Hong Kong society’s response to the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement for the Express Rail Link has been calm and rational, a top Beijing official has said.

The proposal will involve “leasing” land to China and effectively giving up Hong Kong jurisdiction across a quarter of the terminus for faster immigration control. Pro-democracy groups have raised concerns over ceding territory to the mainland and potential violations of the Basic Law.

Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, met with visiting Chief Executive Carrie Lam in Beijing on Monday.

Carrie Lam and Wang Guangya. Photo: GovHK.

“I feel in general Hong Kong society has been calm. There are supporting voices, there are different voices as well, but I feel generally that society is rather rational,” he said after meeting Lam.

Wang said the arrangement complied with the Basic Law and the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.

“I believe most Hong Kong people will accept this, because the joint checkpoint arrangement will bring economic and social benefits to Hong Kong,” he said.

Asked if any interpretation of the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s de facto constitution – by Beijing would be needed in order to pass the arrangement, Wang shook his head suggesting it was not necessary.

Proposed floor plan of the terminus. Photo: Legislative Council.

Lam later on Monday said the arrangement has adequate legal foundation and the government is unafraid of legal challenges.

She said she agreed with Wang’s observations: “In fact, the general response in Hong Kong is calm, the public has shown understanding towards explanations given by our officials. We also see that some surveys showed most people support the arrangement, to allow the rail link to start operating as soon as possible.”

Lam also said a Basic Law interpretation is not necessary.

Frank Chan. File Photo: GovHK.

Meanwhile, transport secretary Frank Chan called pro-democracy lawmaker Tanya Chan, who is leading a concern group over the arrangement, for a meeting.

But Tanya Chan said the secretary only invited her as a lawmaker, and he was not willing to formally communicate with her group.

The proposed meeting will be closed-door, and Tanya Chan decided to decline as he will attend a Legislative Council meeting on Tuesday concerning the controversy.

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.