The completion of the Transcontinental Railway in 1869 was the moment America became truly “united”. However, the project had been stalled for more than a decade – even after the discovery of gold in California in 1848 – as politicians in the northern and southern states disagreed over the railroad. It took the Civil War to finally break the stalemate.
Fast forward to present day Hong Kong where a high-speed railway has been under construction to link the former British colony with mainland China. The opening date of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, however, could also be stalled by political resistance.
The thorniest issue at stake lies in how to arrange the customs and immigration procedures for passengers – given a joint checkpoint proposal in West Kowloon has spooked concerns that mainland law enforcers will be given full jurisdiction on Hong Kong’s soil.
Following a spate of delays, Beijing tried to come up with a speedy resolution last month when the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the top legislative body in mainland China, officially rubber-stamped the so-called co-location plan.
The plan still needs to obtain the approval of Hong Kong legislators. A number of them, most notably those from the legal sector, have been appalled by the NPC’s decision, which they believe has compromised the territory’s rule of law.
Facing a race to make sure the bullet train will commence operations later this year, Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam has also joined the debate. “If you ask me, it shows the elitist mentality or double standards held by some of the lawyers in Hong Kong. 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,” she told reporters last week.
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