Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that the upcoming joint checkpoint arrangement for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link will comply with the Basic Law.

There have been concerns from lawmakers over whether Chinese law enforcement agents will need to be stationed at the West Kowloon Terminus in order to perform immigration and custom checks. Chinese law is not implemented in Hong Kong aside for a few stated in the Basic Law Annex III. It has been unclear on what soil the agents may be performing checks.

carrie lam
Carrie Lam. File Photo: LegCo.

The rail link is expected to begin operating in the third quarter of next year, but there has been little news about the joint checkpoint arrangement.

Lam said at her first question and answer session at the Legislative Council on Monday that the arrangement is necessary for the project, and negotiation with Beijing over the matter is now in the final stages.

“The topic is very complicated and sensitive, I believe we should fully announce and explain the proposal when we have studied everything,” Lam said. “But I can say, it must be a proposal made in accordance with the Basic Law, a proposal with adequate legal grounds.”

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

Lam denied there will be a “public relations battle” when handling the arrangement.

“It is something that we are all happy about – waiting for the convenience brought by the opening of the Express Rail Link, so it is important to explain that to the public,” she said, adding that advertisements detailing the project’s  benefits will be published as soon as next week.

New Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan also refused to give details. He asked the public to trust the government: “We are confident the arrangement will be in accordance with ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and the Basic Law.”

“We are determined to defend the Basic Law,” he added.

priscilla leung mei fun
Priscilla Leung. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung said it was “a bit disappointing” as the public would want a clear timetable on the arrangement.

“We hope to understand the details as soon as possible, so that we have more time to explain to the public,” she said.

She said the arrangement, in her understanding, would not involve implementing mainland laws in Hong Kong, and would not violate Article 22 of the Basic Law.

The Article stipulates: “If there is a need for departments of the Central Government, or for provinces, autonomous regions, or municipalities directly under the Central Government to set up offices in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, they must obtain the consent of the government of the Region and the approval of the Central People’s Government.”

She added a likely proposal would follow the model of the Shenzhen Bay border control point, whereby the mainland authorities rent space at the station.

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.