Hong Kong’s High Court has been asked to consider the legality of an immigration system in a new high-speed railway station linking the special administrative region with the mainland, within which critics claim Chinese law is being imposed.
The imposition of Chinese law at the rail terminus in West Kowloon is thought to be the first example of mainland Chinese law taking precedence over Hong Kong law, it is claimed. A two-day judicial review hearing concluded yesterday at the High Court.
Speaking at the court today, members of the Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) told the Gazette that the situation was ‘illogical’ and that the challenge was being brought because Article 18 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law ensures that national Chinese laws do not apply – apart from in very few specific areas.
As it stands, a checkpoint in West Kowloon is staffed with Chinese immigration officials who can allow passengers to clear both Hong Kong and mainland border checks at a single location. The Hong Kong government passed the plans into law in June.
Robert Pang SC, vice chair of the HKBA, said the issue goes beyond immigration procedures and effectively has resulted in a ‘zone within the station where Chinese law is in place’.
Ordinarily, in order for changes to come into effect in Hong Kong, the Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC), which is the ultimate organ of power, would have to issue a legal ‘interpretation’ clarifying the law.
But critics, including the HKBA, argue this was not done according to the rules and that instead the NPC merely stipulated that they agreed with the situation, thus making the current situation illegal.
A decision is expected in around a month. Even if the court finds in favour of the judicial review applicants, the People's Congress could still issue an interpretation which would clarify that the imposition of Chinese law is legal.
Jeremy Bartlett SC, a member of the HKBA, said that ’in a sense that would be OK’ as it would show that the one country-two systems rule was working, along with respect for Hong Kong’s Basic Law.
The judicial review has been brought by five individuals, including student activists. Barristers Philip Dykes, Martin Lee and Hectar Pun are representing the claimants.
The rail link, linking Hong Kong with China’s Guangzhou and Shenzhen, opened on 23 September.