Hong Kong-Guangzhou bullet train service launched

Elias Hubbard
September 25, 2018

Chinese immigration officers are stationed in one part of the modern station that is subject to Chinese law, an unprecedented move that some critics have said further erodes Hong Kong's autonomy.

"I'm not anxious about the [mainland security] issue".

The Express Rail Link connects Hong Kong to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in 40 minutes - less than half the time taken by older trains.

The Hong Kong legislature's passage in June of the plan to allow Chinese law to apply at the railway terminus was a significant moment for the opposition, coming four years after mass street protests demanding reforms fizzled out amid Beijing's intransigence.

Connecting Hong Kong to the extensive Chinese national high speed rail network which now totals more than 25 000 km, MTR's Express Rail Link had been officially inaugurated on the previous day with a ceremony at Hong Kong West Kowloon station attended by the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Carrie Lam and Governor of Guangdong Province Ma Xingrui. According to the agreement, the Chinese authorities will have the power to arrest individuals inside the station, or even transfer them to the mainland. That guarantees Hong Kong the right to maintain rights such as freedom of speech and assembly - which are routinely violated on the mainland - until 2047.

"This is definitely convenient in terms of time", said one passenger who gave his name as Mr Kwok and was taking a train to visit his ancestral home in the southern Chinese city of Chaozhou. A second-class ticket to Shenzhen costs HK$86 (S$15), while travelling to Guangzhou costs HK$247 and to Beijing, HK$1,237.

"It's nearly like an imperialist attitude on the part of Beijing", pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo told AFP.

China's top legislative body has said the arrangement does not undermine Hong Kong's autonomy, and its proponents argue it streamlines the immigration process.

As a result, Hong Kong has its own laws, protections for certain rights and freedoms, and most mainland Chinese laws can not be applied in the territory.

On the train, passengers had to switch to a registered Chinese mobile number or WeChat account to access WiFi once they crossed into Shenzhen.

However, pro-establishment lawmaker Regina Ip described the fears as "overblown".

Travellers on the first service out of Hong Kong grappled with reversible seats that were pointing the wrong way, but the train left promptly, with doors closing at 6:59 am. There was no media access.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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