The Justice Secretary has said that passengers’ legal responsibilities and rights will not be affected by any proposed joint checkpoint arrangements at the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link terminal.

Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung visited Beijing for a two-day trip to Beijing with Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung on Monday. The pair were set to negotiate plans to allow mainland officers to enforce immigration checks at the West Kowloon Terminus to ensure faster journey times to the mainland.

Express Rail Link construction site. Photo: GovHK.

They met with Huang Liuquan, deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, and Li Fei, chairman of Beijing’s Basic Law Committee.

The issue has been at a stalemate since the rail link was proposed in 2010, as the Hong Kong government has been trying to find ways to avoid violations to the Basic Law when implementing such an arrangement.

If the plan fails, the benefit of the constructing the rail link would be in question as passengers may have to leave the train at the border for inspections. Last year, Yuen said on-train inspections were “rather difficult.”

Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, recently said there would be progress in mid-March.

Yuen’s statements came after reports that designs for the Express Rail Link West Kowloon Terminus already included space reserved for mainland customs, immigration and quarantine, and the partition layouts within two basement levels were customised according to requests from the mainland authorities.

Express Rail Link West Kowloon Terminus Concourse
Photomontage of West Kowloon Terminus Concourse. Photo: MTRC.

Yuen told reporters in Beijing on Tuesday that they have been considering various proposals which might be conducive to the implementation the “co-location” plan.

“The common consensus, which is a very clear common consensus, between the Hong Kong side and the relevant officials of the [central government], is that the proposal of co-location in future would have to be strictly in accordance with the Basic Law and also consistent with the spirit of the ‘one country, two systems’ policy,” he said.

“In so doing… the passengers’ legal responsibilities would not be increased in any way and the passengers’ legal liability would not be affected.”

He said the whole spirit of the arrangement was to ensure that it would be consistent with the Basic Law and provide convenience and efficiency at the same time.

Express Rail Link Train
Potential Express Rail Link Train. Photo: CSR Corporation.

The rail link was scheduled to begin operations by the third quarter next year.

Yuen said he was “prudently optimistic” about progress, though he did not explain what progress had already been made.

“At least in my and secretary Cheung’s view, we will explain the details before this administration’s term ends [in July],” he said. Cheung has said he will not continue his role in the next administration.

Anthony Cheung said that many stations on the mainland did not reserve locations for border inspections.

“So there is a huge limitation in implementing inspections in both Hong Kong and the mainland,” he added.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.