My Take

Fuss over joint checkpoint is much ado about nothing

With proper safeguards, a joint checkpoint at the West Kowloon terminus for the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou is simply common sense

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2017, 3:25am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2017, 4:23pm

Call me naive, but I don’t understand why there is all this fuss over a joint checkpoint at the West Kowloon terminus of the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou. Hong Kong has done something similar before, and so has Macau. This is not to mention many other comparable arrangements exist between countries around the world.

There are three main issues: trust, legality and common sense.

Joint checkpoint given go-ahead despite legal fears

I get it. Many Hong Kong people don’t trust mainland authorities, especially when they are given powers to enforce mainland laws on Hong Kong soil. But, this is what I don’t get. You are boarding an express train to the mainland anyway. If you are afraid of being caught by mainland agents, for whatever reason, maybe you shouldn’t get on the train in the first place.

Secondly, is this so-called co-location legal or constitutional? Well, I am no expert on the Basic Law. But I am glad that Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, the Civic Party legislator, wrote that “the core legal concepts involved in the so-called co-location arrangement just can’t be simpler and ... even a layman who hasn’t gone through any legal training can instantly understand”.

Kwok and his party colleagues, many of them barristers, think co-location breaches the Basic Law. Well, maybe, who knows? But then, Albert Chen Hung-yee, a member of the Basic Law Committee and a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, thinks it’s perfectly workable and legal. Senior counsel Alan Hoo, chairman of the Basic Law Institute, thinks likewise.

Why is Hong Kong’s cross-border rail link causing such a fuss?

Suffice it to say that our legal experts don’t agree among themselves and that their positions depend more on their political backgrounds. Therefore, the constitutionality of co-location is by no means obvious one way or another.

Lastly, common sense. Hong Kong immigration and customs officers have been operating at the Shenzhen Bay Control Point for more than a decade, and no one makes a big deal of it. Why? Because it’s convenient and saves time. If we can do it in Shenzhen, why can’t they do it in Hong Kong?

Since 2013, Macau has effectively expanded its jurisdiction into the mainland when University of Macau students were allowed to attend classes, access uncensored internet, use patacas and be liable to Macau law on its campus on Zhuhai’s Hengqin island.

If two jurisdictions mutually agree on such extraterritorial arrangements to make life easier for their people, I don’t see a reasonable objection.