‘Special privileges’ row sparked after senior Hong Kong official passes West Kowloon immigration with no ID
Permanent secretary Roy Tang lost both his Hong Kong identification card and mainland China entry permit on an express rail train, but officers let him back into city anyway
A senior Hong Kong official has been accused of exercising “privileges” by passing through the immigration checkpoint at West Kowloon station without travel documents, but the government denied he had received any special treatment.
Roy Tang Yun-kwong, permanent secretary at the city’s Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, bypassed the normal entry and exit procedures when taking a train back to Hong Kong with other senior officials on the day the terminus opened for the city’s new high-speed rail line to mainland China.
The bureau admitted Tang had lost both his Hong Kong identity card and home return permit on September 22 during the railway’s opening ceremony. The home return permit is the document required by Hongkongers to enter and exit mainland China.
Tang, 55, alongside Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and other guests, took a new express train to Guangzhou and returned via the railway. He lost his documents on the return trip and was only able to produce his guest pass for the ceremony and train ticket, which bore his name.
He was allowed through by mainland Chinese immigration officers, before Hong Kong staff conducted an identity check, the bureau said.
“No one asked for special treatment,” a bureau spokesman said.
The lost documents were found the next day after the launch activities had wrapped up, and were returned to the official.
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Tang, a civil servant since 1987, was commissioner of customs and excise from 2015 to last year. Before that he was director of broadcasting between 2011 and 2015.
He now works under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen.
Attending a meeting at Hong Kong’s legislature on Monday, Tang admitted he had been “careless”.
Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said the incident raised concerns over the so-called co-location arrangement, under which both mainland Chinese and local immigration checks are under one roof at the downtown Hong Kong station.
“Turns out you don’t need to go through the security checks, you just need to point at your face,” Chan said.
Tang should give a full explanation, she added.
“As a person in public office, Tang should have gone through the normal process and not invoked any special powers.”
Pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun said officials had to be “whiter than white”.
“When it comes to matters unrelated to his duties, he should have even fewer privileges than a normal citizen,” Tien said.
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But former security minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said the “flexible treatment” was not unusual.
“Some Hong Kong delegates to the National People’s Congress rushing to the mainland to attend meetings might forget their home return permits,” Ip said, referring to gatherings of China’s national legislature.
The New People’s Party chairwoman said security officers only had to check a passenger’s identity and consider whether letting him or her through would pose a security risk.
On its website, the Hong Kong government said residents who had lost their travel documents in mainland China should report the matter to public security authorities and apply for an Exit-Entry Permit for moving across the border.
According to rules laid down by Hong Kong’s railway operator, passengers unable to complete the entry process at West Kowloon are to be taken back to the mainland.
“Station staff shall assist the passenger to board the next available train back to the mainland station, with payment of the excess fare and handling charge to be handled on board the train during the return trip,” the MTR Corporation stipulates.
The MTR Corp said the express railway had not yet commenced public service on September 22.
“If guests had lost their belongings, we would handle the matter appropriately,” a spokeswoman for the railway operator said.
The Department of Public Security for Guangdong, the Chinese province bordering Hong Kong, could not be contacted.