The Hong Kong Bar Association has urged the government to “keep the general public timeously informed” of details in the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.
The proposal will involve “leasing” land to China and effectively giving up Hong Kong jurisdiction across a quarter of the West Kowloon terminus for faster immigration procedures performed by mainland law enforcement agents. It has been heavily criticised by pro-democracy activists, who say that it is a violation of the Basic Law.
In a statement published on Thursday, the Bar Association said that it “notes the public discussions concerning the legal and constitutional issues” related to the joint checkpoint arrangement.
The barrister organisation called on the government to provide timely details of the proposed three-step process “to facilitate a proper, constructive and rational discussion” on the issues.
“The HKBA is monitoring the development closely, and will publish its views if and when appropriate,” it continued.
The three-step process involves: reaching an agreement with mainland authorities; seeking approval from the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to give Hong Kong power to “lease” land to the mainland; and enacting the arrangement through local legislation.
The Association published a statement last month following news reports on a confidential discussion within the Bar Council. The Bar Association said that the reports were incorrect and misleading, and stressed that it had not yet made a decision on whether the joint checkpoint is permissible under the Basic Law.
Ming Pao last month published a report on documents it had obtained on the Bar Council’s sub-committee on Constitutional Affairs & Human Rights.
According to the report, the documents said that the committee believes “it is highly questionable whether the HKSAR Government’s proposed local legislation providing that the [mainland port area] be ‘regarded as outside the territorial boundary of the HKSAR’ can be enacted without contravening… the relevant provisions of the Basic Law, including [Articles] 8, 18, 19 and 22.”
The September statement also said that it was inappropriate to comment when a court hearing has been fixed on the matter. The High Court later declined applications for judicial reviews on the arrangement, arguing that such challenges are “clearly premature at this stage.”