Legal scholar Johannes Chan has warned that China’s power in Hong Kong may increase if the West Kowloon terminus of the Express Rail Link is ever expanded.

The government’s proposed joint checkpoint arrangement, for faster customs and immigration procedures, involves asking the National People’s Congress to grant Hong Kong power to lease a quarter of the station to the mainland. The area will no longer be legally considered Hong Kong territory anymore.

As such, the government says it will not violate the Basic Law article which bars mainland laws from being implemented in Hong Kong.

Johannes Chan
Johannes Chan. File Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

Chan, Hong Kong’s only honorary senior counsel, said the government has indirectly admitted it wished to bypass the Basic Law.

“The government basically admitted the proposal does not comply with the Basic Law – that’s why it has to create this [leased] mainland port area,” he told an RTHK programme on Wednesday.

“Hong Kong people will be frightened – why is some place in middle of Hong Kong not Hong Kong anymore? Will there be another place that does not belong to Hong Kong? This is the core part of the Basic Law – what Hong Kong is – but now its completeness is cut, this is the most worrying part,” he added.

See also: Pro-democracy veteran Martin Lee warns joint checkpoint deal sets precedent for crushing protests

“Tomorrow, for security reasons, say the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region only refers to Hong Kong Island – Kowloon Peninsula does not belong to Hong Kong and becomes a mainland port, the New Territories become a mainland port – it’s possible, and this sets a bad precedent.”

Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link
West Kowloon Terminus of Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link. Photo: GovHK.

Chan said it could be possible that – as the number of passengers increase – the mainland will need to lease more land.

“There must be expansion in the future. The power [of the mainland] will expand when there is an expansion,” he said.

See also: Explainer: The controversial joint checkpoint arrangement for Hong Kong’s Express Rail Link

“By that time, when this port area is so convenient, many other things could be conveniently done there as well. When we deport someone, we send them to Lo Wu or Lok Ma Chau [borders] now – maybe if it’s so convenient in the future, we can just send them over to West Kowloon… Gradually, the mainland’s power will extend into Hong Kong – this is what we are concerned about.”

High Court
The High Court, Admiralty. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

Several legal challenges against the arrangement have been filed. The court will decide whether they should be admitted at a joint hearing on September 22.

Chan said the opportunity for the challenges to succeed will not be high since the incident involves mainland policies. The National People’s Congress may issue an interpretation of the Basic Law if the government loses at the Court of Final Appeal, striking another blow to Hong Kong’s legal system.

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.