Elsie Leung, the deputy director of Beijing’s official Basic Law Committee, has claimed there is no “ceding of land” involved in the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement for the HK$84.4 billion Express Rail Link.

The arrangement involves leasing land to the mainland to allow for a Chinese checkpoint within the West Kowloon terminus, instead of on the mainland, to enable faster travel. Mainland law enforcement agents will be stationed in the leased mainland port area.

The former justice secretary said mainland laws will only be implemented in the leased area, which – following authorisation from the National People’s Congress – will not legally be Hong Kong territory. Thus, she said, it does not violate the constitutional requirement that mainland laws cannot be implemented in Hong Kong.

Elsie Leung
Elsie Leung. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“Ceding land means it is snatched away without any compensation, but is the [arrangement] like that?” she said on a RTHK programme on Monday. “According to the government, it is a lease. There is a cost to the lease, so it is – of course – not a case of ceding land.”

“In a rental agreement, the landlord has more control over clauses,” she added.

Executive Councillor Ronny Tong suggested on Saturday that a clause be added in the resolution by the NPC to guarantee the plan would be a “once and for all” arrangement – in order to ease public concern.

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

Leung said the suggestion was unreasonable.

“The joint checkpoint arrangement is a new issue, a new situation – it was unforeseeable, [so] how can we say we will not have other unforeseeable new issues and new situations in the future?” she said. “Secondly, a local government cannot restrain the central government in how it exercises its power.”

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

Leung also said she believed it was unreasonable to say mainland officers will exercise cross border law enforcement in the area.

“In the past, with so many border control points, there was no problem of cross border law enforcement,” she said after the programme. “Under all the eyes watching, will mainland officers illegally enforce their duties? There are also surveillance cameras – if you do something illegal, would you do it in front of so many people?”

“A lot of people flow through border crossings – it is impossible to be kidnapped from there. I believe these concerns are not reasonable.”

Recently, activist Hendrick Lui had claimed that, during a protest on Lo Wu bridge in the border zone, mainland officers took him into Shenzhen without going through mainland Chinese immigration.

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.