The trains will run on time – or else

WSJ (note the last paragraph):

A high-speed rail station that opened Sunday promises more-rapid journeys between the financial hub and mainland China, but brings Beijing’s legal reach into Hong Kong for the first time, fanning concerns about the absorption of the semiautonomous territory into the mainland.

The almost $11 billion project — delayed for several years amid costly overruns — brings closer to fruition China’s plan to merge 11 cities in its Southern belt into one big economic cluster called the “Greater Bay Area.” Later this year, a bridge — the world’s longest cross-sea structure — will open, connecting Hong Kong to the Chinese city of Zhuhai and neighboring Macau, the world’s largest gambling hub.

Together, government officials here say the two new infrastructure links will make trading, logistics and commuting easier. The railway will also connect Hong Kong by bullet train to China’s domestic high-speed network, the world’s biggest and celebrated for stoking the nation’s rapid economic growth.

The trains, with names such as Harmony and Vibrant Express, run most frequently between cities in Southern China. About a hundred trains are scheduled to depart daily. It will be the fastest way to reach China’s tech hub of Shenzhen from Hong Kong, which houses the Asia headquarters of banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley. All around the new station, Bank of China advertisements touted cross-border financial services.

The trains connect to 44 destinations in China, including the capital city of Beijing. The 9-hour trip to China’s capital, at HK$1,237 ($158.40) in the lowest class, is about the same cost as a low-cost flight. Like the arrangement on the Eurostar train which shuttles passengers between London and Paris, travelers will now have their documents checked and processed by both Hong Kong and Chinese immigration officers before boarding the train, removing the need to go through border control upon arrival to the Chinese destination.

But the hundreds of mainland law enforcers who will be stationed inside the rail hub in the city’s West Kowloon district have stoked a political storm in the city, with China’s influence in Hong Kong rising since failed mass protests in 2014 to demand more democracy.

In December 2017, China’s top legislative body endorsed the plan to locate both Hong Kong and mainland officials in the station. The unprecedented legal arrangement effectively means a strip of land in the heart of the former British colony will be governed under China’s national laws. One of the city’s top lawyers’ groups, the Hong Kong Bar Association, opposed the move as undermining semiautonomy Beijing guaranteed the city for 50 years when it resumed sovereignty in 1997.

In an opening ceremony Saturday, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam thanked the body — the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress — for providing “a firm legal basis” for the arrangement, while touting the economic benefits the new transport network would provide to the city.

Many in the city have been chilled by Beijing’s growing power since two high-profile incidents — the disappearance of a bookseller and a Chinese billionaire from Hong Kong who later turned up in police custody on the mainland — raised concerns that Chinese law enforcers were taking increasingly intrusive actions to exercise their version of the law in Hong Kong.

“It’s like a Trojan horse infiltrating the city through the belly of the railway system,” said Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy lawmaker who also represents the district where the station stands. “It’s part of China’s endgame: From now they don’t need to kidnap anyone, they just need to lure people to the train station.”

More humor: “China welcomes fair competition, does not favour state companies over private sector, foreign firms, government adviser says.” Yeah. If the government adviser didn’t say that, he’d be riding the train.

Bonus weekend fun: bad self-congratulatory TV here and here. Let’s see. It’s the old coots versus the young, trendy, and tenured. Who wins?

One Response to “The trains will run on time – or else”

  1. feeblemind Says:

    I wonder if the bullet trains in China make a profit?

    Somehow I doubt it.

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