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Hong Kong high-speed railway opens amid political concerns

By
Daniel Uria
The Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link opened Sunday, allowing rapid transit between the semiautonomous territory and the mainland. Photo by Jerome Favre/EPA
The Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link opened Sunday, allowing rapid transit between the semiautonomous territory and the mainland. Photo by Jerome Favre/EPA

Sept. 23 (UPI) -- The Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed rail station opened Sunday, amid concerns it might jeopardize the territory's autonomy.

The Express Rail Link, or XRL, will allow passengers to travel from high-speed train stations in Shenzhen Futian and Hong Kong West Kowloon in between 14 minutes and 19 minutes, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

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Bullet trains also traveled from Beijing to Hong Kong on Sunday, cutting the travel time from more than 24 hours to nine hours.

The railway was opened following a 2017 arrangement between Hong Kong and China's top legislative body to place Hong Kong and mainland fficials in the station.

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As a result of the arrangement, a strip of land where the station is located will be governed under China's national laws.

"It's like a Trojan horse infiltrating the city through the belly of the railway system," pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo told the Wall Street Journal.

Protesters gathered outside the station during an opening ceremony on Saturday night, rallying against the project which cost a total of $11 billion and was delayed for several years

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"World's most expensive rail, world's most useless rail," they chanted.

Despite the concerns, Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam thanked the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for providing a "a firm legal basis" for the arrangement.

"We will continue to improve on matters related to railway safety, operation and management, as well as passenger experience, such that the Hong Kong section of the express rail can become a bright light on the country's business card," she said.

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