The plan for a joint customs and immigration checkpoint in Hong Kong’s rail terminus is consistent with the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, and will maximize the efficiency of the new high-speed rail line.
This is the practical and convenient way to do things
It is of paramount importance to Hong Kong to speed up transportation to the mainland, given the clear social and economic benefits for the city. The link means people will be able to travel from Hong Kong to Shenzhen in just 15 minutes.
The joint checkpoint plan, or the “co-location” arrangement, will allow the border-crossing process to be smooth and efficient. Making different customs and immigration arrangements would require passengers to get on and off the trains to undergo checks, defeating the whole purpose of the high-speed railway.
Legally speaking, the arrangement is consistent with both the Chinese constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which allows the city to operate semi-autonomously under the “one country, two systems” framework.
The Hong Kong government has already signed a cooperation agreement for the co-location plan with the mainland, and the National People’s Congress Standing Committee - the top legislative body in China - handed down an important decision endorsing the plan.
As for the Basic Law, Article 7 of the constitution allows the Hong Kong government to manage its “state property,” entitling it to earmark or lease out any part of the rail terminus to other parties, including to the Chinese central government.
This type of arrangement exists in other parts of the world. In Europe, Britain and France have established joint checkpoints at either end of Eurostar high-speed railway. Canada and the US also operate joint border stations.
Although our situation is not quite the same, if two completely different countries can reach a consensus that improves efficiency for both sides, why can we not do this for Hong Kong and the mainland when we are part of the same country?
It all boils down to trust between the two sides.
The Hong Kong government believes the mainland officials assigned to the port area will be purely carrying out customs and immigration duties. The opposition are scaring people by saying that they will carry out cross-border legal enforcement in Hong Kong, which is simply against the Basic Law. These scare tactics won’t do any good for our city.
Outside opinion polls show that the majority of people in Hong Kong agree, since they want a more convenient way to travel to the mainland.
We simply want to speed up the entire transportation process, offering people convenience and nothing more.
Holden Chow Ho-ding is a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council and a member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.