Hong Kong’s Basic Law allows mainland laws to apply to high-speed rail terminus, justice chief says
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung says station will be designated as a ‘mainland port area’ and therefore ‘co-location arrangement would not be in contravention of the Basic Law’
Provisions in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution that bar mainland officials from enforcing national laws in the city would not apply to the future high-speed train terminus because part of the area would be designated as “mainland port area”, according to the city’s justice chief.
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, in presenting the joint checkpoint arrangements for the high-speed rail link at a press conference on Tuesday, said the “mainland port area” in the terminus will be leased to the mainland.
Under the agreement, mainland officers can exercise full jurisdiction on trains, platforms as well as the border clearance zone in the terminus.
A government document read: “Since the [mainland port area] is legally regarded as outside the territorial boundary of [Hongkong], the stipulations of Article 8, 18, and Article 22 of the Basic Law mentioned above do not apply.”
As such, “the co-location arrangement would not be in contravention of the Basic Law”.
Article 8 of the city’s mini-constitution states that pre-handover laws shall be maintained. Article 18 says national laws shall not be applied in the city, besides those “outside the limits of the autonomy of” Hong Kong.
And Article 22 bars mainland authorities from interfering in the affairs of Hong Kong, and mainland offices set up in the city shall also abide by Hong Kong laws.
The secretary for justice, however, noted that totally excluding Hong Kong laws in the designated mainland port area would not be practical.
“The [West Kowloon Station] is more than a control point,” said Yuen. “It is a station to be managed by a railway operator in Hong Kong. If application of the laws and legal jurisdiction of [Hong Kong] were completely excluded, it would create further legal disputes and commercial operation issues.”
Yuen said: “Both sides consider that while the general position is that mainland laws should apply in the [mainland port area], certain specified matters should continue to be governed by [Hong Kong] laws and be subject to the jurisdictions of the [Hong Kong] courts.”
Examples cited included specific cases such as for civil matters between passengers, or between passengers and the railway operator.
Local laws on construction, fire safety, and insurance standards, labour rights, will continue to apply in the designated mainland port area. And railway staff will be allowed unfettered access to this area.
Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu said two liaison groups would be set up to keep contact with the mainland side to iron out possible problems arising from the daily operation of the railway station and in case of emergencies.
The complex co-location plan involves a three-step process. First, a detailed agreement will be drawn up laying out how the co-location arrangement will work.
The Hong Kong Legislative Council will discuss the matter, before the National People’s Congress Standing Committee makes a decision endorsing the arrangement, and effectively authorises the Hong Kong government to enact local legislation to officially implement the plan.
Officials said Article 20 of the Basic Law has provided the legal basis for such a law to be enacted. The article states that Hong Kong “may enjoy other powers” granted to it by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee or the central government.
Officials hoped the Legislative Council could enact this law during its 2017-18 session, so the high-speed rail link can open on schedule by the third quarter of 2018.
Officials stressed that allowing mainland border officers to be posted in Hong Kong to clear passengers in advance is crucial for the success of the multi-billion dollar rail line, which will directly link Hong Kong up to the mainland’s high-speed rail network and consolidate Hong Kong’s status as a regional transport hub.
It will take as little as 14 minutes to travel from Hong Kong to Futian station in Shenzhen on the high-speed rail link and 8 hours 45 minutes from Hong Kong to Beijing.