Opening remarks by CE at press conference on Co-location Arrangement of Hong Kong Section of Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link
The Chief Executive, Mrs Carrie Lam; the Secretary for Justice, Mr Rimsky Yuen, SC; the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Frank Chan Fan; and the Acting Secretary for Security, Mr Sonny Au, held a press conference this afternoon (December 27) on the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on approving the Co-operation Arrangement between the Mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on the Establishment of the Port at the West Kowloon Station of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link for Implementing Co-location Arrangement. Following are the opening remarks by Mrs Lam:
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) welcomes the decision (Decision) made by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) today, approving the Co-operation Arrangement between the Mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on the Establishment of the Port at the West Kowloon Station of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link for Implementing Co-location Arrangement (Co-operation Arrangement) signed between the HKSAR Government and the Mainland on November 18, 2017. This signifies the accomplishment of the second step in the "Three-step Process" to provide a firm legal basis for the implementation of co-location arrangement at the West Kowloon Station (WKS). I wish to take this opportunity to thank the State Council and the NPCSC for their support and the relevant Mainland authorities, in particular the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council for their thorough deliberations on the matter over a period of time.
Construction works of the Hong Kong Section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) which started in 2010 are now roughly 98 per cent completed. The Mass Transit Railway Corporation Limited is confident to commission this very important piece of railway project in the third quarter of 2018. Through some intensive publicity and public discussion over the past five months, i.e. since this term of the Government announced the proposed "Three-step Process" on July 25 this year, I hope, by now, there is no more doubt that co-location arrangement at the WKS to enable passengers travelling on the XRL to complete clearance procedures of both Hong Kong and the Mainland at the WKS in one go is the best way to optimise the transport, economic and social benefits of the XRL. Moreover, this arrangement has also received majority support in the community. Further, the NPCSC's Decision made today has not only removed any concern over the legal basis for the co-location arrangement, but has also provided strong constitutional and legal basis for its implementation.
While I will in a moment invite the Secretary for Justice to explain the legal position, let me first reiterate a few fundamental points:
- co-location arrangement for the XRL at the WKS in order to fully unleash the high-speed rail's advantages represents new circumstances in the implementation of "One Country, Two Systems" and involves complex issues of applicability of Mainland and Hong Kong laws as well as jurisdiction matters, which could not have been foreseen in the drafting of the Basic Law. It is therefore understandable that there is no specific provision in the Basic Law that could directly respond to or accommodate such new circumstances. The Mainland and HKSAR authorities have therefore thoroughly deliberated and debated on the matter over a period of time with a view to finding the most suitable arrangement;
- in so doing, the two sides have always worked from the common and unequivocal understanding that any arrangement must be consistent with the "One Country, Two Systems" principle and must not contravene the Basic Law. In exercise of its powers and duties, the NPCSC made the Decision today which approves the Co-operation Arrangement and clearly confirms that it is consistent with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China (the Constitution) and the Basic Law. Such an act provides strong legal backing to the co-location arrangement, including the enforcement of Mainland laws by relevant law enforcement agencies within the Mainland Port Area at the WKS;
- contrary to allegations that co-location arrangement undermines the HKSAR's high degree of autonomy, the Decision affirms that the conduct of consultations by the HKSAR Government with the relevant parties of the Mainland for making an appropriate arrangement on issues relating to the establishment of a port at the WKS and the implementation of co-location arrangement thereat is a clear demonstration of the exercise of a high degree of autonomy by the HKSAR in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law;
- the NPCSC's Decision expressly states that the establishment of the Mainland Port Area at the WKS does not alter the administrative division of the HKSAR and does not undermine the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the residents of the HKSAR in accordance with law. Allegations that co-location arrangement involves a "cession of territory" or a breach of human rights are clearly unfounded; and
- furthermore, the NPCSC's Decision specifies that the Mainland authorities stationed at the Mainland Port Area and their personnel can only perform duties and functions strictly within the confines of the Mainland Port Area, and they shall not enforce the law in any area outside the Mainland Port Area.
With the announcement of the NPCSC's Decision today, two steps of the "Three-step Process" have been completed, and the only remaining step is the local legislative process. We will not under-estimate the challenge in making this final step. The HKSAR Government will strive to introduce the Bill to implement co-location arrangement at the WKS pursuant to the NPCSC's Decision and the approved Co-operation Arrangement into LegCo no later than early February 2018. We must secure its passage before LegCo's summer recess next year, so as to meet the target of commissioning the Hong Kong Section of the XRL in the third quarter of 2018. I sincerely hope that LegCo Members will scrutinise the Bill in a pragmatic and rational manner.
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