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Hong Kong high-speed rail

Joint checkpoint plan for cross-border high-speed rail ‘entirely in line with Hong Kong Basic Law’, Beijing official says

Authorities gather to scrutinise the legal basis for proposal allowing enforcement of national laws on Hong Kong soil

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 December, 2017, 8:27pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 December, 2017, 10:20pm

A key Beijing official on Saturday defended a controversial joint checkpoint plan for the cross-border high-speed rail between Hong Kong and mainland China, saying it was entirely constitutional even as critics challenged the legal basis of the arrangement.

The remarks by Li Fei, chairman of the Basic Law Committee, came a day after the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the country’s top legislative body, convened its bi-monthly meeting to scrutinise the so-called co-location proposal.

The plan would allow mainland officers to enforce national laws during immigration and clearance operations in part of the West Kowloon terminus of the rail link to Guangzhou.

Admit that Basic Law does not provide legal basis for joint checkpoint plan, Jasper Tsang urges Hong Kong officials

On Friday, the first day of the meeting in Beijing, it still remained unclear which articles in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, could be cited to support the legality of the groundbreaking arrangement.

Li was tight-lipped when asked about the matter, saying: “[The meeting] is not over yet – it will be announced when the meeting ends.”

Li said he would comprehensively answer all questions raised in a news conference – expected to be held next Wednesday – as he stressed the joint checkpoint plan was entirely in line with the Basic Law.

Basic Law Committee member Maria Tam Wai-chu, also at the meeting, backed the plan by citing Article 7 – which states that the land and natural resources within Hong Kong shall be state property – alongside Articles 118 and 119.

The two latter clauses state that the Hong Kong government shall provide an economic and legal environment for encouraging investments, technological progress as well as the development of new industries, and formulate appropriate policies to promote and coordinate the development of various trades.

But Eric Cheung Tat-ming, principal law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, slammed Tam’s arguments, saying they were “meaningless”.

“We are not debating what Hong Kong could do to boost its economic development – this is not the issue. The question is whether national laws should be enforced in Hong Kong,” he said.

Cheung said the latest development showed that officials had failed to nail down the legal basis for the plan.

He added that it was unfortunate that the Hong Kong government had insisted on pushing ahead with the arrangement amid such uncertainties.

Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, former law dean of HKU, echoed similar sentiments. “Which article [in the Basic Law] states that Hong Kong can give up its jurisdiction for economic development?” he said.

“This is not explaining the law but using the law as a political tool.”