HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s first bullet prepare glides out of a glossy harborfront railway station certain for mainland China on Saturday, launching a brand new period of integration and elevating fears for some for the territory’s cherished freedoms.
FILE PHOTO: A Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Specific Rail prepare stations at a depot in Hong Kong, China August 16, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
In contrast to different cross-border connections, the $11 billion prepare venture has stoked appreciable controversy, with Hong Kong, a former British colony, having needed to concede a part of its jurisdiction to China for the primary time.
Passengers coming into the modernist constructing may have their paperwork stamped by Chinese language immigration officers and shall be topic to Chinese language legislation whereas zipping throughout Hong Kong at 200 kph (120 mph) to the mainland. Hong Kong and Beijing officers have justified the bizarre association as a one-off, whereas touting its logistical and financial advantages.
However critics say the railway is an emblem of continuous Chinese language assimilation of Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese language rule in 1997 with ensures of widespread autonomy and freedoms not loved on the mainland, together with an unbiased authorized system.
“I fear that Hong Kong will not be Hong Kong,” stated Martin Lee, a veteran democrat and barrister who’s preventing to derail the venture within the metropolis’s courts.
He stated Hong Kong risked dropping its attract as a monetary hub underpinned by robust rule of legislation, as Beijing steps up a push to fuse town into an unlimited hinterland of the Pearl River Delta together with 9 Chinese language cities dubbed the Larger Bay Space.
A number of different infrastructure initiatives will open this 12 months together with a $20 billion sea bridge to Macau and Zhuhai, whereas Beijing is now working with Chinese language tech big Tencent to let folks exchange their journey paperwork through the use of a cell phone WeChat app to cross the border in future.
“LITTLE ANT IN A BOX”
“Hong Kong shall be fully submerged into the Larger Bay, and we don’t know what it’s going to be like,” stated the 80-year-old Lee, who helped discovered town’s Democratic Celebration.
“That’s the worrying factor. Hong Kong goes to be put like a bit ant right into a field.”
Lately, particularly since mass pro-democracy protests in 2014 that ended with no concessions from the federal government, Beijing has struggled to win hearts and minds, particularly amongst these youths who reject any notion of being a part of mainland China and have chafed at perceived meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs.
As protesters demanded larger freedoms amid some discuss of splitting Hong Kong from China, Beijing tightened its grip, jailing some younger protest leaders, forcing others to flee and taking the wind out of the democracy motion’s sails.
Hong Kong officers dismissed considerations that Hong Kong’s id was being swamped.
“In such a carefully knitted hinterland, there may be at all times a want to convey down any form of pointless boundaries,” Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Financial Improvement Edward Yau informed Reuters.
“However that’s to not say compromising on one nation, two programs,” Yau added, referring to the formulation by which Hong Kong returned to Chinese language rule with the promise that its “capitalist system and lifestyle” would stay unchanged till a minimum of 2047.
“The underside line will nonetheless be one nation, two programs,” Yau added. “The Primary Legislation (Hong Kong’s mini-constitution) doesn’t have an expiry date of 2047.”
Bernard Chan, who runs an insurance coverage enterprise and sits on Hong Kong’s Government Council which advises the federal government on coverage, stated he believes China desires to make Hong Kong work in its greatest pursuits.
The excessive velocity rail and bridge will bolster present infrastructure that already permits greater than 600,00zero folks to shuttle between the 2 sides every day by street, rail and sea.
Beijing desires the Larger Bay Space, dwelling to some 68 million folks with a mixed GDP of $1.5 trillion, roughly that of Australia or South Korea, to mannequin itself on San Francisco Bay and Tokyo Bay, to higher meld folks, items and sectors together with finance, tourism, logistics, manufacturing and tech.
“The reality of the matter is, in fact, we’re integrating quick, economically and socially,” stated Chan. “The one half that’s not integrating in any respect is politics.”
Further reporting by Holly Chik; Modifying by Nick Macfie