21 July 1997

The Democratic Party Urges No Border Exemption for People's Liberation Army

Democratic Party Chairman Martin Lee and Security Spokesman James To today questioned reports that People's Liberation Army (PLA) vehicles will be exempt from border checks in the future. According to the Commissioner of Customs, 21 days into the SAR, Customs officials have not yet carried out routine inspections of any of the PLA vehicles crossing the border into Hong Kong on a daily basis.

Hong Kong's constitution, the Basic Law, (Article 14, dealing with the stationing of the PLA in Hong Kong) states clearly that "In addition to abiding by national laws, members of the garrison shall abide by the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region," whereas the newly promulgated PLA Garrison Law (Article 7) states that "...No member or vehicle of the Garrison that bears a certificate or a document of certification issued by the Hong Kong Garrison showing that the bearer is on official duty, shall be inspected, searched, seized or detained by any law-enforcing officer of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region." It is vital to resolve the apparent conflict between Hong Kong's customs laws and the garrison law.

Martin Lee stated:

"This is an issue which involves both Hong Kong's promised autonomy and law and order. We are totally opposed to the suggestion that our laws should be amended to somehow exempt PLA soldiers and vehicles from routine customs inspection at Hong Kong's borders.

Everyone, including the PLA, must abide by the laws -- and must be seen to be doing so. We believe the wrong signal would be sent by the continued exemption of PLA vehicles from routine border checks. The PLA is very much in business in China (unlike the former British forces stationed in Hong Kong) and Hong Kong people are well aware of reports of past instances of PLA smuggling, involving counterfeit goods, dangerous drugs and arms. Although this may be limited to a few 'black sheep' and there is no evidence of abuse, we do not wish to present this temptation to the PLA -- who receive comparatively little pay -- or to encourage organised crime elements in Hong Kong to bribe PLA officers.

At this critical time during the transition, we must send a positive signal, particularly to the international community and the law enforcement community, that Hong Kong continues to maintain the rule of law. We ask the Hong Kong and Chinese governments to urgently resolve this question."

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