Hong Kong on 22nd September has officially announced the opening of the new high-speed rail link to China. The project costed around $10 billion and took more than eight years to build. The system aims ‘to transport more than 80,000 passengers daily’. The train is to travel 26 km through Hong Kong to Shenzhen across the Chinese border reducing the time from 1 hour to 14 minutes.
On one hand much as it brings easement to the current travelling situation it also raises concerns about Beijing’s influence and impacts over the semi-autonomous Chinese region. With this context, the opposition lawmakers questioned the construction stating that it would be a violation of the Basic Law of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution under which it retained its own legal system and civil liberties.
The passing of the construction of the railways in Hong Kong’s legislature in the month of June this year which allowed Chinese law to apply at the railway construction. Four years after the mass street protests which demanded reforms was put out by the government in power at Beijing, the pro-democracy legislators were expelled and charges were brought against more than a hundred protesters. Beijing’s stringent policies over the city’s politics and a continuing crackdown on the political ideologies while calling for ‘greater economy’ and ‘democratic reforms’ have led to chances of erosion of Hong Kong’s remaining autonomy.
Passengers who will be travelling will have to clear the Chinese immigration at the line’s West Kowloon terminus. The construction was a source of a major legal controversy when it was revealed that Chinese law would apply within roughly one-quarter of the station’s area.
Supporters of the provision include Carrie Lam who is the territory’s Beijing-backed Chief Executive. The construction of the railways was defended on the grounds that it is ‘promoting speed and convenience’ for the people to travel shortening the travelling time.