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Hong Kong high-speed rail

Let Hong Kong law enforcement officers handle immigration on mainland Chinese soil, concern group says

Proposal raised as city presses on with controversial joint checkpoint plan for high-speed rail project

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 6:13pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 10:54pm

Hong Kong law enforcement officers should be allowed to handle immigration and customs clearance for high-speed rail passengers on mainland Chinese soil, a concern group said, after its members overwhelmingly backed the proposal.

Such an arrangement is the exact opposite of the government’s plan to let mainland officers work in Hong Kong, a prospect that has led critics to assert the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, would be violated.

“The endorsed proposal will offer the same efficiency that the government’s proposal offers,” Edward Yiu Chung-yim, a former lawmaker and member of the ­Co-Location Concern Group, said on Monday.

The controversy relates to a HK$84.4 billion high-speed rail project connecting Hong Kong to the mainland. It is expected to open in the third quarter of next year.

The endorsed proposal will offer the same efficiency that the government’s proposal offers
Edward Yiu Chung-yim, concern group member

In July, the government announced its plan for joint immigration and quarantine facilities in which Hong Kong would lease a quarter of the project’s West Kowloon terminal to the mainland. Mainland officers would enjoy almost total jurisdiction in the leased area.

The idea stoked fears that the city’s autonomy would be eroded. Critics have pointed out that, under Article 18 of the Basic Law, national laws shall not be applied in Hong Kong except for those “outside the limits of the autonomy of [Hong Kong]”.

The government’s proposal is being challenged in court. But Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has made it clear it “would not be overturned”.

About 30 of the concern group’s 100 members met on Sunday to discuss various proposals. More than 20 voted to support allowing Hong Kong officers to handle immigration and customs clearance on mainland soil. The others in the group said before the meeting they would support any proposals the attending members endorsed.

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The group claimed its proposal was feasible because Hong Kong officers were already allowed to handle clearance for travellers at Shenzhen Bay Port, located on the mainland.

“If co-location is arranged on the mainland, then the Hong Kong government would not have to be challenged in court,” Yiu said.

The group added that if its proposal were adopted, the area reserved for mainland officers could be rented out and generate income. It also suggested the joint checkpoint could be built at a large train station in Shenzhen, such as Futian and Shenzhen North, where space was ample.

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A Transport and Housing Bureau spokesman on Monday said express rail stations on the mainland, including those at Futian and Shenzhen North, were already operating and that a joint arrangement would “impact on the planning of railway services, as well as venue design and operation of the mainland stations”.

The spokesman added that the government and “relevant central authorities had explored the idea and did not find it feasible”.