LCQ3: Hong Kong Section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link

     Following is a question by the Hon Tanya Chan and a reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Frank Chan Fan, in the Legislative Council today (November 29):


     On July 25 this year, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government announced the proposed arrangement for Hong Kong and Mainland customs, immigration and quarantine procedures to be carried out at the West Kowloon Station of the Hong Kong Section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (the co-location arrangement). Subsequently, on the 18th of this month, the Chief Executive signed on behalf of the SAR Government with the People's Government of Guangdong Province the Co-operation Arrangement for implementing the co-location arrangement. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the reasons why the counterpart with which the SAR Government signed the Co-operation Arrangement was the People's Government of Guangdong Province, and whether it knows if such a practice complies with the requirements and procedures under the relevant Mainland laws; the local legislation governing the Co-operation Arrangement; whether such legislation provides a legal basis for the signing of the Co-operation Arrangement between the authorities of Guangdong and Hong Kong; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether it is now still seeking, according to what it proposed in July this year, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC)'s granting SAR the power to implement matters in relation to the co-location arrangement in accordance with Article 20 of the Basic Law; if not, of the reasons for that, and the legal basis for applying Mainland laws at the Mainland Port Area in the West Kowloon Station; whether it has assessed if it is necessary for SAR to invoke the provisions of the Basic Law in order to implement the co-location arrangement; if it has assessed and the outcome is in the affirmative, of the details and justifications; if not, the reasons for that; as the Chief Executive has remarked that a decision by NPCSC on the Co-operation Arrangement will provide "a solid legal foundation" for the co-location arrangement, of the justifications for such remark, and whether it has assessed if such remark has the effect of the Basic Law and the principle of "one country, two systems" being bypassed or undermined; if it has assessed, of the outcome; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) whether the legislation on the co-location arrangement to be enacted by this Council in future must be consistent with the Co-operation Arrangement; if not, whether corresponding amendments will be made to the Co-operation Arrangement; if so, of the procedure; if not, the reasons for that?

     My consolidated reply to the Hon Tanya Chan's question is as follows:

     The construction works of the Hong Kong Section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) are being taken forward in full swing. As at end September 2017, the project is 97 per cent complete and targeted for commissioning in the third quarter of 2018. It will connect Hong Kong to the national high-speed rail network, substantially reducing the rail journey time between Hong Kong and various major Mainland cities.

     Efficient and time-saving clearance procedures are absolutely essential to realising the full potential of the XRL in terms of speed and convenience. By implementing co-location arrangement at the West Kowloon Station (WKS) of the XRL in future, passengers can complete clearance procedures of both Hong Kong and the Mainland at the WKS in one go. It will enable passengers to travel to and from different destinations across the country conveniently, without being constrained by whether a particular Mainland station is equipped with clearance facilities, and will also allow Hong Kong to provide direct high-speed rail service to an increasing number of Mainland cities in the days to come in order to cater for future demands for railway service. These advantages cannot be matched by other clearance options.

     The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) understands that the community of Hong Kong is concerned about matters relevant to the implementation of co-location arrangement of the XRL, and has all along insisted that the relevant arrangement must comply with "one country, two systems" and must not contravene the Basic Law; that it must be operationally feasible; and that it must be effective in controlling security risks and avoiding security loopholes to safeguard the safety of both places. In addition, we have also been paying close attention to the various comments and concerns of the Legislative Council (LegCo) and society. After reaching consensus on the framework of a Co-operation Arrangement for implementing co-location arrangement with the relevant Mainland authorities in July this year, the HKSAR Government immediately reported to the Executive Council on July 25, 2017. Subsequent to obtaining the endorsement of the Chief Executive in Council in taking forward the "Three-step Process" proposal, the HKSAR Government made an announcement in the same afternoon so as to provide information on the proposal to the public and initiate public discussion as early as possible.

     Following discussions in the community of Hong Kong over the past months, as well as the passage of a motion moved by the HKSAR Government at the LegCo on November 15, 2017, the HKSAR Government formally commenced the "Three-step Process" by signing 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 (the Co-operation Arrangement) with the Mainland on November 18, 2017. The said Co-operation Arrangement was made between the HKSAR and the Mainland. The Chief Executive and the Governor of Guangdong Province were the respective signatories of the HKSAR and the Mainland. The HKSAR will be initiating the second step of the "Three-step Process", namely seeking a decision by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) approving the Co-operation Arrangement together with the Mainland shortly afterwards, and thereafter commence the local legislative process pursuant to the NPCSC's decision and the Co-operation Arrangement, so as to meet the target of implementing co-location arrangement at the WKS upon the commissioning of the Hong Kong Section of the XRL, thereby fully unleashing the transport, social and economic benefits of the XRL. The "Three-step Process" proposal is the result of studies and discussions between the HKSAR and the relevant Mainland authorities over a long period of time. We believe that implementing co-location arrangement by way of the "Three-step Process" can provide a sound legal basis for the arrangement.

     We understand that some Members are concerned with co-location arrangement, including whether the arrangement would affect the implementation of "one country, two systems" and the Basic Law. As the Secretary for Justice has said during the LegCo debate on the Government motion concerning co-location arrangement, "one country, two systems" is a basic policy of the People's Republic of China (PRC) regarding the HKSAR, whereas the Basic Law safeguards the HKSAR's fundamental systems, rule of law and human rights, among others. The HKSAR Government agrees that upholding "one country, two systems" and safeguarding the Basic Law are of utmost importance. For this reason, throughout the discussion between the HKSAR Government and the Mainland on matters relating to co-location arrangement, the consensus between the two sides has always been very clear: while seeking to bring convenience to passengers and unleash the benefits of the Hong Kong Section of the XRL to the greatest extent, it must be insisted at the same time that, as a matter of law, the co-location arrangement will be consistent with the policy of "one country, two systems" and will not contravene the Basic Law.

     The HKSAR Government continues to consider and analyse the views voiced in the community concerning the "Three-step Process" proposal, including the different views concerning the relevant provisions of the Basic Law, and will also discuss those views with the relevant Mainland authorities. Ultimately, it will be for the NPCSC to make a decision and to approve the Co-operation Arrangement pursuant to the Constitution of the PRC and the Basic Law of the HKSAR. The HKSAR Government will disclose the full text of the Co-operation Arrangement for public information after the NPCSC has made a decision approving the Co-operation Arrangement, and the public should then be able to know the rationale of the NPCSC's decision. Since the NPCSC will be examining the Co-operation Arrangement, and legal proceedings challenging co-location arrangement are still ongoing, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on legal issues in detail at this stage.

     The local legislative exercise that follows is an essential part of the "Three-step Process", and its objective is to implement the relevant contents of the Co-operation Arrangement. The relevant legislative proposal must then be examined and enacted by the LegCo before co-location arrangement can be implemented at the WKS. At that stage, LegCo can discuss the contents of the Bill in detail. The HKSAR Government will duly explain the arrangement and undertake other relevant work to harness the support of Members in the legislative process ahead, so that Hong Kong residents can enjoy high-speed rail service as scheduled and experience the time-saving and convenient co-location arrangement at the WKS.

Ends/Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:15