The government will begin the three-step process to approve the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement on Saturday.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Governor of Guangdong Province Ma Xingrui will sign an agreement of cooperation for establishing a port at the West Kowloon Station of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, which is set to open next year. Lam will then meet the press at 4:15pm on Saturday.
The mechanism will involve “leasing” land to the mainland and effectively giving up Hong Kong jurisdiction over a quarter of the terminus where immigration procedures will be performed by mainland law enforcement agents.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Tanya Chan said the agreement was likely to include many details of the joint checkpoint arrangement, but the government has yet to reveal them.
“I demand the government release the whole document before signing it tomorrow, so that every resident will know its content and details,” she said.
The agreement to be signed on Saturday is the first step in the government plan, before it seeks approval from the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress for the arrangement. The second step will probably be conducted during a meeting of the Standing Committee in December.
Both Li Fei and Rao Geping, two top members of Beijing’s Basic Law Committee, did not state clear support for citing Article 20 of the Basic Law in the second step, whereby Hong Kong will ask the Standing Committee to grant Hong Kong the power to “lease” part of the terminus to China. Article 20 stipulates that Hong Kong may enjoy other powers granted to it by the National People’s Congress or the central government.
Chan said she was concerned that Beijing did not appear to care about the legal basis for the mechanism anymore, and would simply use the Standing Committee to bulldoze through the arrangement – putting it beyond review by Hong Kong courts.
This week, the Legislative Council passed a non-binding motion put forward by the government over the arrangement, after it was delayed for three weeks by pro-democracy camp filibustering. The pro-Beijing camp and centralist lawmaker Pierre Chan voted for the arrangement.
Charles Mok, the convener of the pro-democracy camp, said the government should not rush the agreement, as LegCo only passed what he described as a “fake mandate” two days ago.
After the Standing Committee endorses it, it will return to the Legislative Council for local legislation. The government has said it wished to enact it before the legislature’s summer break in July, so that the railway can operate in the third quarter of next year.
The democrats have said they will adopt all possible means to delay the bill.