Transport Secretary Frank Chan has said Hong Kong will lose its potential to be connected to the world without the HK$84.4 billion Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.
He was attending a seminar hosted by pro-Beijing camp figures on Monday night relating to the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement. The mechanism involves the government “leasing” land to the mainland to allow mainland law enforcement capacity to perform clearance procedures at the new West Kowloon terminus.
Chan said in his opening speech that Hong Kong is at the southern most part of China, thus it will lose its connection with the world without the rail project. With the new system, he said, Hong Kong can be connected to Europe, Africa and other places, therefore it is important to Hong Kong’s long term development. The rest of the seminar was held behind closed doors, reported RTHK.
The pro-democracy camp has cast doubt over potential violations of the Basic Law, which forbids mainland law enforcement agencies from performing duties in Hong Kong. The government said it will ask the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to give it power to declare that parts of the terminus will no longer legally be part of Hong Kong.
A group of activists have proposed an alternative plan whereby the Express Rail Link’s joint checkpoint could be located at a mainland station, instead of at the Hong Kong terminus. They said their proposal would not harm the rail’s effectiveness.
Chan criticised the group’s proposal as being “cumbersome,” since south bound passengers from the mainland to Hong Kong would have to alight at the mainland station with the joint checkpoint facilities, before re-boarding.
“It will greatly diminish the advantage of convenience of the Express Rail Link in connecting with the mainland high speed rail network,” he said after the seminar.
The concern group invited Chan to attend a public debate.
Asked by reporters why he attended a seminar hosted by pro-Beijing figures, but would not join a forum hosted by the pro-democracy camp, Chan said the group’s proposal had been discussed and the government rejected it at Legislative Council meetings.
“If there’s nothing new, there is not much need for discussion or debate,” he said.