Hong Kong does not have the right to autonomously administer areas beneath its ground surface or in its airspace, a pro-Beijing politician has claimed.

Basic Law Institute chairman Alan Hoo made the remarks on Friday morning in response to controversy over the underground checkpoint of the West Kowloon terminus of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link terminal, currently under construction.

The government has proposed allowing mainland officers to enforce immigration checks in certain areas of the proposed checkpoint.

Alan Hoo Hong-ching
Alan Hoo Hong-ching. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Speaking to RTHK, Hoo cited the Chinese State Council’s Border Map of the HKSAR – published on the day of the 1997 handover of sovereignty – as stating that the autonomous territory consists of its land and sea surfaces.

“Who does the underground belong to? That’s a very complicated legal question,” he claimed. “The earth is round, why does the underground belong to [Hong Kong]?”

“If we find oil beneath Hong Kong… [China] does not have to ask for your permission before drilling it.”

hong kong 2012 election
A worker walks past the Chinese and Hong Kong flags during lighting rehearsals in the Grand Hall of the Convention and Exhibition Centre in preparation for the fifth anniversary handover celebrations 28 June 2002. File photo: Peter Parks/AFP.

Hoo employed a metaphor of a doctor inserting a tube into a patient to explain his idea: “The tube is inserted into your body, but it is the property of the Hospital Authority – not you – and it has administrative rights [over the tube]. If you don’t like it you remove it – it’s the same concept.”

It is not the first time the barrister and Liberal Party member has made such a suggestion. He told Apple Daily in March that Hong Kong’s territory does not cover its underground areas and airspace, and that the mainland checkpoint would not infringe upon the Basic Law.

3D space

Hoo’s remarks were criticised by Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai, who said in a press release that Hong Kong is a three-dimensional geographical space.

Express Rail Link construction site. Photo: GovHK.

“If Hoo’s comments about underground areas hold true, does this mean that all underground spaces in the MTR… and all underground spaces in buildings… are not part of the autonomous territory of Hong Kong?” he asked.

“According to Hoo, the space in which everybody exists is not part of Hong Kong.”

Localist group Hong Kong Indigenous also mocked Hoo’s comments in a Facebook post: “If you open the lid of a street sewer, you might find People’s Liberation Army soldiers.”

See also: Legal rights of passengers will not be affected at joint China-Hong Kong rail checkpoint, says Justice Sec.

Wu added that the establishment of a mainland checkpoint inside Hong Kong would set a precedent for further instances for national laws to be implemented in the city under specific circumstances.

The West Kowloon section of the railway is scheduled for completion in 2018, and will link Hong Kong to mainland China’s high-speed rail network. It is expected to cost the city’s taxpayers over HK$80 billion.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.