HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s imposing new harbourfront rail terminus claims a significant-pace backlink with China but for some the station signifies an existential crisis for the metropolis, with very little a lot less than its cherished freedoms underneath danger.
Joint immigration checkpoints at the West Kowloon Station are established to turn out to be particular port spots, patrolled by mainland Chinese security and matter to Chinese legislation.
Officers on the two sides say it is for the advantage of travellers but opponents see it as further more eroding the semi-autonomous position that was guaranteed for the previous British colony on its handover in 1997.
Hong Kong enjoys liberties unseen on the mainland which includes liberty of speech and an independent judiciary, with rule of legislation a bedrock of its tradition and results as a small business hub.
A string of incidents which includes the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers and the ousting of 6 elected rebel lawmakers have fuelled issue that Chinese authorities are undermining that position.
The rail terminus controversy goes to the coronary heart of those people fears.
It has prompted issues more than how Hong Kong citizens will be essential to behave in those people zones, no matter if they will be cost-free to use web sites this kind of as Facebook and Twitter which are banned on the mainland, or focused for wearing clothes with political slogans.
The Hong Kong Bar Association mentioned it was “appalled” by Beijing’s choice final thirty day period to approve the program and leading lawyers have questioned its authorized basis.
“The restlessness (in the authorized community) arrives from the continued and relentless worries to the rule of legislation as we recognize it,” barrister Randy Shek advised AFP.
Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – the Essential Regulation – clearly cites that nationwide regulations do not apply to the metropolis apart from in constrained spots, which includes defence.
Barrister Johannes Chan mentioned Beijing experienced bypassed the normal approach for including a mainland ruling to the Essential Regulation and that its powers ought to not be “limitless and complete”.
“This is generally rule with no legislation,” he advised AFP.
The checkpoint program has been backed by Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing federal government and is likely to be handed by the legislature which is weighted to the establishment.
The disappearance of the five booksellers in 2015, which includes just one who went lacking from a warehouse in Hong Kong, activated issue that Beijing security brokers were clandestinely functioning in the metropolis.
A yr later on, an intervention by Beijing to make a particular “interpretation” of the Essential Regulation forced the dismissal from parliament of publicly elected pro-independence and pro-democracy lawmakers who staged protests though taking their oaths of place of work.
That Beijing ruling prompted a lot more than 1,000 lawyers dressed in black to march silently as a result of the metropolis.
The jailing final yr of scholar activists who led mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014, which were an unparalleled rebuke to Beijing, also led to protests and accusations of “political prosecution” from their supporters.
Officers on the two sides of the border insist that rule of legislation has not been compromised with the joint checkpoint proposal.
Town chief Carrie Lam accused opposing lawyers of adopting an “elitist mentality” for judging Hong Kong’s authorized procedure as taking precedence more than the mainland’s.
“They are unwilling to settle for the political reality that China is the sovereign state of Hong Kong,” solicitor and pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho advised AFP, including that China “must have the best say on Hong Kong affairs”.
But other lawyers are mobilising to defend Hong Kong’s position.
Prominent British lawyer Philip Dykes, searching for election this thirty day period as chairman of Hong Kong’s Bar Council mentioned the organisation has a “responsibility to uphold the rule of legislation and ought to talk out” when it is perceived to be underneath danger.
Barrister Shek, who is running with Dykes for a purpose in the council, mentioned they are not taking a political stance, but seeking to defend the city’s recognized authorized procedure.
“The bar must talk up at any sign of assault on this pretty elementary basic principle that designed Hong Kong what Hong Kong is,” Shek advised AFP.
“Warning indicators are almost everywhere.”