West Kowloon High-Speed Rail Station Opens in Hong Kong

It has been heralded as a vision of the future. A $10.75 billion infrastructure investment connecting Hong Kong with China’s high-speed rail network.

The West Kowloon Station, which is set to open today, will serve as an underground terminus for an expected 80,100 passengers daily, with the rail link promising to cut the two-hour journey time between Hong Kong and the Chinese city of Guangzhou to a mere 47 minutes.

But the glittering, wave-shaped development has proven to be controversial. A future some in Hong Kong neither wanted nor asked for.

Critics have lambasted the approximately 400,000 square-meter station and the Hong Kong section of the Express Rail Link, questioning the cost of the project which is 30% over the estimated budget, and pointing out that the city already has regular rail links with mainland China.

But a bigger and more contentious flashpoint has been its joint-immigration checkpoints.

Although it is part of China, Hong Kong is separated by a fixed border and governed under a separate legal framework that grants it political and legal freedoms not available on the mainland.

This “Trojan train,” as one political commentator put it, will cut straight into the heart of the city, where mainland immigration officers stationed at the terminus will be able to enforce Chinese law on Hong Kong soil for the first time.

Concerns surrounding the Chinese government’s ability to operate with impunity within the city have increased in recent years, following the alleged “involuntary removal” of a Hong Kong bookseller to mainland China in 2015.

As of Sunday, a part of the new station, as well as compartments of the trains traveling to and from mainland China, will come under the jurisdiction of Beijing.

“I think it’s unprecedented and violates the ‘one country, two systems’ principle,” said Hong Kong politician Lam Cheuk-Ting, referring to the city’s unique political arrangement with Beijing.

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SOURCE: CNN, Stephy Chung