A 60-year-old construction worker walked into the mainland port area of the Express Rail Link terminus on Tuesday, inadvertently crossing the legal border between Hong Kong and China.

The Security Bureau confirmed that, at around 9am on Tuesday, a construction worker walked from the Hong Kong port area on the B2 floor to the mainland port area one floor below. The man triggered an alarm and was detained by security officers, according to the Security Bureau.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan hands over the mainland port area to Yang Xiuyou. Photo: GovHK.

The man said he was unfamiliar with the station layout and entered the mainland port area by accident. He was sent back to the Hong Kong port area, and no arrests were made.

The incident took place on the first day that Chinese law was officially enforced at the West Kowloon terminus. A quarter of the terminus came under mainland jurisdiction at midnight on Tuesday following long-running controversy over the joint checkpoint plan.

The Security Bureau said it will strengthen security checks following Tuesday’s incident.

West Kowloon terminus of the Express Rail Link.

Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam told Apple Daily that the incident showed how easy it was for Hong Kong people to accidentally fall foul of the law at the terminus. He urged the government to disclose more information, including whether the worker was ever detained by mainland authorities and if so, what treatment he received.

‘Back of house service corridor’

On Tuesday evening, the Transport and Housing Bureau issued a response on the “B5 level” of the West Kowloon terminus, denying accusations of a cover-up.

The B5 level is a “back of house service corridor… with machine rooms for air conditioning, drainage and sewage systems alongside it and will be used during rescue and evacuation,” the statement read.

Members of the public visiting the West Kowloon terminus of the Express Rail Link. Photo: GovHK.

“This is not an area for passenger use and is not within the Mainland Port Area… when relevant personnel need to enter the aforesaid corridor for the performance of duties, they must enter through the cross-boundary restricted area,” the statement continued.

News site HK01 first reported on Monday that there was a floor below the West Kowloon terminus B4 level. According to the report, only a minority of MTR Corporation staff knew of the existence of the B5 level. Lawmaker Tanya Chan said legislators had no previous knowledge of the floor and that it was not mentioned in any documents.

In its statement, the Transport and Housing Bureau said the floor was mentioned in a quarterly report submitted to a Legislative Council subcommittee in September 2016.

Ducts on the B5 level appear in an environmental impact assessment document submitted by contractors.

“There is therefore no question of covering up the matter,” the statement read.

The Bureau added that only authorised personnel will be able to use the corridor, and the pathway is locked by security systems which included closed-circuit television and alarms.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam also said there was “nothing mysterious” about the B5 level.

Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.