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Govt aims for joint Hengqin checkpoint to start in Q1: Cheong

2020-01-14 08:00     Comment:0

Secretary for Administration and Justice André Cheong Weng Chon, who is also the newly appointed spokesman for the government’s top advisory Executive Council, announced yesterday that the government has finished drafting a bill enabling Macau’s Lotus Flower border checkpoint to be relocated to the new Hengqin border checkpoint building.

The bill will be submitted to the Legislative Assembly (AL) in due course for debate, review and vote.

If approved by lawmakers, the bill will apply local law on the Macau-side of the new Hengqin checkpoint zone and adjoining areas.

Cheong, who was appointed by Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng last week as the council’s spokesperson, made the announcement during a press conference at Government Headquarters.

Cheong said that the council has completed its discussion of the bill, officially known as “Establishing the Fundamental Norms for the Application of the Macau Special Administrative Region Law on the Macau-side Checkpoint Zone of the Hengqin Checkpoint and Its Adjoining Areas”.

Cheong said that the joint checkpoint on Hengqin Island in Zhuhai can come into service when two conditions are met, namely 1) the passage of the bill by the local legislature, and 2) the completion of tests of immigration facilities and the checkpoint’s ability to tackle a high flow of travellers.

According to Cheong, the State Council will announce the date of the operational start of the joint checkpoint after the two conditions are met.

Cheong said that while there is no timetable as to when the joint checkpoint operation will start, the local government is striving for the joint checkpoint to come into use in the current quarter.

‘Simple’ bill

Cheong said he believed that it would not take lawmakers long to review the bill as the bill is “simple” with only several articles.

Cheong is the council’s third spokesperson. It is the first time since the setting-up of the advisory body in December 1999 that a government official is its spokesperson. In the past two decades, the post was held by community association representatives: Tong Chi Kin during the chief executive term of Edmund Ho Hau Wah (1999-2009) and Leong Heng Teng during the term of Fernando Chui Sai On (2009-2019).

On October 26, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing approved a proposal by the State Council to relocate Macau’s Lotus Flower checkpoint from Cotai to Hengqin and grant the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR) jurisdiction over the Macau-side checkpoint zone of the new Hengqin checkpoint and adjoining areas. Later the same day, the local government said in a statement that it would draft related local legislation so that the Macau-side of the checkpoint can be relocated to the new Hengqin checkpoint building.

Macau’s border checkpoint in Cotai is linked to Zhuhai’s border checkpoint in Hengqin via the 1,756-metre long, six-lane Lotus Flower Bridge across a narrow river between the western shore of Cotai and the adjacent island administered by Zhuhai.The currently still separate Cotai-Hengqin checkpoints came into service in March 2000. The current building for the Hengqin checkpoint started operating in December 2014, after which the original checkpoint building was demolished for the ongoing construction of a new border checkpoint-cum-public transport complex, which will also include commercial buildings, in the same area.

‘Joint inspection, one-time release’

A joint Macau-mainland immigration and customs clearance system officially known as “joint inspection and one-time release” will be adopted at the future mainland-Macau joint checkpoint on Hengqin Island.

According to local media reports, the new Hengqin checkpoint building has almost been completed, while the whole checkpoint complex is expected to be completed in 2022.

The decision by the NPC Standing Committee on October 26 authorises the MSAR to administer the Macau-side of the new Hengqin checkpoint zone and adjoining areas from the day they come into use in accordance with Macau’s laws.

The decision passed by the NPC Standing Committee will be implemented in phases. Macau’s jurisdiction will cover: 1) the Macau-side checkpoint zone of the new Hengqin checkpoint, 2) the Lotus Flower Bridge, 3) a link – by access roads and a bridge – between the University of Macau (UM) campus on Hengqin and the checkpoint, and 4) an area reserved for the possible extension of Macau’s Light Rail Transit (LRT) to the checkpoint. The timing of the gradual implementation will be determined by the State Council, according to the decision.

Macau’s leasehold of the Macau-side of the new Hengqin checkpoint zone and adjoining areas will expire on December 19, 2049, i.e. 50 years after the establishment of the MSAR. The leasehold can be extended by the NPC Standing Committee, according to the decision.

‘Very similar’ to UM campus leasehold

Responding to reporter’s question during yesterday’s press conference, Cheong said he didn’t believe that it would take lawmakers a long time to review the bill as otherwise it could only be passed by the end of the first half of this year. Cheong noted that the bill presented yesterday is “very similar” to the bill extending Macau’s jurisdiction to the University of Macau (UM) campus on Hengqin Island which was passed by the local legislature in 2013. Cheong said that consequently it would not be a difficult task for lawmakers to review the Hengqin checkpoint bill.

Cheong reaffirmed the remarks that he made during a press conference last month that the local government was striving for the joint checkpoint to come into service in the first quarter.

Cheong noted that there is currently no link connecting the University of Macau campus on Hengqin Island to the joint checkpoint, adding that there is no timetable as to when the project comprising a bridge and access roads will get off the ground.


Secretary for Administration and Justice André Cheong Weng Chon addresses a press conference at Government Headquarters about yesterday’s closed-door meeting of the Executive Council in his additional role as the new spokesman for the government’s top advisory body. Photo: Tony Wong


This photo taken last month shows the newly completed mainland-Macau joint checkpoint in Hengqin. Photo: Tony Wong

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