Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng has said that no mainland laws were being forced upon any Hongkongers in light of the joint checkpoint arrangement for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.
Mainland officers are set to exercise mainland laws in a designated, leased area of the West Kowloon terminus when it opens later this year. A bill for the arrangement has been submitted to the legislature and it was discussed at the bill committee on Friday.
Cheng said the arrangement will not violate Article 18 of the Basic Law, which stipulates that national laws should not be applied in Hong Kong except for those in Annex III of the Basic Law – such as the national flag and emblem law.
“This arrangement does not affect Hong Kong’s immigration mechanism – the main point is, residents can choose on their own whether to take the Express Rail to enter the mainland port area,” she said. “We have to note that this arrangement does not force mainland laws upon all Hongkongers, or any Hongkonger.”
Cheng did not directly answer a question from Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok, who challenged her over whether it was constitutional if mainland laws were only applied to certain areas or groups of people in Hong Kong. Cheng said the mainland port area at the terminus was only planned under the specific circumstances of the joint checkpoint.
Using the minimum wage legislation as an example, Cheng said the Basic Law did not feature any article about the legislation, but it gave Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy to handle livelihood issues and legislate.
Cheng also said the arrangement would not violate Article 22 of the Basic Law. She said the agreement between Hong Kong and the mainland was approved by the National People’s Congress and was considered as a law in the mainland.
Article 22 stipulates that no department of the central government and no province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the central government may interfere in the affairs which Hong Kong administers on its own in accordance with the Basic Law.
Beijing authorised the arrangement last December, issuing a legal explanation as to how it would comply with Hong Kong’s Basic Law. However, legal experts have said that the plan has no legal basis, as Chinese laws cannot be applied in Hong Kong unless they are listed in the constitution’s Annex.
Meanwhile, lawmakers voiced criticism, saying that the government only replied on Thursday to the questions sent by the Legislative Council secretariat two weeks ago, and many only received the documents on Friday morning.
Pro-democracy camp convener Charles Mok and pro-Beijing lawmaker Michael Tien both said they did not have enough time to read through the documents.
Transport Secretary Frank Chan apologised and said the questions raised by the secretariat were very wide and deep, thus the government needed to answer carefully.
The democrats also criticised pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip – chair of the bill committee – as she decided to cut short lawmakers’ time to speak in the second round of questions-and-answers.