The transport secretary has said the government will not make public all of the design and security arrangements for the Express Rail Link’s West Kowloon Terminus, since important transport facilities are often hotspots for terror attacks.
Pro-democracy lawmakers expressed their discontent on Monday as they were not allowed to inspect the boundaries and facilities of the proposed mainland port area during a visit. Parts of Hong Kong territory within the station are set to be leased to the mainland in order to ensure faster immigration procedures, though critics argue the mechanism violated the city’s mini-constitution.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Jeremy Tam said he was concerned that people could easily enter the mainland port area by opening fire doors. The number of such fire doors were not made public.
The government aims at passing the legal framework for the mainland port area before the legislature’s summer break. Monday’s official visit formed part of a legislative bills committee review of the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan said the fire exits and logistics facilities, which the lawmakers wished to see, were not part of the bill that they were scrutinising, thus it was unnecessary for lawmakers to check them.
He said the bill is used to announce the setup of a mainland port area inside the West Kowloon Terminus, and to review laws relating to train cabins, additional laws, and what Hong Kong laws will still be applicable within the mainland port area.
“A lot of important transport infrastructure around the world are hotspots for terror attacks. In many countries, the designs and planning of public safety and security [features] will not easily be made public for such important infrastructure,” he told reporters on Monday.
He also said that the arrangements must be kept secret so that they will work when necessary.
Chan’s comments came after pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu staged a sit-in protest at the terminus, as he demanded to see the logistics area inside the mainland port area. Officers of the MTR Corporation told Chu that there was no arrangement for them to inspect the area during Monday’s visit.
In response, Chu said: “Then tell me when can you arrange that… we have been asking about this for months.”
Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said she was concerned that once the bill is passed, the area would become part of the mainland and lawmakers will never be able to enter and inspect it.
But pro-Beijing lawmaker Lo Wai-kwok, of the engineering sector, said there will be strict security measures to ensure people will not enter the mainland port area without clearing immigration procedures.
The Hong Kong Bar Association has made a submission stating the government’s argument about mainland personnel performing their duties was “curious and circular” and that the proposed mechanism had no constitutional basis.
The bills committee’s chair Regina Ip has set a deadline to ensure lawmakers finish scrutinising the law next week.
The government had said it is confident that the rail system can begin operations in September.