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Debate over rail link joint checkpoint flares again, as Exco member questions latest plan

Ronny Tong Ka-wah questions if city has power to lease space to mainland Chinese authorities, allowing them to enforce national laws on Hong Kong soil

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 July, 2017, 11:44am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2017, 4:25pm

A debate has been reignited over the legality of a proposed joint checkpoint at the future high-speed rail terminus in West Kowloon, with one Executive Council member questioning whether Hong Kong has the power to lease space to mainland Chinese authorities to enforce national laws in the city.

Under a deal that is expected to be announced next week, mainland officers will be allowed to fully enforce national laws within the leased area, where mainland border control facilities will be set up.

Mainland officers will man the facilities, and Hong Kong law enforcers will venture into the area only in case of an emergency such as an accident or fire.

Speaking on a radio programme on Friday, executive councillor Ronny Tong Ka-wah, who is a senior counsel, said he did not agree with the plan to lease space to another jurisdiction for enforcing mainland laws because the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – did not empower the administration to do so.

Shenzhen model for joint checkpoint at cross-border railway won’t work in Hong Kong, minister says

“Article 18 of the Basic Law has stated clearly that national laws shall not be applied in Hong Kong except for those listed in Annex III,” he explained.

Only the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress is allowed to add laws to the list.

On a separate radio programme on Friday, fellow senior counsel and Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit said the lease arrangement was “totally unacceptable” and that he was worried that Hongkongers’ rights might be infringed on.

“We will be having a moving boundary,” Leong said, referring to the train carriages which will also fall under mainland jurisdiction.

“Implementing a joint checkpoint is just like removing the protection given by Article 18 of the Basic Law,” he said.

In response, pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun – also a barrister – said the issue of jurisdiction for the plan was no different from the arrangement for having consulates in the city.

“Having a consulate in Hong Kong doesn’t mean the city has ceded territory to the country,” Leung said. “It’s the same with the terminus in West Kowloon.”

A bill setting up a mainland port area inside the terminus is expected to be tabled in the Legislative Council in October, with the aim of having it passed by early next year.

The HK$84 billion Hong Kong section of the express rail link to Guangzhou is expected to be ready by the third quarter of 2018.