Chief Executive Carrie Lam says that the government will propose suspending the discussion on the Stamp Duty (Amendment) Bill 2017 at the legislature next Wednesday. The move will allow the government to prioritise the debate on the controversial Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link joint checkpoint arrangement.
It will be proposed by the Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan at the legislature this Wednesday, Lam said, since construction work on the railway is 95 per cent complete.
Lam said the draft stamp duty bill will be submitted to the Legislative Council as soon as possible following the debates on the checkpoint and her policy address.
The railway is expected to commence service in the third quarter of 2018. “Time is very tight,” Lam said, adding that she hoped the arrangement will be passed locally before next summer.
Although next week’s motion will be non-binding, Lam had said the government will only go ahead and start procedures needed to implement the arrangement after the debate.
The mechanism will involve “leasing” land to China and effectively giving up Hong Kong jurisdiction across a quarter of the West Kowloon terminus for faster immigration procedures performed by mainland law enforcement agents. Pro-democracy critics say the city will be ceding part of its territory to China in violation of the Basic Law.
‘Widespread approval’ for policy address
Lam, who delivered her first policy last week, also said she was very pleased that it had “received widespread approval in society” and was welcomed by the public. She said that follow-up work on the policy address will commence immediately, and that she will supervise the implementation of the policies.
On the proposed national anthem law, Lam said: “Even though it has become a nationwide law, in order to be implemented in Hong Kong it has to be adapted – as was the case with the national flag and emblem law. Therefore, the local legislation method will be used… and – as always – there will be discussion.”
The law, which criminalises insulting the national anthem March of the Volunteers was approved by China’s legislative body last month and took effect in the mainland on October 1. Violators face detention of up to 15 days by police, or criminal prosecution. Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip said this week that the Hong Kong government had already begun preliminary work on the law.
Lam added that Hong Kong laws generally do not have retroactive effect.