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Hong Kong high-speed rail

Transport and justice chiefs strike out at criticisms of plan to put Chinese officials in Hong Kong’s high-speed rail terminus

One of biggest fears is plan to enforce mainland laws in parts of station would set precedent and pave way for more such projects but justice secretary Rimsky Yuen argued opponents have put forward no other concrete solutions

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 August, 2017, 9:29pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 August, 2017, 10:51pm

Hong Kong’s top officials were out in force again on Saturday to ­extinguish concerns over a controversial proposal to allow ­mainland officers operate inside the terminus of a cross-border railway as debate intensified on whether another public consultation was needed.

Transport minister Frank Chan Fan insisted the government has been listening to different views, while Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung cast doubts on the effectiveness of another public engagement exercise.

Hitting back at criticism that the authorities were trying to bulldoze through a joint-border clearance facility at West Kowloon station, Chan said such a proposal had been put forward years ago.

“I have looked into the past records, and the term ‘co-location’ has been mentioned many times. For example, from 2013 to 2014, there were four inquiries by then-legislators,” he said on Saturday.

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The transport chief reiterated the administration had adhered to internal guidelines throughout the process of gathering views from the community.

To further quash concerns, Chan is now inviting the Civic Party’s Tanya Chan, one of the initiators of the co-location concern group, for a dialogue.

Tanya Chan welcomed the move but insisted such talks could not replace a proper consultation.

“We still do not see an alternative proposal being laid out ... It seems the public must accept what is on the table, whether they like it or not,” she said.

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The group – a coalition of around 100 democrat politicians, academics and student unions – was formed on Wednesday with the aim of collecting 300,000 ­signatures to derail the proposal.

Meanwhile, justice chief Yuen questioned whether views collected from a new consultation would be much different from those already received.

He added the concern group had not made any concrete suggestions. One of the opponents’ biggest fears is the plan to enforce mainland laws in parts of the ­station would set a precedent and pave the way for more of these projects in the future.

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Executive councillor Ronny Tong Ka-wah suggested a clause be added in the resolution by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee to guarantee the plan would be “once and for all”.

But the recommendation was shot down by Basic Law Committee member Professor Albert Chen Hung-yee, who said China’s top legislative body could not lay down rules for the future.

After the resolution is prepared, a bill must be presented to the Legislative Council for approval in order for the legislative amendment to take effect.

Frederick Ma Si-hang, chairman of MTR Corporation – the project’s builder – said this must be done before July or trains would not be able to run by the third quarter of 2018 as scheduled.