CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 March 2018

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Checkpoint agreement threatens Basic Law

HONG KONG (SE): A spokesperson from the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong said the newly approved joint checkpoint arrangement for the cross-border rail link shows a total disregard for the spirit of the Basic Law and the promise of One country, two systems.
On December 27, the National People’s Congress approved a plan to enforce national laws in part of the West Kowloon terminus for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.
Beijing officials dismissed concerns about the autonomy of Hong Kong being affected by the move, as only a particular zone leased to mainland authorities would be subject to national laws.
Jackie Hung Ling-yu of the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong criticised the Hong Kong government for sacrificing the Hong Kong’s rule of law for the sake of transport convenience.
She is also worried that the arrangement will give an opening for agents of China’s Public Security Bureau to operate in the special administrative region and worsen the human rights situation, given that the disappearances of a number of Hong Kong people may be related to the enforcement of mainland law, such as the case of the five booksellers from Causeway Bay Books who disappeared in late 2015. 
She believes the joint checkpoint arrangement could be just the beginning of normalising this sort of law enforcement.
She expressed concern that, while mainland officials are currently only allowed to work inside the station, someday they may go outside and patrol openly if the National People’s Congress gives the nod.
She said she is disappointed that the Hong Kong authorities have shown no inclination to protect people’s rights, which is the problem of a government not led by a chief executive elected by universal suffrage, while the majority of Hong Kong people seem to have gradually become indifferent to related issues after the repeated interference of Beijing in Hong Kong affairs. 
She urged Hong Kong people to wake up and be alert for threats to Hong Kong’s autonomy, instead of only taking care of their own lives.
The commission has been concerned about joint checkpoint proposal and held two talks last year to discuss the problems related to it on September 3 and October 29.
On December 28, the Hong Kong Bar Association issued a statement criticising the newly approved joint checkpoint arrangement for a cross-border rail link, expressing its shock at the unprecedented move. 
It said that the National People’s Congress approved the joint checkpoint arrangement or the co-operation agreement and confirmed that it is consistent with the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Basic Law without stating how this is so. This is followed by a provision phrased in terms of the obligation of the Hong Kong government to legislate the implementation of the co-operation agreement. 
The statement said that the decision plainly amounted to an announcement by the congress that the co-operation agreement complies with the Constitution and the Basic Law just because the it says so. 
“Such an unprecedented move is the most retrograde step to date in the implementation of the Basic Law and severely undermines public confidence in ‘one country, two systems’ and the rule of law in the HKSAR,” the statement reads.
While Beijing officials say that the co-location arrangement does not contravene Article 18 of the Basic Law because the law will only be enforced in a limited area, the Bar Association disagrees. 
The statement point out that national laws, except those included in Annex III of the Basic Law, should not be applied anywhere in Hong Kong.
According to a report in the South China Morning Post on December 31, chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, dismissed concerns about the legal basis for the checkpoint, saying the arrangement is prudent and lawful. 
She accused some lawyers of having an elitist mentality. She was quoted as saying “They think Hong Kong’s legal system is paramount while the legal system of the mainland—a big country with a population of 1.3 billion—is not right.” 
Lam said that this attitude is not favourable for maintaining the principle of One country, two systems.

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