The “co-location arrangement” allowing mainland security officials to operate at the new high-speed rail terminus is “consistent with the Basic Law”, a court ruled today, delivering a blow to critics who argued the setup was unconstitutional.
In a judgement uploaded online, Justice Anderson Chow rejected four challenges to the legality of the ‘Mainland Port Area” at West Kowloon station end of the cross-border rail link, which began operating in September.
The government argued the special zone — manned by mainland security officials enforcing national laws — was not prohibited by the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
It also pointed to the convenience of the arrangement, which allows passengers to clear immigration and customs checks prior to boarding.
However, applicants — including former lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung — claimed such an arrangement was incompatible with the Basic Law, which states national laws are not to apply on Hong Kong soil as part of the ‘one country, two systems’ formula.
Chow sided with lawyers from the government, who had argued the arrangement had been made possible by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).
China’s top legislature approved the project last year, though the endorsement wasn’t a legal interpretation of the city’s Basic Law, which Hong Kong courts are bound to follow.
Nonetheless, Chow said the NPCSC decision had “high persuasive value” in the present case.
“To read the Basic Law as having the effect of prohibiting the Co-location Arrangement, which has been designed to advance the overall best interests of Hong Kong, would seem to me to involve a failure to recognize the Basic Law as a “living instrument”,” Chow wrote, adding the bill passed by Hong Kong lawmakers underpinning the arrangement was legally sound.
“The Ordinance is consistent with the Basic Law.”