High-speed rail passengers’ personal data will be transferred “outside Hong Kong,” according to its operator.

Passengers must agree to a personal information collection statement when they buy tickets for the trains, which are set to start operating on September 23.

The personal information will be shared with the high-speed rail’s mainland railway operators and their agents, contractors or third-party service providers.

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

“As the Mainland Railway Operators are situated in the Mainland of China, they are subject to the PRC laws and your personal data transferred to the Mainland Railway Operators may be used and disclosed in accordance with the PRC laws, which level of protection may not be the same as those under Hong Kong personal data privacy laws,” the statement says.

WiFi service

Meanwhile, the free WiFi service provided at the West Kowloon terminus and on the trains also state that users’ personal information will be shared to mainland Chinese authorities and authorised organisations.

According to the personal information collection statement shown by the wireless service at the West Kowloon terminus, the information could be shared to prevent or detect crimes, and be used in investigations in accordance with laws and regulations.

The service provider is Hong Kong-listed company Comba Telecom Systems, which is headquartered in Guangzhou.

Express Rail Link
Photo: Twitter/AAinHongKong.

When the service is used, a disclaimer is shown. It states that within mainland-operated areas, the company will only provide free WiFi service to passengers with mainland phone numbers or WeChat accounts registered in the mainland’s real-name ticketing system.

The mainland area includes one million square feet at the West Kowloon terminus, as well as inside the train cabins.

The personal information will not be passed through the MTR Corporation – the rail operator – and could be obtained by mainland Chinese authorities and authorised organisations.

A MTRC spokesperson said that when trains are in the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link – from West Kowloon to Hong Kong’s northern border – telecom and internet service will follow the MTRC’s usual settings.

This means that the services will use Chinese settings in the mainland section.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: GovHK.

When asked by reporters about the data transfer, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the public can rest assured that railway operations are conducted in accordance with the law.

“I urge you not to look at the high-speed rail project with coloured glasses,” she said on Tuesday.

She said around 600,000 trips entering the mainland via land ports are made everyday and it was not a completely unfamiliar environment for passengers.

“After crossing the border, everything of course follow mainland laws,” she said.

Kris Cheng

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.