Legco gives green light to controversial rail bill - RTHK
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Legco gives green light to controversial rail bill

2018-06-14 HKT 22:15
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  • Legco gives green light to controversial rail bill
The Legislative Council on Thursday evening passed highly controversial legislation that will allow mainland officials to work inside the West Kowloon terminus, rejecting criticism that this will be against the Basic Law.

The bill, that will enable a large part of the high-speed rail terminus to be placed under the mainland's control, had encountered stiff opposition from pro-democracy lawmakers who argued that it amounts to giving away Hong Kong land.

The legislation was passed by 40 votes to 20, with one abstention.

Lawmakers voted down all 24 amendments submitted by pan-democratic legislators.

The Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, welcomed the passage of the legislation, saying it was a big step towards commissioning the Hong Kong section of the Express Rail Link (XRL) in September.

"It provides a sound legal basis for the co-location arrangement, fully unleashing the transport, economic and social benefits of the XRL," Lam said in a statement issued late on Thursday.

Hong Kong First lawmaker Claudia Mo spoke out against the way the bill was bulldozed through the legislature, calling it "unconstitutional".

"You can see the executive and the legislative branches are conniving together to harm Hong Kong’s interests. You’re in effect handing down a death sentence on Hong Kong," Mo said.

The convenor of the pan-democratic camp, Charles Mok, insisted that the fight was not over - and history would be the judge.

He said it was important for people to remember the way the bill was passed - "with brute force".

"If they are so confident about everything that they are saying about the legality, then the Secretary of Justice should have been here. They did not have to resort to such tactics in order to force through the bill," Mok said..

Transport Secretary Frank Chan was heckled by pan-democratic lawmakers as he spoke to reporters after the bill was passed, and insisted that the express rail link will benefit Hong Kong.

Responding to claims that the co-location arrangement breaches the Basic Law, he said both the Hong Kong and central governments were more determined than critics of the bill to safeguard the rule of law and One Country, Two Systems.

Rival groups made their voices heard outside Legco during the debate .

About 100 people who oppose the co-location plan, chanted "Shame" after they learned of the vote inside the chamber, while supporters cheered loudly after it went through.

The government says a joint immigration checkpoint at West Kowloon Station is the only way to ensure that the new cross-border line is convenient for passengers.

But critics say allowing national laws to be enforced in the SAR is a flagrant breach of the Basic Law. They also fear a similar arrangement could be extended to other parts of the city in the future.

The passage of the legislation means the high-speed rail line remains on course to open in September.

Officials say it will significantly cut the time it takes to travel between the SAR and the Guangdong capital, Guangzhou, from where passengers will be able to connect to the rest of the mainland's high-speed network.

But opponents say the benefits of the new line over the existing link to Guangzhou are limited, with few through trains meaning travel times won't be cut substantially.

Last updated: 2018-06-15 HKT 00:57