Hong Kong does not have the right to autonomously administer areas beneath its ground surface or in its airspace, a pro-Beijing politician has claimed.
Basic Law Institute chairman Alan Hoo made the remarks on Friday morning in response to controversy over the underground checkpoint of the West Kowloon terminus of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link terminal, currently under construction.
The government has proposed allowing mainland officers to enforce immigration checks in certain areas of the proposed checkpoint.
Speaking to RTHK, Hoo cited the Chinese State Council’s Border Map of the HKSAR – published on the day of the 1997 handover of sovereignty – as stating that the autonomous territory consists of its land and sea surfaces.
“Who does the underground belong to? That’s a very complicated legal question,” he claimed. “The earth is round, why does the underground belong to [Hong Kong]?”
“If we find oil beneath Hong Kong… [China] does not have to ask for your permission before drilling it.”
Hoo employed a metaphor of a doctor inserting a tube into a patient to explain his idea: “The tube is inserted into your body, but it is the property of the Hospital Authority – not you – and it has administrative rights [over the tube]. If you don’t like it you remove it – it’s the same concept.”
It is not the first time the barrister and Liberal Party member has made such a suggestion. He told Apple Daily in March that Hong Kong’s territory does not cover its underground areas and airspace, and that the mainland checkpoint would not infringe upon the Basic Law.
Hoo’s remarks were criticised by Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai, who said in a press release that Hong Kong is a three-dimensional geographical space.
“If Hoo’s comments about underground areas hold true, does this mean that all underground spaces in the MTR… and all underground spaces in buildings… are not part of the autonomous territory of Hong Kong?” he asked.
“According to Hoo, the space in which everybody exists is not part of Hong Kong.”
Localist group Hong Kong Indigenous also mocked Hoo’s comments in a Facebook post: “If you open the lid of a street sewer, you might find People’s Liberation Army soldiers.”
Wu added that the establishment of a mainland checkpoint inside Hong Kong would set a precedent for further instances for national laws to be implemented in the city under specific circumstances.
The West Kowloon section of the railway is scheduled for completion in 2018, and will link Hong Kong to mainland China’s high-speed rail network. It is expected to cost the city’s taxpayers over HK$80 billion.