Councillor goes undercover to find goods smuggled into HK

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 October, 2009, 12:00am

The government has failed to stop the smuggling of vegetables from improper mainland sources into Hong Kong, a district councillor who visited a Shenzhen wholesale market undercover said. And now, he says, cigarettes and pork are being smuggled in with the vegetables.

Vegetables supplied to Hong Kong from the mainland must come from 700 registered farms, but vegetables from unauthorised farms can be smuggled across the border if they are labelled as originating from a registered source.

North District councillor Jimmy Law Sai-yan said source labels could be bought easily at a Nanshan distribution market, which he visited, pretending to be a transport worker.

Law accompanied others to the market where a person, nicknamed 'Sai Fay', promised to label packs of vegetables from unauthorised farms with legitimate stickers after receiving about 900 yuan (HK$1,020), Law said.

'Sai Fay said as long as people could pay the money, they could transport anything to Hong Kong,' he said. Nobody checked the boxes of vegetables before they were transported to Hong Kong. When a truck containing the vegetables reached Sheung Shui's Shek Wu Hui wet market, Law found that packs of Marlboro cigarettes and pork had also been included in the boxes among the vegetables.

'The loophole in the vegetable trade enables the smuggling of other products,' he said.

Local vegetable traders are angry that the government has failed to stop such smuggling and are planning a protest in mid-October.

Since the labelling of imported vegetables was introduced in 2007, illegal vegetable imports, which are not handled through Hong Kong wholesale markets, have increased, wholesalers said.

Business had dropped by as much as 30 per cent since 2007, Hong Kong Imported Vegetable Wholesale Merchants' Association chairman Yuen Cheung said. Half of 10,000 wholesale market workers had lost their jobs in that period. There were also fears that illegal vegetables were unsafe.

Hong Kong's Customs and Excise Department checked 6,800 vehicles carrying vegetables in the first eight months of this year, and up to yesterday had found no smuggled vegetables or other products.

A spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau said it had informed mainland authorities about the Nanshan market incident.