High-speed rail saga exposes sorry state of anti-China paranoia in Hong Kong
Yonden Lhatoo says the multiple conspiracy theories surrounding the new, cross-border link show the unbelievable extent to which anti-China sentiment can travel in this city
So the new high-speed railway connecting Hong Kong to Shenzhen and Guangzhou is finally up and running, billions of dollars over budget and three years late.
How important it is for the city’s development through closer integration with the mainland, or how much of a white elephant, depends on whom you ask. But there’s no denying the extent of open suspicion and even downright paranoia this mega project has exposed when it comes to some Hongkongers’ attitude towards their motherland.
And all of it has been conceived, nurtured, and perpetuated by opposition politicians and activists on the rampage in their China-hating tinfoil hats.
Politically driven opposition to the new rail link and the persecution complex it regularly whips up tend to border on the bizarre and encroach upon the ridiculous.
First there was, and still is, the whole conniption over the so-called co-location deal under which part of the West Kowloon terminus on the Hong Kong side has been handed over to mainland jurisdiction for checkpoint purposes. This means anyone who enters the port area leased to mainland authorities will be subject to national laws.
This is not an unprecedented arrangement. US officials are stationed in major Canadian airports, and Britain has a similar set-up with the European Union for rail travel. And these are separate nations cooperating for the sake of convenience.
In our case, we’re talking about more than 80,000 cross-border commuters expected to use the new link every day, all from and within the same country. And they’re making the two sides look like enemy states during a time of war, with all the endless fearmongering about the loss of Hong Kong’s autonomy and the placing of our citizens at the mercy of monsters from the mainland.
Not to mention Hong Kong exercises similar jurisdiction over mainland soil in the port area leased to it at the Shenzhen Bay checkpoint. More than a billion mainlanders don’t have a tit-for-tat problem with Hong Kong over that arrangement.
Then there’s that utter nonsense about “secret” underground levels at the West Kowloon terminus hiding nefarious facilities, the insinuation being that hapless Hongkongers could somehow be detained and tortured, maybe even experimented upon by aliens, in this Chinese Area 51 that appears to be giving some of us sleepless nights.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had to come out and reassure everyone that the conspiracy theorists were referring to back-of-the-house facilities, such as machine rooms, refuse- collection points and maintenance areas. Ever hear of redundancy engineering?
The one that makes me laugh out loud is the more recent hissy fit over free public Wi-fi at the terminus, with schizophrenic naysayers suggesting unwitting travellers’ personal details may be leaked to oppressive government agencies to be used against them.
Never mind that Hongkongers are under no obligation whatsoever to use the new railway, and hundreds of thousands of them move in and out of the mainland every day using other modes of transport without their human rights being violated.
One of the saddest moments of this sorry saga was when the city’s leader had to give a public reassurance that mainland personnel would not be allowed to leave their port area for meals. Seriously? Are we talking about triad gangsters or customs and police personnel in uniform with whom Hongkongers are constantly interacting on a daily basis at multiple cross-border checkpoints?
I get the whole thing about the need to maintain Hong Kong’s unique identity and the freedoms that separate us from the rest of China, but this is getting out of hand. Some people really need to grow up.
Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post