Law enforcement at Hong Kong, mainland joint rail terminus still up for discussion, justice minister says
Local and mainland authorities to meet later in the month on co-location of rail checkpoints
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung says Hong Kong and mainland authorities are still working on developing a law enforcement model for a controversial joint checkpoint of a cross-border rail while debate continues over jurisdiction within the terminus.
Yuen on Thursday said local and mainland governments had however reached a consensus on the law enforcement model for the soon-to-be-completed Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou Express Rail Link terminus in West Kowloon.
“We have a consensus with the central ministries that the model must fit the Basic law and ‘one country, two systems’,” Yuen said. “We are still discussing feasible options and once we have a decision, we will explain it to Hong Kong society and the Legislative Council.”
His comments came amid revived concerns about the impact on “one country, two systems”, which were brought on by the prospect of mainland officers enforcing mainland laws in Hong Kong. It also came just a day after Wang Guangya, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said “new progress” was expected on the co-location of the rail’s checkpoints following a meeting between authorities slated for later this month.
Recent reports from Chinese-language daily Ming Pao said authorities on both sides were contemplating drawing an agreement under which Hong Kong would lease part of the area in the West Kowloon terminus to mainland authorities.
Apart from the terminus, the train compartment and the tunnel that runs through Hong Kong soil would also be designated as “mainland port area”, according to sources cited by another Chinese-language newspaper Oriental Daily. It said sensitive details were still being sorted out, such as whether mainland personnel would have power to act in criminal cases.
Building plans of the terminus leaked to the media earlier this week showed a detention area and a search room.
The co-location of checkpoints has been a controversial issue ever since the planning stage of the rail project. Citing Article 18 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong pan-democratic lawmakers have long argued that the co-location of checkpoints is not feasible because the mainland has no right to enforce any laws here.
That article says “national laws shall not be applied in Hong Kong”, except for those listed in Annex 3 of the mini-constitution. Legislation that can be added to the annex is confined to defence, foreign affairs and “other matters outside the limits of the autonomy”. Whether immigration to the mainland falls under the last category is still subject to debate.
Meanwhile, Beijing loyalists have supported the co-location proposal, saying it is a similar solution to the arrangement at the joint checkpoint of the Western Corridor, where immigration counters of Hong Kong and Shenzhen are built inside the same building, and Hong Kong is authorised to exercise “complete” jurisdiction over its own clearance zone.
Kevin Yam Kin-fung, convenor of the Progressive Lawyers’ Group, said the Western Corridor model could not be replicated for the express rail because the checkpoint is located on mainland soil, but the West Kowloon terminus is on Hong Kong soil and therefore protected by the Basic Law.
“The Sino-British Joint Declaration has delineated Hong Kong’s boundary and you cannot randomly carve out a lot and lease it to the mainland,” Yam added.