of last year.

Additional reporting by Christy Leung