Executive Councillor Ronny Tong has said that the current administration has little say over the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement of the Express Rail Link.
Under the arrangement, parts of the West Kowloon terminus will be leased to the mainland, where Chinese law will be enforced. Hong Kong’s de facto constitution, the Basic Law, does not allow mainland laws to be implemented in the city – except a few involving national issues – but the government said the arrangement will not violate the Basic Law, since the area will legally no longer be regarded as Hong Kong.
Several legal challenges have been filed against the government’s arrangement, with one claiming that it has violated more than a dozen articles of the Basic Law.
Tong said on a Commercial Radio programme that it was too late to change the proposal as the HK$84.4 billion rail link was almost completed: “The rice is cooked.”
The government has repeatedly insisted that the railway must adopt a joint checkpoint arrangement, or its effectiveness will be diminished as passengers would have to disembark in Shenzhen for border checks.
“The issues we are discussing today were created by the previous administration – the current administration is only promoting the previous administration’s decision – our hands are tied,” Tong said.
But Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said the current administration was also responsible.
“Carrie Lam was the chief secretary of the last administration – she was part of the process in deciding on the joint checkpoint arrangement,” he said.
“It is the current administration’s decision whether to implement the arrangement. If there is a problem, or if ‘One Country, Two Systems’ may be eroded, it should consider other proposals and not forcefully sell a proposal violating ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and the Basic Law.”
On the radio programme, Tong said the concerns over the arrangement were not about the Basic Law, but an issue of politics and trust.
“It is right that Hong Kong people stay highly alert in protecting ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ but I hope people do not push it to the extreme… so that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said. “The more they want the central government to not limit ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ the more things they do that give the central government excuses to do so.”
He said Hong Kong gained 41 hectares in land when the government leased parts of the Shenzhen Bay control area, and another 87 hectares when the Lok Ma Chau loop was officially given to Hong Kong this year.
“Did we expand ‘One Country, Two Systems’ then? We did not. Geographically we got more land, but the system and spirit of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ did not change.”
Tong also said the National People’s Congress has the constitutional power to use the Article 20 of the Basic Law to give Hong Kong power to lease land to the mainland.
“‘Giving up power’ or ‘ceding land’ are only emotional words to trigger emotional responses,” he said.