Hong Kong opens first bullet train link with mainland China

Hong Kong opens first bullet train link with mainland China

Hong Kong Guangdong high-speed rail opening
Ma Xingrui, governor of Guangdong Province (2nd-L) and Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam (C) stand next to a Vibrant Express train bound for Guangzhou at the West Kowloon Station in Hong Kong on Sep 22, 2018. (Photo: AFP / POOL / Giulia Marchi)

HONG KONG: Top officials from Hong Kong and Guangdong boarded Hong Kong's first bullet train on Saturday (Sep 22) and attended an opening ceremony at the former British colony's sleek and controversial new harbourfront railway station.

Both Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Guangdong's governor Ma Xingrui spoke of how the new rail line would bring people from Hong Kong and the mainland together. 

Officials took a 43-minute ride from the West Kowloon station in Hong Kong to Guangzhou South station and praised the train's smooth operation, the South China Morning Post reported.

“Today, to be frank, of course I’d give them 100 marks, but we’ll have to see about tomorrow,” lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun told SCMP.

Meanwhile, pro-Beijing lawyer Maggie Chan Man-ki sent a video to media outlets featuring some of the delegates on board the train chanting their praise for the initiative, SCMP reported.

“Co-location makes it convenient for the masses! Yeah!” the group chanted in unison.

Chan also posted a video in Cantonese on her Facebook page in which she further praised the experience while on board the train.

READ: China tightens embrace of Hong Kong with bullet train, other mega projects

But for critics, the new station raises fears for the territory's cherished freedoms.

Unlike other cross-border connections, the US$11 billion-train project has stoked considerable controversy.

Passengers entering the modernist building will have their documents stamped by Chinese immigration officers and will be subject to Chinese law while zipping across Hong Kong at 200 kph (120 mph) to the mainland. 

Hong Kong and Beijing officials have justified the unusual arrangement as a one-off, while touting its logistical and economic benefits.

However critics say the railway is a symbol of continuing Chinese assimilation of Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with guarantees of widespread autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent legal system.

Source: Reuters/nc